Faster student visa applications to Canada proposed

Canadian universities
Universities that pass the criteria in a new proposed framework can benefit from faster processing time of study permits for their students. Source: AFP

Recently, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has gone ahead with plans to implement a new Trusted Institution Framework by 2024 for Canadian universities and colleges, as reported by the ICEF.

IRCC  plans to introduce a two-tier model for issuing study permits to attract more international students to study in Canada.

But to understand the importance of this framework, let’s first dive into the core reasons why the Great White North has become a favourite among international students.

canadian universities

More than one-third of students rate Canada as their first choice for post-secondary studies, according to research published by IDP Connect. Source: AFP

4 reasons why Canada is so popular among international students

When the US saw a 7% drop in international student enrollment between 2016 and 2020, the enrollment rate in Canada increased by 52%. 

It’s a telling picture of how international students have difference preferences now, according to data from Forbes. 

Here are the four possible reasons for this change: 

1. Canada’s more welcoming immigration process

While popular study abroad destinations, like the US and the UK, have made efforts to reduce the number of immigrants coming into their respective countries, Canada has moved in the opposite direction.

Last year, the federal government set an ambitious target of welcoming 1.5 million new immigrants by 2025. 

Students are a key group it recognises for bringing “tremendous economic, cultural and social benefits” to the country.

To draw more international students, Canada makes it easier to stay and work in the country after graduating.

The Post-Graduation Work Permit Programme (PGWPP), for example, makes it easier for students to transition to the workforce and potentially become a permanent resident.

A 2021 survey by the Canadian Bureau for International Education found that 40% of international students who choose to study in Canada plan to pursue permanent residency after their studies.

Canadian universities

People walk near the Lac-aux-Castors at Mont-Royal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on October 05, 2023. Source: AFO

2. More affordable tuition fees 

Affordable tuition fees are among the top five most important factors international students consider when choosing a university, according to a 2022 survey by QS.

While some provinces that house top-ranked institutions charge high fees, there are universities with lower tuition rate in Canada for those seeking a more affordable option.

One such example is the Canadian Mennonite University. 

Located in Winnipeg, it is a private institution that focuses on delivering a liberal arts-based education. The university is known for its small size, one-on-one access to professors as well as a rigorous, personalised careers service. 

Here, international students can expect to pay around 19,000 Canadian dollars for an undergraduate education. 

Beyond this, comprehensive funding options in the form of scholarships or financial aid are available for international students in Canada.

Canadian universities

Three Canadian universities are among the world’s top 50, according to the 2024 QS World University Rankings. Source: AFP

3. World-class universities 

Three Canadian universities — the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of British Columbia — are among the world’s top 50 institutions, according to the 2024 QS World University Rankings. 

Most recently, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced an investment of CA$1.4 billion in support of 11 large-scale research initiatives in strategic areas, through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF). 

This investment will allow researchers at Canadian universities to capitalise on the strengths of their respective research areas and attract capital as well as world-class talent.

Canadian universities

Canadian universities and cities are known to be more inclusive to international students compared to other study abroad destinations. Source: AFP

4. International students find a second home here

Filipino Nel Jayson Santos, the first recipient of an LGBT scholarship at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, was amazed at how “culturally diverse and environmentally rich the country is.”

“It’s home to a lot of people coming from all around the globe, making Canada a cultural mosaic where everyone has a right to celebrate their unique identities, whatever it may be,” he told Study International.

For Aryamaan Ghosal, the Smith School of Business graduate enjoyed exploring the diverse range of restaurants — specifically Kingston, Ontario, where the city houses the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada.

IRCC’s Trusted Institutions Framework for Canadian universities and colleges: What we know so far

IRCC plans to introduce a two-tier model for issuing study permits. It first introduced this framework in a June 2023 briefing for selected peak bodies and stakeholders.

Several factors led to the proposal for a new framework:

  • Concerns around the vulnerability of international students in the context of reports of exploitation or mistreatment of visiting students
  • A high rate of growth in application volumes
  • The need for greater diversification of the international student population

Details remain sparse since the IRCC has chosen to hold discussions on the proposal behind closed doors.

They, however, have been clear on the rationale behind the framework, which is to assess designated learning institutions (DLI) against “criteria that demonstrate that they are reliable partners with regard to sustainable intake, identifying genuine students, monitoring and reporting on their compliance, and providing a safe and enriching experience for their international students.”

DLIs are colleges, universities, and other educational institutions authorised by Canada’s provincial and territorial governments to admit international students. 

CIC News has revealed the contents of the proposed indicators that IRCC plans to use to assess whether a DLI is a Trusted Institution, which includes:

  • Retention rates: The percentage of international students in a multi-year programme of study who remain in their original programme after their first year in Canada
  • On-time programme completion rate: Percentage of international students who complete their program within the advertised length of study 
  • Percentage of revenue from international tuition: Percentage of a DLI’s total tuition revenue that comes from international student tuition fees
  • Scholarships awarded to international students from less developed countries: The dollar value and percentage of total scholarships and grants provided to international students originating from countries on the United Nations Least Developed Countries list
  • Funding for international student support: The value of targeted support for international students per international student and as a percentage of average international student tuition. Support may include mental health services, career and employment counselling, and immigration counselling
  • Availability of DLI-administered housing for international students: Total number and percentage of international students living in housing administered by their institution
  • Teacher-student ratio: Average teacher-student ratio for the 10 courses with the highest numeric enrollment of international students
Canadian universities

IRCC’s Trusted Institution Framework hints at faster student visa approvals. Source: AFP

What’s in store for international students?

DLIs that meet IRCC’s Trusted Institutions Framework criteria would benefit from faster study permit processing for international students admitted to their institutions.

This could be a sign of relief for students who have experienced delays in securing their student visas.

When delays strike, they can hamper the plans of international students who wish to study abroad.

Just last year, 11 Iranians were reportedly in limbo as their Canadian student visa applications were delayed, with no end in sight.

This has forced affected students to put their plans on hold, making it difficult to plan for the future.

Jonathan Omagbon, director of AECC Global for Philippines & Vietnam — which supports students who aspire to study in countries like the UK, Australia, Canada, and the US — also shed light on this matter, speaking to PIE News about how serious these delays can get. 

“It is not uncommon for students to wait four or more months for a Canadian student visa to be approved,” he shares.

“The worst student visa delay we’ve seen in Canada was five-plus months, visa delays result in stressful experiences for students.”

As of July 31, recent IRCC data showed a backlog of 802,600 applications out of a total of 2,274,600.

Canadian universities

The number of international students entering Canada has dramatically increased in recent years. Source: AFP

Canada to host more than 900,000 international students in 2023

Canada is on track to host around 900,000 international students this year, Immigration Minister Marc Miller told CBC

This, however, comes at a time when the country is experiencing a housing crisis. 

To tackle the housing affordability issue, Canada needs to build 5.8 million new homes — including two million rental units — by 2023, says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. 

In 2022, the Canadian Bureau for International Education recorded about 807,750 international students in the country — a 43% increase from five years ago. 

The proposed Trusted Institution Framework and exploration of a potential cap on international students are part of a suite of measures the federal government is exploring to enhance the benefits of Canada’s international student programme.

IRCC will start collecting and analysing data from all DLIs in the coming months and establish the initial list of Trusted Institutions in spring 2024, CIC News reports.