Announcement by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
On October 27th, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Miller, announced his plans to change the International Student Program to include more measures protecting prospective applicants from fraud. One of the biggest modifications set to be implemented by the end of the year is a new enhanced system of verifying letters of acceptance for incoming international students directly with post-secondary institutions across Canada1.
This comes as no surprise as in recent years the government of Canada has been tracking the rise of fraud related to immigration applications and the admission of foreign students into Canadian universities. Over the summer, an investigation by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”)’s task force was launched into the program which revealed that 1,550 student permit applications were tied to the issuance of fraudulent acceptance letters. Most of these cases were identified during processing, however 450 were not caught and ultimately resulted in the issuance of a study permit. Since then, over 600,000 study permit applications have been submitted to IRCC, a very significant number that almost certainly includes fraudulent applications.
IRCC’s task force, which was launched in 2017 by immigration authorities, pushed for the review of applications following proceedings by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (“IRB”) and revealed that among the 450 cases of fraud which passed through the system, 285 were of interest because the students were found to have been implicated in the alleged fraud. In the remaining cases, students were not perpetrators, but rather victims of the fraud themselves2.
New Potential framework
To address the issue of fraudulent recruitment of foreign students and protect prospective students from exploitation, as of December 1, 2023, Canadian schools that accept international students will have to submit and confirm every letter of acceptance they issue with IRCC. Furthermore, as of fall 2024, educational institutions recognized as offering strong support programs to its students (i.e. housing support, mental health support, etc.) will benefit from faster processing times among other incentives. The objective of this new framework is ultimately to punish bad actors within the system while still promoting the entry of foreign students in Canada and their participation in the economy.
Considering that the accreditation of designated learning institutions (“DLI”) in Canada falls under provincial jurisdiction, Minister Miller emphasized that provinces have a responsibility to make sure institutions are operating in compliance with the law and that if they are not willing to address the issue then the federal government will be forced to intervene.
In the coming months and on a related note, IRCC will complete an assessment of Post-Graduation Work Permit Program criteria and begin introducing reforms to ensure that the program meets the needs of the Canadian labour market, as well as regional and Francophone immigration goals. Although more changes can be expected, students can rest assured that the implementation of an application cap number is not on the government’s current agenda. Foreign students still represent a key source of growth for the country and Canada will continue to welcome their study permit applications.
Some Best Practices to Reduce the Risk of Study Permit Fraud
For any incoming foreign students in the process of applying to study within a Canadian post-secondary institution, we recommend following these best practices:
- Verify that your prospective educational institution is listed on the Government of Canada’s designated learning institutions list3;
- Refrain from advancing any amount of money to an individual promising the issuance of an acceptance letter to an institution;
- Confirm whether your institution benefits from the status of “recognized institution” for its student support programs.
1. “Changes to International Student Program aim to protect students”, Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2023/10/changes-to-international-student-program-aim-to-protect-students.html
2. OSMAN,Laura, “Immigration minister announces new rules to curb international student fraud”, October 27th 2023; https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/international-student-fraud-rules-1.7010427
3. “Designated learning institutions list”, Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/study-canada/study-permit/prepare/designated-learning-institutions-list.html