Immigration

Canada Issuing Record Numbers Of Study Permits As Top Destination For International Students

ApplyBoard has revealed Canada is processing record numbers of study permits for international students and leads English-speaking western countries as a destination for international study – but the United States and Germany are catching up.

In its Top Trends in International Education for 2024 and Beyond report, the Canadian educational technology company highlights Canada’s enviable position as a favourite destination for international study.

“Canada processed nearly 740,000 student visa applications in 2022, shattering the previous year’s record by 34 per cent … (and) 2023 is also poised for yet another all-time high,” notes the report.

“Canada processed more than 660,000 applications through the first nine months of the calendar year.”

The United States, though, is seeing massive growth in its international student population.


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“The United States experienced the largest swing in student interest. The U.S. government processed more than 630,000 F-1 visa applications for its 2022 fiscal year,” notes ApplyBoard. “This was 42 per cent more than in 2021 and the highest number of student visa applications processed since 2016, when the U.S. sector started trending downward.”

Across the pond, the United Kingdom is also seeing very significant growth in its student population.

“In the United Kingdom, nearly 490,000 sponsored study visa applications were processed in 2022. This surpassed the previous year by 26 per cent,” notes ApplyBoard.

There is concern, though, that international student growth in the UK may have plateaued.


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“During the first six months of 2023, the UK processed 105,000 visas for sponsored study. While this was four per cent more than the same period in 2022, it’s a far cry from the 58 per cent growth between 2021 and 2022. Indeed, many UK institutions reported lower-than-expected enrollment for the September, 2023 intake and a decline in applications looking toward January, 2024 and beyond.”

Outside of the English-speaking world, Germany is showing signs of emerging as a leader in international education.

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“We predict that Germany will be their biggest contender for international students, notes ApplyBoard. “Germany hosted nearly 368,000 students in 2022/23, up five per cent over 2021/22 and a new record high.

“Germany offers free tuition for nearly all study programs at public universities and students can apply for an extended 18-month job-seeking visa to find work related to their area of study. Nearly 40 per cent of international students in Germany remain in the country long-term.”

In Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is eyeing reforms to stop fraud in international student admissions by bad actors.

IRCC Putting In Reforms To Fight Fraud In International Student Admissions

Those reforms are to include:

  • a requirement, starting Dec. 1 this year that all colleges and universities deemed to be Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) be required to confirm every applicant’s letter of acceptance directly with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
  • a new “recognized institution” framework by autumn next year to benefit post-secondary DLIs that set a higher standard for services, support and outcomes for international students. These DLIs will benefit, for example, from the priority processing of study permits for applicants who plan to attend their school.
  • an assessment of Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWP) criteria over the coming months and reforms to better calibrate it to meet the needs of the Canadian labour market, as well as regional and francophone immigration goals.

The details of those reforms are to be unveiled later.

“International students are talented, bright and deserving of a positive experience as they pursue their studies in Canada,” said Immigration Minister Marc Miller earlier this year.

“We will continue to improve Canada’s International Student Program by protecting students and weeding out those who try to take advantage of them. Whether an international student stays and works after graduation or returns home, we want their time as a student in Canada to have been beneficial to their growth and aspirations.”

The move by the immigration minister came only days after Michèle Kingsley, the IRCC’s assistant deputy minister of operations, told the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that 30 international students have already been granted temporary study permits to stay in Canada after a five-month investigation by the federal government.

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“If a student had enrolled within three semesters of their arrival and there were no other problems or issues with their applications, such as criminal activity, the task force assessed that person to be a genuine student,” said Kingsley.

“The task force has reviewed 103 cases and determined 63 were genuine students. To date, 30 have been approved for temporary resident permits of up to three years.”

Both Miller and Kingsley recognize the important contributions international students make to Canada.

International education accounts for more than $22 billion in economic activity annually, greater than Canada’s exports of auto parts, lumber or aircraft, and supports more than 200,000 jobs in Canada. The temporary drop in international students in 2020 resulted in a loss of more than $7 billion for Canada’s gross domestic product that year.

“They support our local economies and bolster the skilled workforce across Canada,” said Kingsley.

In Canada, each of the 10 provinces and three territories runs its own educational system and determines which schools, including elementary, middle and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities, are DLIs.

International students can search a list of the post-secondary schools, such as colleges and universities, and language schools that are DLIs in each province and territory on the federal government’s website here.

Since many international students want to work in Canada upon graduation with a PGWP, it is also important for them to know before they start their studies that not all DLIs and programs make them eligible for this work permit.

Colleges And Universities Provide International Students With Lists Of Required Documents

“Along with graduating from a PGWP-eligible designated learning institution, you need to meet all other criteria to get a post-graduation work permit,” notes the IRCC.

Once an international student has chosen a school, college or university, he or she must apply to go there and follow that school’s admission requirements. The admission fees can vary considerably from one school to another.

Canadian immigration officials suggest applying at least six months in advance to study at a primary or secondary school and one year in advance for a post-secondary program at a university or college.

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“Contact the school where you want to study to learn how to apply,” notes the IRCC. “They’ll give you the list of all the documents you need to send them. They’ll also be able to tell you about: the cost to apply; tuition fees; health insurance; rent and how much it costs to live in Canada, and; language tests.”

Schools in Canada send international students acceptance letters once they have been admitted and that letter is a very important part of the application process for a study permit.

It’s at the point that a college or university has accepted an international student that he or she should apply for a study permit.

That is usually done online but those who suffer from a disability or some other barrier that prevents them from applying online or makes applying online unreliable can be exempted from this requirement and submit a paper application.

International students applying to a school in Quebec, will also receive, along with their acceptance letter, a Certificat d’Acceptation du Québec (CAQ) and must include this document in their study permit applications.

International Students Urged To Get Adequate Health Insurance

International students are responsible for their own healthcare costs as neither Canada nor the provinces pay for the medical costs of foreign students. Health coverage for foreign students varies between provinces.

It is very important for international students to ensure they have adequate medical and health insurance and can in an emergency situation pay those costs up front as many clinics and hospitals will insist on those payments being made upon treatment and insurance companies may only reimburse those costs later.

International students are advised to contact their schools to get more information about medical coverage and health insurance.

In order to successfully gain entry into Canada under the Student Direct Stream (SDS), every international student will also have to prove proficiency in English or French. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the preferred test for proficiency in English and students must score 6.0 or higher in each language skill: listening, reading and speaking. For francophone students, a Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEF) score that is equivalent to a Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) score of at least seven for each ability is required.

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