Students’ fear factor for real
The Canadian student visa from Nigeria, India, the Phillipines, and other immigration hotspots may now be far tougher as the Canadian government is considering imposing a cap on student visas for international students.
The sharp rise in housing and rental costs is one of the main driving forces behind this policy shift. Limiting the number of international students entering Canada is one of the options the federal government is considering as part of a plan to tackle a national housing crisis.
Universities and colleges, meanwhile, said they were surprised and troubled, respectively, by the suggestion, which was first raised by Housing and Infrastructure Minister Sean Fraser.
The Quebec government has already pushed back and says it won’t accept a cap on the number of international students it can admit.
Quebec’s reaction indicates that attempts to limit international student admissions could create conflict with the provinces. They have jurisdiction in areas of education and their postsecondary institutions have come to rely on lucrative international tuition fees.
“Quebec does not intend to impose a cap on the number of foreign students in its jurisdiction. Although issuing study permits is the responsibility of the federal government, education is the exclusive power of Quebec.
“It’s up to Quebec and its educational institutions to determine the number of people they can accommodate,” said Alexandre Lahaie, a spokesperson for Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette.
Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller confirmed his government is strongly considering a cap on the number of international students Canada accepts.
CBC reported that the number of international students in Canada soared past 800,000 in 2022, more than twice as many as when Justin Trudeau’s government took office in 2015.
Some experts have said the influx of students in need of lower-cost rental accommodation has contributed to rising rents in some cities, at a time when construction of new housing has been inadequate.
More than half of all international study permits issued in 2022 went to students at Canadian colleges, a sector that has surpassed universities as the top destination for international students.
In a statement, Colleges and Institutes Canada, which represents publicly funded colleges, said it is “troubled” by the suggestion of a cap on international enrolment.
Colleges and Institutes Canada said in a statement: “Although implementing a cap on international students may seem to provide temporary relief, it could have lasting adverse effects on our communities, including exacerbating current labour shortages.
“Furthermore, we want to emphasize that students are not to blame for Canada’s housing crisis; they are among those most impacted,”
Michael Sangster, president of the National Association of Career Colleges, which represents private colleges, said his members are willing to work with a cap, if that’s what the federal government decides, or with a trusted institution model, another proposal the federal government has floated that could see institutions with a good track record receive preference in permit processing.
“The students that are coming to our institutions, many of them are training to become tradespeople to build the homes we need. So we’re in a bit of a catch-22 right now, but we want to be part of the solution,” Mr. Sangster said.
Philip Landon, interim president of Universities Canada, an umbrella group representing nearly 100 institutions, said the idea of a cap on international university students is concerning and something universities don’t believe is necessary.
“Universities seek to attract talented students to Canada and have been doing so in a responsible way with responsible growth rates,” he said.
Mr. Landon called on the federal government to make low-cost financing available to universities to allow them to build more residence spaces.
Mr. Miller said the government is already in talks with postsecondary schools about what they can do to guarantee more housing availability. He said provinces also need to be at the table, as they’ve benefited greatly from the international student program.
He said it has become “very lucrative” for some schools, adding that the economic impact of international students in Canada is more than $ 20 billion a year. While he said much of that is good, there is also “some abuse in the system.”
The international student program is a temporary resident immigration stream that isn’t subject to the yearly caps or targets that Ottawa sets for permanent resident immigration streams.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Tuesday that the premiers have not raised the need for a cap on foreign students with him. He added that while they talk often about the need for more housing, the premiers have also made clear they need more immigrants to fill labour shortages, including in the construction industry.