A Call to Action on Canada’s International Student Program


Prepared by Lou Janssen Dangzalan, CILA Board Member and Founder of LJD Law, with research credits to Christopher Porras.

In recent years, Canada has experienced a significant influx of international students, presenting both opportunities and challenges for its higher education sector. The recent decision by Immigration Minister Marc Miller to implement a two-year cap on new foreign student permits marks a crucial juncture in Canada’s management of its international student intake. As global dynamics continue to evolve, it is imperative to analyze the implications of these policy changes for various stakeholders and chart a course that fosters growth, inclusivity, and sustainability.

The Economic and Social Value of International Students

International students are not just tuition payers but essential contributors to Canada’s economy, injecting over 20 billion dollars annually and supporting some 200,000 jobs. However, their significance extends beyond financial metrics. These students enrich our nation’s social and academic fabric, fostering multiculturalism and global perspectives within Canadian institutions. Moreover, they represent a critical pool of future permanent residents, contributing to Canada’s diversity and talent pool.

Understanding the Surge in International Students

Canada’s reputation for quality education, safety, and inclusivity has made it a magnet for international students. Policies like the Post-Graduation Work Permit program incentivize students by providing pathways to permanent residency. However, this popularity is now perceived as straining Canadian resources such as housing and healthcare, among others. There is a growing call to adjust policies to ensure sustainability and equity. Moreover, reports of exploitation by unregulated agents and concerns about educational quality further highlight the need for reform. The recent changes are seen as a first step in correcting Canada’s trajectory.

Navigating Policy Changes

The recent announcement of a two-year cap on new foreign student permits and restrictions on Post-Graduation Work Permit eligibility aims to stabilize student intake and address concerns about resource allocation and educational quality. While these changes seek to mitigate immediate challenges, they may also have unintended consequences for Canadian institutions and foreign students. Therefore, a balanced approach ensures equitable outcomes for all stakeholders.

Ensuring Integrity in Immigration Programs

CILA stresses the importance of integrity in all immigration programs, including the foreign student program. Strengthening these programs is essential to instilling confidence in both the Canadian public and foreign citizens. Foreign students must be informed that only Canadian lawyers or licensed consultants can advise on the study/immigration process, protecting them from unscrupulous agents.

Championing Equity and Access

The cap on new foreign student permits could exacerbate inequities in access to higher education. CILA advocates for fair treatment and improved approval rates in the foreign student application process, ensuring that all applicants are treated fairly regardless of their country of origin. By addressing disparities, Canada can foster a more equitable and accessible international student program.

Addressing Labour Market Considerations

Restrictions on post-study work visas may hinder Canada’s ability to address labour market shortages. CILA continues to advocate for the revival of Post-Graduation Work Permit Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) to support the transition of foreign students into the Canadian workforce. By aligning education with labour market needs, Canada can harness the talents of international students to drive economic growth.

Streamlining Permanent Residency Pathways

The path to permanent residency (PR) for foreign students is critical to Canada’s immigration policy. CILA calls for more transparency in PR pathways and advocates streamlining processes for students with in-demand skills and experience. By facilitating smoother pathways to PR at all government levels, Canada can retain skilled talent and bolster its global competitiveness.

Promoting Sustainability in Canada’s Higher Education Sector

A proactive approach is necessary to ensure the sustainability of Canada’s higher education sector. CILA advocates for more sustainable government funding and promotes an open dialogue between the government and the higher education sector. By fostering collaboration and investment, Canada can uphold its commitment to excellence and foster a diverse and thriving learning environment for all.

Enhancing Communication and Transparency

Enhanced communication and transparency are essential to minimize confusion and uncertainty among foreign students. Clear guidelines and support mechanisms are needed to ensure that students fully understand the terms and conditions of their study permits. By improving transparency, Canada can enhance the overall experience of international students.

Conclusion: A Call to Action

Canada’s foreign student program is at a crossroads, presenting both challenges and opportunities. Collaboration between policymakers, stakeholders, and advocacy groups like CILA is paramount to navigate these complexities effectively. By prioritizing inclusivity, equity, and quality education, Canada can uphold its commitment to excellence and remain a leading destination for foreign students.


  1. Collaborative Approaches: The federal government should engage in meaningful consultations to develop comprehensive policies that address the diverse needs of stakeholders.
  2. Equity and Inclusion: Policies should promote equity and inclusion in foreign student recruitment and support mechanisms.
  3. Labour Market Integration: Review and adjust post-study work visa policies to facilitate the transition of foreign students into the Canadian workforce.
  4. Communication and Transparency: Enhance communication and transparency in policy implementation to minimize confusion among stakeholders.

Canada must remain committed to fostering a diverse and thriving learning environment that benefits all stakeholders as it navigates the international education landscape. CILA stands ready to provide insight to the government in achieving these goals as always.

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