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More Changes for Canada’s International Students

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced a number of further changes to the International Student Program on December 7, 2023. These changes are meant to help protect international students, given their vulnerability, and to prevent their exploitation.

First, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) has noted that the minimum cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants had not been increased since it was set at $10,000 in the early 2000s. As a result, the financial requirement for international students was not reflective of the actual cost of living in Canada. As a result, starting January 1, 2024, study permit applicants will need to show that they have access to financial resources beyond their first year tuition and travelling costs, to ensure that they are able to pay for adequate housing and other costs while living in Canada. Moving forward, the threshold will be increased annually, based on the updates to the low-income cut-off (“LICO”), which is determined by Statistics Canada and represents the minimum necessary income to ensure that an individual does not have to spend more than the average portion of their income on necessities. On January 1, 2024, the cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants will be increased to $20,635, representing 75% of the current low-income cut-off (“LICO”).

The Minister also provided an update on three (3) temporary public policies affecting international students, which were all set to expire in 2023.

With respect to the waiver on the limitation on international students working only up to 20 hours a week during class sessions will be extended to April 30, 2024. As a result, international students already in Canada, as well as applicants who have applied for a study permit before December 7, 2023, will be able to work more than 20 hours per week off campus during this time. The Minister has indicated that IRCC is continuing to examine options for this policy in the future, which may include expanding off-campus work hours for international students to 30 hours a week during the school year.

The measure that has allowed international students to count time spent studying online towards the length of a future post-graduate work permit, as long as it made up less than 50% of the program of study, will continue until September 1, 2024. However, the measure will no longer apply to students who start their studies on or after that date. Given that the measure was brought in to respond to restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, most students have been able to return to studies in person, and as a result, the facilitative measure will no longer be required.

Finally, the temporary policy that permitted an additional 18-month work permit for post-graduation work permit holders will not be extended further. Individuals with a post-graduation work permit expiring up to December 31, 2023 remain eligible to apply.

If you are a student or an employer who has international students as employees and you have questions regarding any of the above changes, please contact us.