Canadian Government Implements Two-Year Study Permit Cap: Shaping Future Policies

The Canadian federal government has set a two-year intake cap on new study permit applications, reducing the number by over one-third compared to 2023. This cap is apparently to address, what has been characterized as, the “integrity of the international student system and pressure on housing, healthcare, and other services caused by a surge in international students”.

According to the announcement made by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada, the cap is anticipated to limit new study permits to approximately 360,000 in 2024. Specific caps have been allocated, based on population, for each province and territory, who will further allocate the limit among their designated learning institutions. To enforce the cap, as of January 22, 2024, an attestation letter from a province or territory will be required for every study permit application submitted to the IRCC.

The two-year cap will be reevaluated at the conclusion of this year to determine the number of new study permit applications that will be accepted in 2025. While the cap will make a drastic impact on international students looking to pursue undergraduate education in Canada, it will not affect:

  • Current study permit holders and study permit renewals;
  • Students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees; and
  • Elementary and secondary education students.

In addition to the cap, in a few weeks, open work permits will only be available to spouses of students enrolled in master's, doctoral, and certain professional programs. Further, the government will stop issuing post-graduation work permits to students who begin a study program in private-public model schools as of September 1, 2024.

As a result, this approach will lead to more significant reductions in international student admissions for some provinces than others. This will also impact other Canadian economic streams including revenue derived from the education and the housing sectors. The labour market will also be negatively affected as lower-skilled foreign nationals who have historically accompanied their student family members will not qualify to work, nor will new graduates be able to apply their skills to the Canadian workforce after completing their programs at certain post-secondary institutions.

Despite the challenges posed by the cap, graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for a three-year work permit. This change is particularly noteworthy as, under the current Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, the length of a work permit relies exclusively on the length of an individual’s study program.

If you have questions or require legal assistance in light of these developments, we welcome you to reach out to the Immigration Practice Group for a consultation.