Significant New Limits to the International Student Program

With increased pressure from the public amidst the cost of living and housing crises, the federal government has announced significant new limits to the international student program for at least 2 years.

Cap on International Students

In 2024, the number of study permits issued will be limited to 360,000. The cap will be distributed across the provinces and territories based on their populations. Since most international students opt for Ontario and British Columbia, these provinces are due to see the greatest decreases in new international students compared to previous years.

Students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees will not be affected by the cap. Neither will students renewing their study permits, or elementary and secondary school students.

As of January 22, 2024, study permit applications must be accompanied by an attestation letter from the government of the province or territory they will study in. However, the federal government has provided until March 31, 2024, for provincial and territorial governments to establish processes for issuing attestation letters. Without such a process, students may not be able to submit their applications until that time.

Post-Graduation Work Permit Eligibility

Further, the eligibility criteria for Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) is being changed. PGWPs offer a path to permanent residence for many graduates by allowing them to gain Canadian work experience, so they are much coveted by many graduates.

Starting September 1, 2024, students who graduate from a program under a Public College-Private Partnership will not be eligible for PGWPs. Agreements under Public College-Private Partnerships allow students to attend a private college that is licensed to deliver the curriculum of a publicly funded college.

Master’s degree graduates and graduates of other, short graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for a 3-year PGWP. Currently, PGWPs are issued for the length of the program of study. With this change, graduate-level students will be eligible for a 3-year PGWP, even if their program length was less than 3 years.

Open Work Permits for Spouses of International Students

Soon, open work permits will only be available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. Spouses of those in undergraduate or college programs will no longer be eligible. Spousal open work permits allow the holder to work for any employer in Canada.

Other Recent Measures

This announcement is made in addition to other measures that the government is taking that will reduce the number of international students. These include an increase to the funds requirement for international students from $10,000 to $20,635, which took effect on January 1, 2024; a “trusted learning institution” system, details of which are yet to be announced; and a requirement for the verification of every letter of acceptance by the post-secondary institution that began on December 1, 2023.

As a way to offset its increase of the funds requirement to $20,635, the government has also announced that it will implement targeted pilots to help members of underrepresented groups study in Canada, but has yet to announce details.

Employers that have relied on foreign students to grow their work force in the past, may want to look at measures to retain existing temporary talent working for them by assisting these temporary workers with an application for permanent residence. Given the focus on international students, employers should also review their foreign student population employees to ensure compliance while they are working on a study permit. Reach out to one of our professionals today for a permanent residence consultation and/or consultation related to compliance. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can be reached by phone (416 368 1111) or via email:;;;;;