Canada signals a cap on foreign students after housing crisis

After the tightening of conditions around education visas and the ability to work and apply again in Australia many young Bhutanese had their eyes set on Canada as the next popular destination.

Many Bhutanese students were in fact advised by Education Consultancies to apply for Canada.

However, in an interview on CTV the Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller said that they could be looking at caps on the number of international students in the context of the housing crisis in Canada with increasing prices and rents.

He said, “It is something that we are going to look at in the first half or quarter of this year. That volume is disconcerting and it is really a system that is out of control and it is a conversation we really need to have with the provinces to make sure that the provinces that have not been doing their jobs actually to rein in those numbers on a pure volume basis.”

He said here is a challenge to the integrity of the system when it comes to institutions that have been leveraging the fact that there has been this permissive Designated Learning Institution (DLI) model getting people from outside the country to pay premium dollars and come to Canada and not necessarily get the education that they were promised.

DLI are normally for-profit education institutes of all stripes authorized by provinces to host international students. The quality of education provided in many of these have been under question.

The minister said they need to make sure they have a system that actually makes sure people have the financial capability to come to Canada and verifying offer letters. He said they want to look at this with a little more granularity in the provinces that have not had robust discussions with their DLIs particularly those that are profiting off the system.

The minister said the steps he announced in the autumn of 2023 were very much preliminary making sure that the federal government was doing its job and now it is a time to have a conversation about the volumes and the impact it is happening in certain areas and for example on housing.

The minister said that as a country they are facing a bit of a conundrum like their partners in the G-7 and G-20 in ageing populations particularly in the workforce. He said Canada stands first in reducing that average age of immigration because of that workforce.

The CTV journalist said that the net increase in non-permanent migrants in just the third quarter of three months (July, August, September 2023) a record since 1971 was 312,758 and the total number of new homes that the government has announced in the last year 266,646 over 10 years and 6500 over the next three years.

The minister said one non-permanent resident does not equate to one house but certainly volume is volume and that impact is not significant.

He said over the next quarter and half year they need to have a serious conversation with the provinces to rein in those numbers.

He said, “If provinces don’t do their jobs we are ready to do it (cap on students). We don’t have the same set of tools to take those measures like the provinces as they are best suited to take those measures but we can take some very hard measures. Turning off the taps across the country can really have some perverse effect on some higher institutes of learning that really should not be penalized for this but our tools are much more limited than the provinces have.”

The minister said they have an idea of the reduced numbers and they will discuss with the provinces first.

He said overall international students have a limited effect but significant effects are where there is a large spike in international students where rental rates housing rates go up and people convert their houses to welcome students.

“Whether that will be felt across the country is highly uncertain but certainly in areas where there has been the largest abuse you will see an effect on housing,” said the minister.

Earlier on 7th December 2023 Canada’s Immigration Minister said that students have to prove they have $ 20,635 in available funds, on top of tuition and exclusive of any fees for other family members coming with them to Canada. This was double of what was the amount required before.

Canada’s unlimited working hours has been extended till 30 April 2024 but after that a cap of 30 hours per week will be put in place.

So far international students have been provided the ability to extend their post-graduation work permit by 18 months due to pandemic related worker shortages, but this will no longer be given after 31st December 2023.

In 2024 Canada will roll out the Trusted Institution Framework to rate educational institutions against criteria that demonstrates that they are reliable partners with regard to sustainable intake, identifying genuine students, monitoring and reporting on their compliance, and providing a safe and enriching experience for their international students. This will particularly impact the more permissive DLI’s will come under much more stringent monitoring.

The minister also earlier said that being an international student is not a guarantee of Permanent Residency or Citizenship. He said that part of the fraud is that agents entertain false hope and in reality, there are only limited pathways to getting PR.

A large surge in temporary migrants who are mostly international students post COVID has led to rising rentals, housing shortages and rising costs for Canadian citizens and it has turned into a major political issue just like in Australia.

Apart from the above, international students find it more tough to get temporary jobs and there are cases of students lining outside food banks meant for the poor.

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