Canada’s new international student cap law: How to study in Canada

By: Callum Denault

Published on: March 6th, 2024

Photo Courtesy: @pixabay (Pexels)

Fewer international students will be allowed to move to and study in Canada following the implementation of a new law on January 22, 2024. However, this does not mean Canada will be completely closed off to international students wishing to study here.

Keep reading to learn about the new law, why it is being implemented, and how to achieve your dream of studying in Canada.

Applying to be an international student in Canada

Immigration Minister Marc Miller stated that Canada will reduce the number of international students it accepts over the next two years by an estimated 35 per cent. Despite this reduction, around 364,000 study permits will still be granted to international students in 2024, making it possible to study in Canada even with the decrease.

The Government of Canada’s website provides an overview of the new law and the associated restrictions. Most international students must include a Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) with their application to study in Canada to be approved. 

However, there are exceptions to this requirement. Exceptions include anyone currently studying at a primary or secondary school, exchange students, and individuals with an in-Canada permit to work or study in the country. Additionally, any international student who applied to study in Canada before January 22, 2024, is exempt from this requirement.

Students applying to kindergarten to grade 12 classes are also exempt from needing a PAL, as are those seeking a master’s or doctoral degree in Canada.

Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL)

Currently, there is no official way to apply for a PAL because each province is developing its own system. These systems are expected to be in place by March 31, 2024.

However, the federal government has provided guidelines on how to apply for a PAL when it becomes available. Since Canada will only admit a limited number of international students, anyone wishing to study here should have their information ready to apply for a PAL. This way, when provinces start accepting PAL applications, they will be prepared with the necessary information and documents.

According to the Canadian federal government, all PAL applications must be registered online. However, refugees, people with disabilities, those with no fixed address, and non-national residents are allowed to submit paper applications.

The guide linked above has multiple-choice questions to accommodate students of different backgrounds. Some questions include whether students are applying with a family member and what kind of education they are pursuing. It can be helpful to organize all necessary information before visiting the government’s IRCC portal website, where PAL applications are filed.

First-time visitors to the IRCC website must use this webpage to request an invite code, which will be emailed. Repeat visitors to the IRCC website can simply log back into their account using the sign-in link.

Why is Canada limiting the number of international students?

The federal government says it changed the law around how international students can study in Canada to prevent them from being exploited once they arrive to study here. Unfortunately, many Canadian colleges and universities have been criticized for how poorly they treat international students.

While there are many issues, one of the main problems is institutions accused of churning out diplomas without providing a legitimate educational experience. These institutions give students expensive degrees with way less practical education than promised. In many cases, international students find themselves stuck in exploitative jobs in a desperate attempt to cover their expenses. Additionally, international students tend to pay significantly higher tuition fees than domestic students at the same schools. It remains to be seen whether Canada’s decision to limit the number of international students will help save them from being taken advantage of. Regardless, anyone wishing to travel to Canada for their studies should apply through official channels and ensure the school they plan to attend will treat them fairly. Everyone deserves to have a rewarding educational experience and to not have their desire for academic growth exploited.

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