When Procedural Fairness Requires a Fairness Letter

One of the most complicated topics in immigration law is determining when procedural fairness will require an immigration officer who is assessing an application to seek clarification in the form of a fairness letter or interview.

As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) the the concept of procedural fairness is eminently variable and its content is to be decided in the specific context of each case. When a visa officer does not rely on third party extrinsic evidence to make a decision it can often appear unclear when exactly it is necessary for an officer to afford an applicant an interview or a right to respond to the officer’s concerns.  However, there will be a right  to respond under certain circumstances.

Requirement to Provide Complete Applications

Visa officers do not have any legal responsibility to advise applicants of incomplete or inadequate applications.

In Kaur v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 758, for example, the Federal Court dismissed a judicial review application of a visa officer’s refusal of an applicant under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. A visa officer determined that the application was deficient as it failed to include required information regarding the applicant’s salary and benefits. The applicant argued that the Canadian embassy should have told the applicant that this information was missing, and given her a chance to provide what was missing. However, the Court noted that there is no duty to advise an applicant of a deficient application. As Justice Mandamin noted, the process is clear. An applicant must provide a complete application.

As such, and to reiterate, visa officers do not have the obligation to notify applicants of inadequacies in their applications nor in the supporting documents. They do not have to seek clarification or additional documentation, nor provide an applicant with an opportunity to address concerns, when the material provided in support of an application is unclear, incomplete or insufficient to show that someone meets legislative program requirements.

Credibility Concerns

A duty may exist, however, to provide an applicant with the opportunity to respond to a visa officer’s concerns when the officer is concerned with the credibility, the veracity, or the authenticity of the documentation provided by an applicant as opposed to the sufficiency of the evidence provided.

In Sandhu v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 759,  for example, an application was complete.  However, the visa officer rejected the application because he did not believe the genuineness of one of the applicant’s answers on the application. The Court acknowledged that the duty of procedural fairness in the decisions of visa officers [is] at the low end of the spectrum. However, Justice Mandamin, the same Justice as above, also noted that where the application is adequate, but the officer nevertheless entertains a doubt on the evidence, there remains a duty to clarify the information. The judge thus allowed the judicial review.

Grewal v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2011 FC 167 provides another example of this principle. There, an application was rejected because of a poor IELTs score.  In brief, the applicant had arranged employment in Canada as a Retail Trade Manager, but the visa officer determined that she would be unable to perform the required duties  of the arranged employment because of her poor IELTS marks. The visa officer refused the application without providing the applicant with an opportunity to respond to this concern.

Justice Noel noted numerous factors that resulted in the officer having a duty to seek additional information from the applicant, including 1) that immigration guidelines specified that additional information would be required for doubts over Arranged Employment Offers, 2) that the language proficiency concern derailed the individual’s entire claim for permanent residence, and 3) that the applicant’s consultant had thoroughly explained the reason for the poor test and had stated that another would be forthcoming.  Accordingly, Justice Noel determined that procedural fairness dictated that a fairness letter or interview be provided.

Singh v. Canada, 2010 FC 1306 is a final example.  There, an officer rejected a work permit application because the only documents which the applicant provided to support her claimed employment experience as a Ragi were reference letters.  The officer stated that she saw “many such letters which turn out to be fictitious”, and that she required “more than letters, for instance, newspaper cut outs, photos of them practicing or letters of reference, to properly corroborate claims of training, knowledge, and experience.”  The Federal Court, however, overturned this decision, noting that the applicant was not put on notice that the officer was concerned with the veracity of letters, and did not request further documentation.


In 2011, Justice O’Keefe in Kaur v. Canada, 2011 FC 219 provided  an excellent articulation of the current jurisprudence, and what should be the starting basis for any analysis of whether procedural fairness required the providing of the applicant with an opportunity to respond to a given concern.  The Court stated that:

An officer is not under a duty to inform the applicant about any concerns regarding the application which arise directly from the requirements of the legislation or regulations (see Hassani v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2006 FC 1283, [2007] 3 F.C.R. 501 at paragraphs 23 and 24).

The onus was on the applicant to satisfy the officer of all parts of her application and the officer was under no obligation to ask for additional information where the applicant’s material was insufficient (see Madan v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) (1999), 172 F.T.R. 262 (F.C.T.D.), [1999] F.C.J. No. 1198 (QL) at paragraph 6).

However, the officer was obligated to inform the applicant of any concerns related to the veracity of documents that formed part of the application and the officer was required to make further inquires in such a situation (see Hassani above, at paragraph 24).

The message from the courts seems clear. Visa applicants have one shot, and they should ensure that the effort that they put forward is their best, because if they do, procedural fairness will require that immigration officers provide them with the opportunity to address concerns.

If they don’t put their best foot forward, however, then their applications will be rejected outright.

How the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program Works

The Post-Graduation Work Permit (“PGWP“) allows students who have graduated from most Canadian public post-secondary institutions to stay and work in Canada upon graduation.  As someone who remembers when I was in undergrad the frustration of international students who had to leave Canada upon graduating even though they would have jumped at the opportunity to stay, work, and pay taxes in Canada, it is certainly a welcome program.

PGWPs are open work permits. This means that international graduates who possess them can work for any employer.  There is no restriction on the type of work that can be performed.  Having said that, if a student wishes to work in health care or in education they will need to first obtain a medical exam. And, as with all work permits, PGWP holders are prohibited from working in the sex industry.

There is no requirement for a job offer prior to applying.


Outside of Quebec, in order for an international graduate to obtain a PGWP after graduating, an international student must:

  • have a valid study permit when applying for their PGWP;
  • have continuously studied full time in Canada, except for the final academic session, where part-time studies are permitted;
  • have completed and passed a program of study that is at least eight months in duration at either a public post-secondary institution, a private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as public institutions, or at a Canadian private institution if the student was enrolled in a program of study which led to a degree; and
  • apply for the work permit within 90 days of receiving written confirmation from their educational institution that they have met the requirements for completing their program of study.

If an international student in Canada completes a post-secondary program of study that is two or more years, the student can apply for a three-year work permit. If the program of study is between eight months and two years, then the student will be eligible for a work permit lasting for a period equal to the duration of the student’s  studies.

How to Apply

An international graduate must submit the application for a PGWP within 90 days, from either the date their final marks are issued or when they receive a formal written notification of graduation from the institution, whichever comes first, indicating that they have met the requirements of their program of study.

As well, their study permit must continue to be valid when you submit your application for a work permit.

The work permit application package and guide can be found on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website here. The checklist can be downloaded here. In addition to the standard forms and documents that are required for work permit applications, PGWP applicants are required to provide the following:

Combining Programs

One question that frequently arises is what would happen if a student obtains a second one-year diploma after having already completed a one-year diploma prior to that.  Would the student be eligible for a one year PGWP or a two-year one?

The answer is that the length of the two one-year degrees may be combined to obtain a three-year work permit.  For example, a student who obtains a one-year diploma program in Canada, and then completes a one-year MBA, well receive a three year PGWP.

Distance Learning

Students who complete a program of study by distance learning (from outside or inside Canada) are not eligible for the PGWP.

After much uncertainty over how this distance-learning policy was to be interpreted, pursuant to the IRCC website officers are recommended to use the following guidelines in their assessment of an applicant’s PGWP eligibility when they have taken distance or online learning in Canada:

  • when less than the majority of all the credits earned by the student toward the completion of a program of study were earned by completing online courses, a post-graduation work permit may be issued based on the length of the program as confirmed by the school, including credits earned from both in-class and online courses; and
  • when the majority of the credits earned by the student toward the completion of a program of study were earned by completing online courses, the applicant is ineligible for the PGWP, as the program may reasonably be considered a distance-learning program.

Implication of Doing a Victory Lap and Going on Exchange

While the PGWP requires full-time study, there is an exception for people in their last semester.

As well, going on exchange outside of Canada will not result in someone being ineligible to obtain a PGWP.

Open Spousal Work Permits

The spouse or common-law partner of a PGWP holder can obtain a work permit only if the PGWP holder is working in a skilled occupation as defined in National Occupational Classification 0, A or B of the National Occupational Classification website. To demonstrate this, the spouse or common-law partner should show the following.

  • a letter from their current employer confirming employment or a copy of their employment offer or contract; and
  • a copy of 3 of their pay stubs.

Refusal Rates

One of the more surprising things about the PGWP is its rather high refusal rate.  Indeed, during the first six months of 2016, the PGWP refusal rate exceeded 20% in every month except May, and in both June and March the refusal rate was 40% or more.

Although a breakdown of the reasons for refusal of PGWP applications has not been published, it is likely because international graduates either:

  • attended a private school whose graduates are not eligible to receive PGWPs (which, contrary to the opinion of some private institutions) is mot of them;
  • their application was returned for being incomplete and when they tried to apply again their study permit had expired; or
  • a visa officer determined that they did not meet the full-time studies requirement.

In order to avoid such rejections, it is important that students:

  • research their prospective educational institution so that they know whether it qualifies;
  • ensure that their PGWP application is complete and that it includes the correct fee amount; and
  • if there is any question about whether their studies were full-time, to make sure that it is explained in their application.

As with all applications, the onus is on the applicant to make sure that they have shown that they meet the requirements of the PGWP.  If something is unclear, the visa officer is not under any obligation to seek clarification, but can refuse the application. For this reason, it is imperative that international graduates ensure that their application is complete and satisfactory.

Studying without a Study Permit

Foreign nationals are required to obtain a study permit for engaging in academic, professional, vocational or other education or training that is more than six months in duration at a designated learning institution (“DLI“) in Canada.

So what does this mean, and who doesn’t need a study permit?

The  Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “Act“) provides that every minor child in Canada, other than a child of a temporary resident not authorized to work or study, is authorized to study at the pre-school, primary or secondary level.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPR“) further provide that a foreign national does not need a study permit to study in the following circumstances:

(a) if they are a family member or a member of the private staff of a foreign representative who is properly accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and who is in Canada to carry out official duties as a diplomatic agent, consular officer, representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies or of any international organization of which Canada is a member;

(b) as a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act, including a person who has been designated as a civilian component of those armed forces;

(c) if the duration of their course or program of studies is six months or less and will be completed within the period for their stay authorized upon entry into Canada; or

(d) if they are an Indian.

Short-Term Courses 

There is alot of confusion regarding whether people can complete short-term courses in Canada without a study permit.  The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website states that foreign nationals may enter Canada or remain in Canada without a study permit to attend a course or program of study of six months’ duration or less.  This, however, does not provide the whole story. As noted above, IRPR also requires that the course or program of studies be completed within the period authorized to the foreign national upon entry to Canada.

In Zhang v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2016 FC 964, a Chinese national arrived in Canada on a visitor visa on August 23, 2014. The period authorized for her stay was six months, or February 23, 2015. In January 16, 2015, Ms. Zhang applied for and obtained an extension of her visa until August 30, 2015.

On January 5, 2015, Ms. Zhang began a 3 month ESL course.

In a subsequent application, IRCC determined that Ms. Zhang had studied without authorization, and the Federal Court agreed.  Her lawyer argued that this was unfair, especially since the IRCC website stated:

You can study in Canada without a study permit if: the duration of your course of program of study is six months or less and you will complete your course or studies within the time you are allowed to stay in Canada. [My emphasis]

However, Justice Bell disagreed, and stated:

I cannot accept Ms. Zhang’s contention regarding the interpretation of paragraph 188(1)(c) of the IRPR. Indeed, the Officer’s conclusions cannot be based upon information found on websites. He or she is required to interpret the Act and the IRPR. The words “upon entry into Canada” as found in paragraph 188(1)(c) are unambiguous. It is common ground that words in a statute are to be given their plain meaning unless the context requires otherwise: see, Ruth Sullivan, Statutory Interpretation, 2d ed (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2007) at 49-50. Upon entry into Canada Ms. Zhang was authorized to remain until February 23, 2015. I find it reasonable to conclude that that is the date by which she was required to complete any study, pursuant to paragraph 188(1)(c), for which she did not have a study permit. Even if I were to hold the view that the Officer was incorrect in his interpretation of the relevant provisions, he or she must be afforded deference when interpreting his or her home statute. Reasonableness, not correctness, is the standard of review to be applied.


Study Permit Regulations to be Overhauled June 1, 2014

On February 12, 2014, the Government of Canada stated that it had made regulatory amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPR”) which will take affect on June 1, 2014.  The changes will alter Canada’s international student landscape.

The new rules are being introduced because the Government of Canada has been concerned that some educational institutions have been taking advantage of international students.  (One of my biggest annoyances is meeting with international students who state that their private post-secondary schools misled them into thinking that they would be eligible for post-graduate work permits.)   The government has even suspected some educational institutes are little more than  “visa mills” whose primary purpose is to get students work permits.  As well, there has been an increasing tendency of internationals students using study permits as a means to enter Canada for purposes other than study, including employment, and, allegedly, criminal purposes. Canada’s reputable post-secondary institutions, which have to compete for the best and brightest international students, have been unamused with how some of the unscrupulous behaviour has impacted their ability to market.

The changes are:

Current regulations New regulations, as of June 1, 2014
Applicants must show that they intend to pursue studies in Canada when applying for a study permit. Applicants must enrol in and actively pursue their course of studies in Canada.  The failure of a study permit holder to do so could lead to removal from Canada. The Government of Canada has amended IRPR s. 228 so that inadmissibility reports based on international students not actively pursuing studies in Canada do not require a referral to the Immigration and Refugee Board.  Instead, an officer can directly issue an Exclusion Order.  There are several exceptions to this removal possibility, including study permit holders who possess study permits because they are the family members of foreign workers, the family members of students, or the dependants or principal applicants in certain permanent resident applications.Officers will be allowed to request study permit holders provide evidence of compliance either when there is reason to believe that study permit conditions are not being met or as part of a random assessment. Enforcement actions could include desk investigations undertaken by CIC or active investigations undertaken by CBSA.
Applicants may apply for a study permit to pursue studies at any educational institution in Canada. Study permits will only be issued to successful applicants who are pursuing studies at an educational institution that has been designated to receive international students.Outside of Quebec (which has its own rules beyond the scope of this blog post), a designated post-secondary learning institution is one of:- a learning institution that is administered by a federal department or agency; or

– if a province has entered into an agreement or arrangement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada in respect of designating post-secondary learning institutions, a post-secondary institution located in the province that is designated by the province.

If a province does not enter into an agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, then immigration officers may still be authorized to issue study permits to foreign nationals where warranted if they are granted the necessary exemption on the basis of “public policy considerations as identified by the Minister under s. 25.2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.”  This presumably means that if a province does not enter into an agreement to designate schools then Citizenship and Immigration Canada will designate them in that province instead.

Individuals who wish to undertake courses or programs of study of six months or less will continue to be able to pursue studies at non-designated learning institutions as members of the visitor class.

Study permit holders pursuing studies at publicly-funded and certain privately-funded post-secondary institutions must apply for an Off-Campus Work Permit to be able to work up to 20 hours per week off-campus during the academic session and full-time during scheduled breaks.  Students could only apply after six months. Study permits will automatically authorize the holder to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic session and full-time during scheduled breaks without the need to apply for a separate work permit. The study permit holder must be pursuing academic, vocational or professional training of six months or more that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate at a designated institution.  This is facilitated through the introduction of a new s. 186(v) of the IRPR. There is no more need for international students to study for six months before they can work off-campus.
Any international student can apply for a Co-Op Work Permit if a co-op placement is an integral element of their course of study. Only international students who are pursuing studies at a secondary school or at a designated institution may apply for a Co-Op Work Permit if a co-op placement is an essential part of their course of study.
Visitors may not apply for a study permit from within Canada Visitors may apply for a study permit from within Canada if they are at the pre-school, primary or secondary level, are on an academic exchange or a visiting student at a designated learning institution, or have completed a course or program of study that is a condition for acceptance at a designated learning institution.  This requires that the visitors actually be studying at the pre-school, primary, or secondary level: Chow v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration)
International students who have completed their studies but hold valid study permits can remain legally in Canada until the expiration of their study permit. A study permit becomes invalid 90 days following the completion of studies unless the foreign national also possesses a valid work permit or another authorization to remain in Canada.
There are no references in existing regulations that clearly state that Registered Indians who are also foreign nationals are exempt from the requirement to obtain a study permit. Registered Indians who are also foreign nationals may study in Canada without a study permit as they have the right of entry into Canada.
Study permit holders are not authorized to work after the completion of their studies while awaiting approval of their Post-Graduation Work Permit Eligible international graduates will be authorized to work full-time after their studies are completed until a decision is made on their application for a Post-Graduation Work Permit.  They will not be required to apply for a work permit to do this.  A new IRPR s. 186(w) will automatically provide that such individuals can work without a work permit.


There new regulations contain numerous transitory provisions in order to minimize the impact on students who prior to June 1, 2014, obtain study permits at institutions which ultimately are not designated under the new rules.  Those foreign nationals whose applications for a study permit were received prior to the coming-into-force of the Regulations will not be required to be enrolled at a designated learning institution for the duration of their study permit, or in respect of its renewal, for the remainder of their study permit, or until the date that is three years after the new rules come into force, whichever is sooner.  Co-op work permit applicants whose application was received prior will also not be effected.

Designated and Non-Designated Schools

The new study permit regulations indirectly address the lack of provincial action to regulate private post-secondary institutions operating in Canada.  As noted in the Canada Gazette, provinces and territories are constitutionally responsible for education.  Provinces and territories actively regulate and have quality assurance mechanisms for public educational institutions and private degree-granting institutions.  However, provincial regulation of private non-degree granting institutions varies greatly.  According to the Gazette, Nova Scotia is currently the only province which regulates language schools.

By restricting the study permit program to designated schools, and by preventing language schools from having access to “integral portions of study work permits”, there is no question that many of these schools will close.  Indeed, the Government of Canada appears to anticipate this.  In a Cost / Benefits analysis of its new regulations, the Government of Canada wrote that one of the costs of its changes will be a loss of $357.3 million over 10 years in tuition in the non-designated educational sector. Interestingly, the Government of Canada anticipates that this will be offset by increased tuition revenue at designated post-secondary institutions of around $489.9 million.  With the Government of Canada cutting supply, and demand presumably remaining constant, it is likely that public post-secondary institutions will either raise rates, or increase the number of international students that they accept.

Cost, Benefit Base Year 2014 Year Five 2018 Final Year 2023 Total Annual Average
Cost Non-Designated Sector 21.9M 37.4M 30.5M 346.5M 34.7M
Benefit Designated Sector 4.6M 55.8M 45.8M 489.9M 49.0M


Perhaps not surprisingly, the changes have been met with fierce resistance from the private post-secondary education industry.  The Government of Canada writes in the Gazette that:

Regulatory changes to limit an international student’s authorization to work off campus and/or in a co-op/internship program to students studying at a designated educational institution in an academic, vocational or professional training program were strongly opposed by Languages Canada and the language school industry, as students at language schools do not meet these requirements. The industry has identified that because students attending language schools are unable to work, the industry would experience a number of impacts, the most significant of which is economic loss. CIC has seriously considered feedback received from this sector; however, access to the Canadian labour market by international students should be refocused to align with their eligibility to remain as potential immigrants once educational credentials have been completed. This is consistent with broader departmental efforts to support the selection of foreign nationals who will succeed in the Canadian economy.Students focused on language acquisition programs generally undertake short-term studies and are often not equipped with the language skills to make a meaningful contribution to Canada’s labour market, nor are they eligible to stay in Canada based on their language credentials. CIC wants to ensure that these students are clearly focused on completing their program of study during their short stay in Canada.

I am undecided on the above.  I have had many clients who attended a six month language training course and then obtained a six month work permit.  During their time on their respective work permits they obtained valuable employment with reputable companies (including banks, tech start-ups, and natural resources firms).  Of course, it also was somewhat obvious that the reason that these individuals attended language school in Canada was not to improve their English (their English was impeccable) but rather to gain entrance to the Canadian labour market.  Unless one views economics and jobs as a zero-sum endeavour, it is not clear though that their employment is bad for Canada. Furthermore, for genuine language students, immersing oneself in English by working in Canada is clearly beneficial for language studies.

Ultimately, however, it will be for the provinces to decide which schools are designated.  As noted in the Gazette:

Languages Canada and member schools requested that, given the lack of provincial regulatory frameworks for language training (with the exception of Nova Scotia), CIC consider exempting the language training sector from provincial designation until such time as provinces and territories can regulate this sector, or recognize the Languages Canada Quality Assurance Framework for the purpose of designating institutions at the federal level. The National Association of Career Colleges has asked that the definition of a designated learning institution include all provincially regulated career colleges, or, as a transitional measure, recognize colleges approved for the Canada Student Loans Program until provinces and territories can complete assessments of educational institutions against their respective designation criteria. Regulations have not been adjusted to accommodate these particular recommendations. Rather, to level the playing field, the Regulations eliminate the list of learning institutions that would be considered to be designated should a province or territory fail to enter into an agreement or arrangement with the Minister of CIC. This more adequately reflects the role that provinces and territories have agreed to play in support of these Regulations, given their jurisdiction over education.

It will be interesting to see the different provincial approaches to designating educational institutions.

Custodianship for Minors

Many minors wish to reside temporarily in Canada.  Their reasons for doing so range from making extended visits to the more common scenario of studying in Canada as an international student.

In order to obtain a visitor visa or a study permit, minor applicants generally must supply two notarized declarations.  The first is from the parent or legal guardian in the applicant’s country of origin.  The second is from the minor applicant’s intended custodian in Canada, stating that arrangements have been made for the custodian to act in place of the parent and to support the child.

On September 15, 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada introduced an exception to the custodianship requirement to some minor’s aged 17 and older.

Definition of Minor Child

In Canada, each province or territory defines the age of majority. Anyone under the age of majority at the time of their arrival in Canada is considered to be a “minor child.”

  • The age of majority is 18 in: Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
  • The age of majority is 19 in: British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon.

(On a side note, it is interesting that the age of majority does not always correspond to the legal drinking age.  In Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Prince Edward Island, the minimum drinking age is 19.)

Under 17 Years of Age

If a minor is less than 17 years of age at the time of application, a Canadian custodian will be required.  In addition to the information already required on the forms, custodians will also now have to confirm that they will reside within a reasonable distance to the minor applicant’s intended residence and/or school.

Minors Aged 17 Years or Older

Applicants who are between 17 years of age and the age of majority in the applicant’s respective intended province of residence will now no longer automatically be required to have a custodian.  Instead, applications will be assessed on a case by case basis.

In considering whether custodianship is required, officers must consider:

  • Level of studies – applicant’s intended level of academic studies. Those attending secondary school should normally require a custodian.
  • Level of independence – applicant’s current or past living arrangements and whether previous studies were completed away from their principal residence.
  • Financial capacity – applicant’s financial self-sufficiency outside of parent(s) or guardian(s) (i.e., scholarship, government sponsorship, etc.).
  • Travel experience – applicant’s previous travel history, participation in international exchange programs, etc.
  • Accessibility of parent(s) or guardian(s) – location of applicant’s parent(s) or guardian(s) and their accessibility for institutions and/or medical centres to contact them in case of emergency situations.
  • Informal arrangements – whether arrangements (less formal than custodianship) have been made to provide support and care for the minor student.
  • Risk environment – applicant’s safety and well-being in relation to risk indicators for irregular child migration, and potential for exploitation and/or trafficking.


Sign at Canadian Embassy in Beijing Shows Impact of PAFSO Strike

A reader sent me a digital photograph of a sign allegedly posted at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing.  As the PAFSO job action continues, the implications for prospective international students is become quite serious.  I can’t even guess on how post-secondary institutions are preparing and mitigating.

China Door Sign re Strike

Study Permit Restrictions to Take Affect January 1, 2014

The Government of Canada has introduced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations which will restrict which schools are eligible to have international students study at them.  Effective January 1, 2014, the issuance of study permits will be limited to international students attending designated learning institutions.

Currently, most provinces and territories have a mix of public educational institutions, private degree-granting institutions, and private non-degree-granting career colleges.  The latter are subject to varying degrees of regulations, and private language schools are generally not regulated at all.  Previously, any of these institutions could host international students on study permits.  Under the new regulations, however, only students attending designated institutions can receive study permits.

Designated institutions include:

  •  a learning institution that is administered by a federal department or agency;
  • if a province has entered into an agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada in respect of learning institutions that host international students, a learning institution in Canada that is designated by that province under the agreement; and
  • if a province has not entered into an agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada in respect of learning institutions that host international students, then any of the following:
    • a public post-secondary learning institution in Canada that is recognized by the province,
    • in the case of Quebec, a private post-secondary learning institution in Quebec that operates under the same rules and regulations as public post-secondary learning institutions in Quebec,
    • a private post-secondary learning institution in Canada that is recognized by the province and that is authorized by the province to confer degrees, but only in the case where the foreign national in question is enrolled in a program of study that leads to a degree as authorized by the province,
    • a learning institution within a public school board or district that is funded by and accountable to the province, or
    • an independent or private learning institution in Canada that delivers provincial curricula.

The government anticipates that, once implemented, the proposed amendments are expected to result in a loss of $517.8-million in tuition.  (Interestingly, they also anticipate an increase in tuition of $488.6-million at designated institutions.  It is not clear where this increase in students would come from, unless designated institutions across the country massively increase seat space to foreign students.)

The implication on the British Columbia economy, where there are an estimated 500 private schools, could be severe.  I simply do not believe that all of these schools will close.  More likely, I predict that the federal Conservative move is likely to put wind to the sails of the BC New Democratic Party’s efforts to re-regulate the province’s private non-degree-granting institutions, something they have been clamouring for for years.

Other recently announced changes to Canada’s study permit program include:

  • limiting the issuance of study permits to students attending designated learning institutions except in the case of visitors who wish to undertake courses or programs of study of six months or less for which a study permit is not required;
  • establishing new study permit conditions requiring all students to enrol in and actively pursue a course or program of study after arrival in Canada;
  • providing exemptions to protected persons, refugee claimants and certain family members from the proposed conditions on study permit holders;
  • allowing the issuance of removal orders in circumstances where students are not complying with their study permit conditions;
  • authorizing temporary residents already in Canada to apply for a study permit from within Canada if they are studying at the preschool, primary or secondary level, or have completed a course or program of study that is a condition for acceptance at a designated learning institution;
  • limiting access to international student work permit programs to eligible study permit holders attending a designated educational learning institution; and
  • authorizing international students attending designated institutions to work part-time during their studies provided they hold a valid study permit and are enrolled full-time in an academic, vocational, or professional training program of a duration of at least six months.