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Immigration minister expected to unveil new plan for student visas today

MONTREAL — Immigration Minister Marc Miller is expected to outline a plan today to reduce the number of international students issued permits to study in Canada.

The move comes as the federal cabinet is in the midst of a three-day retreat in Montreal preparing for the upcoming sitting of Parliament. 

It also comes five months after the last cabinet retreat in Charlottetown where Miller and Housing Minister Sean Fraser began floating the idea of capping international student visas.

Miller has promised multiple times in recent months to find solutions to an influx of international students which he has acknowledged is contributing to a costly housing shortage across the country.

More than 800,000 international students were issued temporary study visas in 2022, and Miller said last fall the numbers were tracking to hit 900,000 in 2023.

That is more than triple the number just 10 years ago.

It’s a hike Miller blames in part on unscrupulous schools bringing over students as a source of revenue with little regard for providing a solid education or ensuring their well-being while in Canada.

That includes housing, with many reports in recent years of international students being unable to find safe and secure housing.

Miller warned provinces in the fall that they needed to crack down on abuse and fraud in the system or Ottawa would impose limits on the number of student visas it issues.

“There are, in provinces, the diploma equivalent of puppy mills that are just churning out diplomas, and this is not a legitimate student experience,” Miller said at a news conference in December.

“There is fraud and abuse and it needs to end.”

At that press conference he announced a plan to increase the amount of money foreign students must show they have access to in order to receive a visa. This year visas will only be issued to students who can show they have $20,635, up from $10,000 last year.

The move was intended to ensure students were more clear about how much money they would need to live in Canada while they went to school. Some reports have indicated students arriving without enough money have been vulnerable to exploitation.

But he has also been warning provinces for months that they needed to do something about schools they had accredited for international students, which are not providing the expected education.

Ottawa issues the visas but control over which schools get accredited to admit international students lies with the provinces.

Miller has said the system in place has led to abuse and fraud particularly as schools came to depend heavily on the higher tuition fees paid by international students as provinces froze or cut back their funding.

He said in December it would be wrong to blame international students for Canada’s housing shortage but at the same time, schools which admit more students than they know can find housing is unethical.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2024.

The Canadian Press


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