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January 22, 2024

Major Changes for International Students applying to study in Canada in 2024

Major Changes for International Students applying to study in Canada in 2024

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship just announced today that major changes will be made to the International Students permit applications.

Major Changes:

  1. There will be a cap of approximately 360,000 approved study permits for 2024;
  2. That cap will be distributed equitably amongst Canada’s provinces and territories. Each has been given a portion of the cap, weighted by population. For example, Ontario has been given more of the approved study permits cap than Saskatchewan, because Ontario has a larger population;
  3. Each province and territory will then distribute a portion of their cap among their Designated Learning Institutions (DLI);
  4. As of today, January 22, 2024, every study permit application submitted to IRCC will also require an “Attestation Letter” from a province or territory. [Provinces and Territories are expected to establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by no later than March 31, 2024.];
  5. Starting September 1, 2024, international students who begin a study program that is part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for a Postgraduate Work Permit upon graduation;
  6. Graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for a 3-year work permit;
  7. Soon, Open Work Permits will only be available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. The spouses of international students in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programs, will no longer be eligible.


What Won’t Change

  1. Current study permit holders are not affected;
  2. Study permit renewals will not be impacted by the changes;
  3. International Students who want to pursue Masters, Doctoral degrees or elementary and secondary education are not included in the 360,000 cap.


The cap represents a significant reduction (35%) in the amount of Study Permits IRCC will issue in 2024 compared to last year.

Whereas in previous years international students were unrestricted in their preference in which Canadian province or territory they wished to study, now they can only apply to study in those provinces or territories that still have space left in their allotted cap.  To be sure, the cap space for provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia will fill quickly.

Moreover, even within a desired province, the choice of DLI will be limited by the number of remaining cap space allotted to that DLI.

So, in order for an International Student to decide where they can study in Canada at the post-secondary level, they will first have to determine which province or territory has cap space, and then if there is cap space, which DLI in that province or territory has cap space. After finding those DLIs, International Students will have to then determine which of the DLIs has the program of study that they want to pursue.

Another point to be made is that given the new requirement of an Attestation Letter from a province or territory, one would expect that there will be a new level of scrutiny of each study permit application and a higher standard of selection. It remains to be seen what each province and territory will unveil as their process for issuing Letters of Attestation.

Finally, the removal of Open Work Permits for spouses of undergraduate and college students is significant. Those students will now have to be separated from their spouses for the duration of their studies and not have the financial benefit of their spouse working in Canada.  That said, international students may be inclined to pursue a Masters or Doctoral education in Canada instead of an undergraduate degree or diploma, because spouses of Masters or Doctoral students can still apply for an Open Work Permit.

The takeaway from the Minister’s announcement today is that International Students will now have to act fast and strategically to secure one of the coveted 360,000 approved study permits cap spots.  The demand to study in Canada at the post-secondary level remains very high. 2023 saw the approval of 850,000 study permits.  But now, though the demand remains incredibly high, the supply (study permit approvals) is very low.  One can anticipate fierce competition for the limited spots.

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