Student organization happy with changes to international student regulations

The campuses of Queen’s University (left) and St. Lawrence College (SLC) in Kingston. Kingstonist file photos.

The Canadian government recently announced revised requirements for international students planning to study in Canada, and the changes have received mixed reaction. 

International students planning to come to Canada will now have to show they have a balance of $20,635 available after paying for tuition and travel costs, with the amount adjusted annually to based on cost of living data from Statistics Canada. They will have to have show that amount invested in a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) secured investment, with lump sums released back to the students on a monthly basis while it remains in a stable growth environment. A policy allowing international students to work more than 20 hours per week has also been extended to the end of April 2024, a waiver that had been set to expire at the conclusion of 2023. 

The government says the changes are coming to better prepare international students for the financial realities of living in Canada, and to crack down on post-secondary institutions that charge exorbitant amounts to students without offering a truly useful education — with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller likening them to “puppy mills.” 

Damanpreet Singh, National International Student Commissioner for the Canadian Federation of Students, said that before this change, the post-tuition and travel amount needed for international students to be eligible to study in Canada hadn’t changed since 2009, and this will better reflect the reality of living expenses in Canada.

He asserted, however, it will surely decrease the amount of students coming to Canada for schooling.

“Those who are currently in India and planning to come to Canada… by taking some loans, by taking some kind of money from their friends, from their relatives — this will definitely be impact on them… Those who can afford… that amount of money, they feel very confident because, by coming here when they will see that the living expenses are high, they would get to know the real scenario in Canada,” Singh said. 

He noted that the extension for students being permitted to work above 20 hours is what stands out the most as a positive.

“I shared the news with the international students and they also are happy because some of them are doing their jobs and… are worried that they have to step down,” Singh said.

“They can now earn more money and this will ultimately help them to pay their grocery bills, pay their rent, pay their fees.”

Both St. Lawrence College and Queen’s University declined to comment on the changes and whether they’ll impact enrolment, however Queen’s has repeatedly cited reduced international enrolment as a primary issue contributing to their budget deficit

The changes are likely to have a much greater impact on St. Lawrence and other colleges in the country than on Queen’s and other universities. In the last 16 months, St. Lawrence has approved roughly six times the amount of international student visas. A number of these visas are granted for students attending satellite campuses or affiliate schools, at which the diplomas granted could be under more scrutiny with new regulations. 

Just last year, an affiliate of St. Lawrence College was wrapped up in controversy and advocates demanded colleges be held responsible for granting dubious education to some international students.

In the Government of Canada’s announcement of new requirements, Minister Miller said colleges and universities will also be expected to accept only the amount of students they can provide adequate supports for, including housing, and limits could be eventually imposed. 

The changes came into effect for students applying for visas after Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.

Owen Fullerton is a Kingston-based reporter with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI). The LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

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