Canada

Ontario universities say they want at least 35 per cent of the international students allowed into the province in the wake of Immigration Minister Marc Miller’s cap on study permit applications, the Toronto Star reports.

The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) reportedly wants about 82,250 of 235,000 study permit applications accepted from international students to be given to those who plan to study at the undergraduate level in Ontario’s 23 publicly-funded universities.

The organization also wants those allocations to be made based on each university’s share of the enrolment of these students.

The COU is hoping that will mean the arrival of 28,000 international students into the province in the coming year and help keep the international undergraduate enrollment of international students at roughly 20 per cent of all students in those programs.

Last month, the immigration minister limited study permits to be handed out to international students in the coming year by the IRCC to only 606,250 study permit applications in 2024.


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“The intent of these Instructions is to ensure the number of study permit applications accepted into processing by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration … within the scope of the instructions does not exceed 606,250 study permit applications for one year beginning on the date of signature,” the Canada Gazette reported on Feb. 3.

The cap on study permit applications is expected to reduce the number of study permits by more than a third, The Globe and Mail has reported.

“The cap is expected to result in approximately 364,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35 per cent from 2023,” the immigration minister has reportedly said. “In the spirit of fairness, we are also allocating the cap space by province, based on population.”

COU president and CEO Steve Orsini has reportedly maintained that the province’s universities are not to blame for the massive growth in international students in Ontario.

“Universities have been very careful and responsible in taking on new students,” he reportedly said.


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“We’ve been very responsible and managing the growth. So when there’s a gold rush for international students, universities don’t play that game. We were very measured and responsible to ensure that our students were put first.”

The COU’s top exec claims universities properly managed the arrival of international students with housing and mental health services and so are not to blame for any upward pressure on rents and housing costs in the province.

Ottawa’s cap on study permit applications is being put in place in a bid to curb rising housing costs but experts say it will not be enough to stop the inflationary effect on rents due to increasing numbers of international students in Canada.

An RBC Economics report forecasts the cap on study permit applications will only slow down the rate of inflation, not reverse it.

Study Permit Caps Will Not Reverse House Price Inflation, Reports RBC Economics

“Assuming similar enrollment rates and outflow patterns as those observed in the three post-pandemic years, we estimate 391,000 new international students will enter Canada this year and 291,000 will graduate or otherwise see their study permits expire,” wrote RBC economist Rachel Battaglia.

“This means the number of international students in Canada will continue to grow by 100,000, about 55 per cent less than the net increase in 2023.”

With that growth in international students in Canada, the pressure on rents from the international students’ demand for housing will moderate but not drop in the short term.

“The impact on the rental housing market will run along the same lines,” wrote the economist.

“But even though we’re expecting growth to moderate, this doesn’t translate to an outright fall in rental demand, at least not in the near term. Given nearly all international students live in rented accommodation – we’re assuming 97 per cent – we estimate this slowdown could cut demand for new rentals by international students in half relative to 2023.”

As Canada struggled with the severe labour shortages in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) removed the 20-hour weekly restriction on work hours for international students, allowing them to work up to 40 hours every week.

That temporary measure was initially intended to be in place until the end of last year but Miller extended that deadline to the end of April this year and wants to scale back international students’ hours in the workplace.

“We have gotten addicted to temporary foreign workers,” Miller has reportedly told Bloomberg News.

“Any large industry trying to make ends meet will look at the ability to drive down wages. There is an incentive to drive labour costs down. It’s something that’ll require a larger discussion.”

The proposed move to cut back on the work hours of international students comes in the wake of the IRCC having processed more than one million study permit applications last year.

“We finalized 1,089,600 study permit applications (including extensions) in 2023, up from 917,900 in 2022,” notes the IRCC website.

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