ApplyBoard FAQs: Canada’s 2024 Policy Updates

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Many aspects of Canada’s International Student Program, from access to the Post-Graduation Work Permit program to who is exempt from a study permit cap, have evolved significantly in early 2024. While some changes are still unfolding, we’ll share answers to some of your most pressing questions about these Canadian policy updates below.

Note: This document is provided as information only, and is subject to change as policies are updated. For official guidance relating to Canadian student visas and immigration, visit the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website, or connect with a Registered Canadian Immigration Consultant

Study Permit Cap Questions

How will the study permit cap work?

In January 2024, the Canadian government announced a temporary two-year cap on Canadian study permits. This means the number of applications for new Canadian study permits in 2024 will be limited to around 606,250, resulting in 360,000 expected study permit approvals. 

Study permit applications will be allocated based on each province or territory’s population. 

Which students are exempt from the study permit cap?

Students in K-12, master’s degree, and doctoral degree programs are exempt from the study permit cap. So, this cap will mostly impact students at the undergraduate university and college level.

Students who are current study permit holders, or who are applying for study permit renewals (extensions) are also exempt.

How will these changes impact K-12 international students?

The study permit cap does not apply to K-12 international students. K-12 students also do not need to include a provincial attestation letter (PAL) with their study permit application.

Are post-graduate certificate students exempt from the study permit cap? 

No. Short postgraduate programs, like postgraduate diplomas and certificates, are not included on IRCC’s list of exemptions. Only master’s degree, doctoral degree, and K-12 students are exempt from the study permit cap. 

How will private colleges and universities be impacted?

Private colleges and universities will be subject to the same rules and restrictions as public colleges and universities are. 

What are public-private partnerships (PPPs) and how are they affected?

A PPP, or public-private partnership, is an agreement between a public college and an affiliated private college. In some provinces, public colleges may license their curriculum to instructors at a private college (which may be in a different city). So, while students physically attend classes at a private college, they graduate with a diploma from a public institution. 

As of September 1, 2024, students who enrol at public-private partnership institutions (PPPs) may no longer apply for post-graduation work permits (PGWPs) after graduating. 

Will the study permit cap impact make it more difficult for students to get Letters of Acceptance?

Since institutions will be allowed only a set number of admissions under the cap, certain programs will likely become more competitive. Institutions will want to be as sure as possible that they only grant acceptance letters to candidates who are likely to get study permit approval. This means that a strong application and GPA will be more important than ever for students, especially in popular provinces like Ontario and British Columbia. 

The criteria for master’s degree, doctoral degree, and K-12 students are unlikely to change, since those programs are unaffected by the cap.

A hand holding an acceptance letter, signifying the importance of a pre-screened high quality application.

Provincial Attestation Letter Questions

What is a provincial attestation letter (PAL)?

A provincial attestation letter (PAL) is an electronic document that states that a student is entitled to submit their application for a study permit under a province’s cap.

How can my students get a provincial attestation letter (PAL)? 

PAL processes will vary by province or territory, and are set by each provincial government. In some cases, like in British Columbia, PALs will be issued by academic institutions. 

Quebec was the first province to have a fully implemented PAL process. British Columbia’s process has come into effect as of March 4. The province will issue PALs to institutions, and the institutions will then pass PALs on to student applicants at their discretion. 

Check the IRCC page for the most up-to-date information.

Which students need a PAL for their study permit application? 

As of January 22, 2024, most applicants must provide a provincial attestation letter to apply for their Canadian study permit. The only students exempt from needing a PAL are master’s degree, doctoral degree, and K-12 students. 

When will each province’s PAL process be final? 

As of March 2024, the following provinces and territories have processes in place or are actively issuing PALs

  • Quebec 
  • British Columbia 
  • Alberta 

The Certificat d’Acceptation du Québec/Québec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) may work as a PAL, as long as it includes the following sentence: “This attestation letter confirms that the applicant has a place in Quebec’s share of the distribution of study permit applications or is exempt from it.” 

Every other Canadian province and territory must develop a process for issuing PALs by March 31, 2024. For updates, check the official IRCC website.

What happens if a student gets a letter of acceptance, but not a PAL?

In most cases, students with a letter of acceptance who pay their tuition deposit quickly will get a PAL. In the rare case that a student does not, they may request a tuition deposit refund. Students who aren’t exempt from needing a PAL may not study in that province or territory without one.

Should students wait to apply for a study permit until they have a PAL?

It depends. Study permit applications submitted before January 22, 2024, don’t require a PAL. 

Certain students won’t need a PAL, including students applying for K-12, master’s degree, and doctoral degree programs. Exempt students may apply for a study permit as usual.

All non-exempt students should wait until they have a PAL. Study permit applications submitted on or after January 22, 2024, without a PAL will be refunded and returned to the student. The student must then resubmit their application with the attestation letter, once it’s available.

Should students pay for their tuition deposit before getting a PAL?

Yes. Consider paying as soon as possible. The sooner that students pay any relevant tuition deposits, the sooner they’ll be in line for an attestation letter, which they need to apply for a study permit. This will make them less likely to be affected by the study permit cap. 

Can students who don’t receive a PAL get a tuition deposit refund?

In most cases, students will be eligible to request a full tuition deposit refund if they are refused a PAL or a study permit. However, this will vary by institution, so check with the student’s target college or university. Some tuition deposits may be refunded, where others are non-refundable.

If a student decides to withdraw their application for personal reasons, an institution’s standard refund policy will apply.

An illustration of an hourglass.

Timeline Questions

Are current study permit applications on hold? 

For some students, yes. Since January 22, study permit applications have been effectively on hold for students who must submit a provincial attestation letter (PAL) with their application. This will be the case until the province or territory they’re applying to finalizes their process to issue PALs.

Should students proceed with a study permit right now?

Students who don’t require a PAL, or who get a PAL from any province or territory with a process now in place, may apply for their study permit. Otherwise, students who do need a PAL should wait until they receive a PAL from their target institution (or province or territory).

Should students accepted to April or May intakes without a study permit defer their start date to September 2024? 

Remember, K-12, master’s degree, and doctoral degree students don’t need a PAL, and are exempt from the study permit cap. Processes for these students haven’t changed, so they shouldn’t need to defer.

Other students, like those in undergraduate programs or graduate certificates, should consider deferring April or early May start dates if they are concerned they will not receive their study permit in time. 

Can post-graduate degree students go ahead with a study permit application right now?

Yes. As students in post-graduate degree programs (like master’s and PhDs) don’t require a PAL, and are exempt from the study permit cap, they may proceed with their application.

How will biometric tests and other aspects of the study permit application process be impacted?

Once a province announces its PAL processes, there will likely be a rush of students all submitting their study applications. This may cause a slowdown in biometrics appointments or processing time. So, factor in this potential delay.

Do students need to pay their tuition deposit before applying for a study permit?

Yes. Most institutions will require a student to pay their tuition deposit before issuing them a PAL, which will enable them to apply for their study permit. In addition, while not explicitly stated on the IRCC website, proof of a tuition deposit payment is part of a student’s proof of financial capacity when applying for a study permit.

Illustration of two grad caps

Study Program Questions

How can students assess their eligibility for a master’s degree?

It depends. EduCanada notes every Canadian college and university has its own rules for assessing international students’ academic credentials. 

Some institutions will check students’ credentials in-house. Other students may need to use an assessment service to see if their degree is enough, or if they need to take another program (like an one-year postgraduate certificate) first.

How can students help their application to a graduate program stand out?

Understand the process. How students apply is a little different at each university. Create a calendar with deadlines for each institution, and ensure the student meets each milestone.

Start early. If students rush, they’ll miss things, which can put their application at risk. Requesting transcripts, gathering documents, asking for references, and writing a personal statement can take longer than expected.

Tailor each application. Match the student’s work and education experience to the specific program. Highlight this in their resume, reference letters, and personal statement.

Two students having a conversation

Bringing Family to Canada with a Study Permit

Can partners and spouses of students no longer get an open work permit? When does this take effect? 

IRCC has noted open work permit eligibility will be updated soon. 

Only spouses and common-law partners of students in master’s programs, doctorate programs, and professional degree-granting programs (such as law or medicine) will be eligible for a new open work permit.

Partners of students at other levels of study will no longer be eligible, unless they already hold an open work permit under this stream. Undergraduate students already in the system whose spouses have applied for open work permits should still be accepted. Those who want to extend their current work permit may still do so. 

Refer to the Canadian government’s website for more details on these changes as they’re announced. 

Can diploma or certificate students bring dependants to Canada? 

Diploma and certificate students (undergraduate or graduate) may bring dependants. However, these dependants are no longer eligible for a work permit. This means that these dependants may apply for a visitor visa or their own study permit, but may not work full-time.

Can students still bring their children to Canada? 

Yes, students may still bring their dependent children to Canada. The child or children must apply for their own visitor or study permit (or work permit, if eligible). Here are the government’s guidelines to see if your child is dependent.

Who can accompany a K-12 student coming to Canada?

Minor children (17 years old or younger) must either come with their parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to Canada, or have an appointed custodian

If their parent or guardian has a work or study permit, the K-12 student still needs their own study permit. See the Government of Canada’s website for more details.

Is a parent or guardian accompanying a K-12 student eligible for a Canadian work permit?

Having a child in a K-12 study program in Canada does not immediately qualify a parent or guardian for a Canadian work permit. Parent(s) or guardian(s) must apply for their own work or study permit.

An illustration of a blue briefcase.

Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Questions

Which students may apply for a PGWP after graduation?

Students who graduated from an eligible full-time program lasting at least eight months from a designated learning institution in Canada may apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP).

As of September 1, 2024, the PGWP program will no longer be open to new students at public-private partnership (PPP) institutions. However, students who are already enrolled in a study program at a PPP before September 1, 2024, may still apply for a PGWP.

How is the PGWP program changing?

Starting February 15, 2024, graduates from master’s programs of less than two years, but lasting at least eight months, may be eligible for a three-year PGWP.

Also, as of September 1, 2024, the PGWP program will no longer be open to new students at public-private partnership institutions (PPPs). However, students who are already enrolled in a study program at a PPP before September 1, 2024, may still apply for a PGWP.

Can students who have completed multiple programs combine their study duration to receive a longer PGWP?

Yes, as long as both programs were at least eight months long (or 900 hours for Quebec credentials) and PGWP-eligible. If you already had a PGWP after completing the first study program, you may not apply for PGWP again.

Canadian flag (a red maple leaf on a white field, framed by a red bar on either side)

General Questions

How do you predict these changes will impact Canada’s reputation as a study destination?

The severity and suddenness of these policy changes will affect Canada’s reputation in the short term, meaning some students will look elsewhere for study opportunities. In the long term, once the new processes are set, Canada will still be perceived as a strong option, especially for master’s students and those who qualify for the still-excellent post-graduation work permit.

Within Canada, geographic interest may shift, with provinces like Alberta expected to become more popular. 

Are similar policy updates happening in ApplyBoard’s other study markets? 

In 2023, Australia increased its minimum cost of living amount for students, and further changes to student visas are expected in 2024. In the United Kingdom, changes to students’ dependent policy are predicted to impact student trajectories. For more information, refer to ApplyBoard’s blog and ApplyInsights.

Where can we find cost of living information for different parts of Canada?

A quick way to learn about cost of living is to use a cost of living calculator, like this one from WOWA or TD Bank’s student budget calculator. Some provinces and institutions also offer custom calculators. 

Where can we find more information?

 

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