Marc Miller, Canada’s immigration minister, is set to make an announcement today at 10:45 AM Eastern Time on strengthening international student program integrity.
Note: This is a developing story. CIC Updates will update it following the announcement.
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Canada set to host 900,000 international students this year
Canada is a leading destination for international students. In 2022, it welcomed a record 551,405 international students from 184 countries. As of the end of 2022, there were 807,750 international students holding valid Canadian study permits, another all-time high. Canada’s international student population has quadrupled over the past 15 years. This is due to factors such as the rising global middle class seeking to study abroad, as well as Canada’s attractiveness to international students in areas like quality of education, employment prospects, and immigration pathways.
In 2022, the top source countries of new international students were India (226,450 students), China (52,165 students) and the Philippines (23,280 students). The leading destinations were Ontario (411,00 students) and British Columbia (164,000 students).
Marc Miller has shared that Canada is on track to host around 900,000 international students in 2023.
The Canadian government continues to issue a large number of study permits. Between January and June 2023, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued more than 280,000 new study permits, a 77% increase compared to the same period in 2022.
International student challenges
Today’s announcement comes after more than 700 Indian students in Canada were faced with deportation earlier this year after finding out that their letter of acceptance (LOAs) were discovered by the Canadian government to be fake. Many of the students had come to Canada to study in 2018 and 2019, and the fraud was only discovered after many of them had completed their studies and were applying for permanent residency.
Reports indicated that the LOAs were forged by an unscrupulous immigration consultant in India and who has since disappeared.
At the time, IRCC announced that the international students that were not aware or involved in the fraud would not face deportation.
This situation brought even more light to the issue of Canadian international student fraud.
IRCC has also recently undertaken consultations on potentially rolling out a “Trusted Institution Framework” for Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs). This is also being referred to as a “Recognized Institution Framework”. DLIs are the colleges, universities, and other educational institutions approved by provincial and territorial governments to welcome international students. The rationale behind the idea is DLIs who meet certain IRCC integrity criteria would be eligible for certain benefits, such as IRCC potentially fast-tracking study permit applications for these DLIs.
International student integrity highlighted in recent report from members of Canada’s Senate
International student integrity was also brought to the forefront recently thanks to a report released on September 20 by four members of Canada’s Senate.
The report, while highlighting the benefits of international students to Canada’s economy, as well as the country’s social and cultural landscape, also highlighted several challenge areas to do with the integrity of Canada’s international student system. Among them, the report highlights that education agents – those who work as a “middleman” in foreign countries on behalf of international student hopefuls – play a significant role in compromising the integrity of Canada’s international student landscape.
This is because many education agents may direct international students toward a Canadian post-secondary program that is ineligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). Completing a program that does not leave graduates eligible for a PGWP can often be a waste of significant time and money because they may not be eligible to work and gain permanent residence following graduation.
Miller’s past comments highlight concerns about integrity
Miller has addressed international student integrity a number of times since becoming Canada’s immigration minister this summer. In several interviews since the summer, Miller addressed the potency of this topic by noting the “integrity challenges” associated with “the current visa process for international students across Canada.”
Echoing many of the same points brought up in the Senate report, Miller articulated that international students are being driven by “false hope” provided to them by actors looking to take advantage of them – something the minister says IRCC recognizes they need to tackle head-on going forward.
He also spoke about the need to address integrity issues during a hearing earlier this week before the Canadian Parliamentary Committee for Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM).