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Friday, May 17, 2024

Canada introduces two-year cap on international student permits to tackle housing crisis

The cap aims to protect students from such practices while simultaneously alleviating pressure on housing and essential services.

Canada has recently announced a significant policy shift aimed at managing the influx of international students, with an immediate, two-year cap on student permits. The decision, made by Immigration Minister Marc Miller, is driven by concerns over the impact of rapid population growth, particularly on the housing crisis and strain on essential services. 

Cap’s Rationale

The immigration ministry’s statement highlights the primary goal of the cap: to address the challenges faced by students attending colleges that offer inadequate services at high costs. Minister Miller expressed concerns about certain private institutions taking advantage of international students by operating under-resourced campuses and charging exorbitant tuition fees. The cap aims to protect students from such practices while simultaneously alleviating pressure on housing and essential services.

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Expected Impact on Study Permits

The cap is expected to result in a significant reduction in the number of approved study permits in 2024, with a projected decrease of 35% from the previous year. Approximately 360,000 study permits are anticipated for the year 2024. The federal government plans to collaborate with the provinces, which oversee the educational system, to implement and enforce the cap effectively.

Addressing Housing and Service Pressures

Minister Miller emphasized that the surge in international student numbers has strained housing, healthcare, and other essential services. By reducing the influx, the government aims to mitigate these pressures, with a particular focus on lowering rental prices. The housing crisis has been a significant concern for Canadians, and the cap is seen as a strategic move to address this issue and ease the burden on public services.

Concerns from Student Advocacy Groups

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), a prominent student advocacy group, has criticized the cap. CASA’s Director of Advocacy, Mateusz Salmassi, argues that the cap is a reactive measure to the housing crisis and may not effectively address the root causes. Salmassi emphasizes the need for more support and housing options for international students, asserting that limiting permits could exacerbate existing challenges.

University Perspectives

While there are criticisms from student advocacy groups, some universities, such as the University of Toronto, have welcomed the announcement. The university expressed its commitment to working with all levels of government on the allocation of study permits. It clarified that the changes are targeted at addressing abuses within the system by specific actors and are not intended to adversely impact reputable institutions like theirs.

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As Canada grapples with the consequences of rapid population growth fueled by immigration, the two-year cap on international student permits marks a significant policy shift. The success of this measure will depend on effective collaboration between federal and provincial authorities, and ongoing dialogue with stakeholders in the education sector. Striking a balance between managing immigration, protecting students, and addressing housing concerns will be crucial for the success of this policy in the long run.