Leaders caution that the Canada visa restriction would harm diversity.

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Posted on March 14, 2024


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Leaders of Canadian French and English language programs warned that the study visa restriction runs the danger of forcing colleges to accept students from nations with high visa conversion rates and undermining diversity objectives in higher education.  

The number of foreign study visas granted in Canada will now be capped at 360,000, as stated by Immigration Minister Marc Miller in January. However, this amount has now been reduced to 292,000, since certain students were excluded from the ceiling.  

The allocation cap on applications, rather than real study permits, is an intriguing development. Cyndi McLeod, CEO Canada of Global University Systems, said at the Languages Canada conference in 2024, “That’s a game changer.” 

Indeed, diversity is something we seek, but organizations will only send students to nations with high conversion rates. What kind of diversity is that fostering? 

A provincial attestation letter, which certifies that the student has been accounted for within each province’s limit, is required in order for the federal government to complete a study permit application. 

The federal government has given the provinces provincial attestation letters, or PALs as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has dubbed them, and these letters will be supplied by the institutions to the applicants when their study application is approved.  

Based on the assumption that 60% of these, or 360,000, will result in applicants accepting the offer and study permits being issued, the federal government had announced that it will provide 605,000 PALs to post-secondary schools throughout the nation.  

The number of PALs the government has granted to the provinces is uncertain in light of its recent decrease of the quota to 292,000, although it is probable that forecasting was predicated on the same 60% approval rate.  

Because Minister Miller only has the authority to limit the number of applications that the IRCC processes, not the total number of new study permits that will be awarded, the restriction is based on these projections. 

Languages Canada’s previous president, Cath D’Amico, claims that universities have developed rubrics to identify the students who are most likely to accept their offer. Schools are reportedly thinking about hiring students from nations whose visa acceptance rates have historically been higher.  

This not only jeopardizes student diversity, but it also raises the possibility that the ultimate enrollment of international students may exceed the government’s revised 292,000 objective.  

Indian students received 41% of all new study visas granted in Canada in 2022, making up 319,130 Indian study permit holders overall, with 100,075 coming from China. Nigeria (21,660), Korea (16,505), the Philippines (32,455), and France (27,135) were some of the other top source nations. 

D’Amico, however, claims that because 86% of Indian visa applications are now denied, Canadian educational institutions should learn from their past errors and “not put all our eggs in one basket ever again.”   

Although South Korea and Japan have the greatest visa clearance rates (96% and 95%, respectively, in 2021), there is no longer a large demand from these students traveling to Canada for extended periods of study.   

India, Nigeria, and Ghana, along with other countries in Africa and the Middle East, have a high demand for studying in Canada; yet, in 2021, the acceptance rate for Nigerian visas was 34%, while Ghana’s was just 18%.  

D’Amico contends that the only way Canada’s higher education system can keep reaping the benefits of a varied student body is by maximizing the importance of language acquisition for academic achievement and student integration. It remains to be seen if universities maintain their diversity objectives in the face of the growing demand for study visa allotment.