Ottawa’s cap is a ‘reallocation’ of international students. Which provinces will gain?

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International student cap allocated among provinces
WATCH ABOVE: International student cap allocated among provinces – Apr 10, 2024

Ottawa’s cap on the intake of international students is here and it comes with provincial quotas, which were announced on Friday. The federal government has adjusted the total number of student visa applications based on the population of each province.

This means that while some provinces will see drastic decreases in the number of international students, others might actually see their numbers rise despite an overall national cap.

“The national cap is based on the amount of expiring study permits this year,” Immigration Minister Marc Miller said Friday in the statement that also outlined the quotas.

“This means that the number of international students coming to Canada in 2024 should be the same as the number of students whose permits expire this year. For 2024, the target is 485,000 approved study permits.”

While some provinces will see drastic decreases in the number of international students, others might actually see their numbers rise despite an overall national cap.

Of the nearly 485,000 allocations, the lion’s share, some 235,000, will go to Ontario and the federal government is projected to approve 141,000 student permits for Ontario.

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This is a 41 per cent drop from the 239,753 student visas issued for Ontario in 2023.

British Columbia will be entitled to welcome 83,000 students, with a projected approval of 49,800 student permits. This is a drop of 18 per cent from the 60,864 visas issued for B.C. last year.

Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island will all see a drop of 10 per cent each in the number of student permits approved.

Nationally, Canada will see its international student intake drop by 28 per cent, though some provinces will see increases.

Click to play video: 'N.S. universities to see large decrease in international students for coming school year'
N.S. universities to see large decrease in international students for coming school year

Alberta will be entitled to welcome 40,894 international students, with Ottawa projected to approve 24,537 permits. This means that Alberta’s total annual international student intake is expected to increase by around 10 per cent.

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Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Saskatchewan are also projected to see their intake increase by 10 per cent each.

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Canada’s three territories will see the sharpest percentage increase in projected student visa approvals.

Nunavut, which had three international student permits approved last year, is projected to get 200 approvals this year — this marks a 6,567 per cent increase. Northwest Territories will also get 200 student visas, up 4,900 per cent. Yukon will see an increase of 205 per cent.

The full breakdown of the numbers can be found on the website.

The plan remains a work in progress, with Miller adding that 2024’s “results” will help influence allocations for 2025.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with provinces and territories to strengthen the International Student Program and to provide international students with the supports they need to succeed in Canada.”

‘A re-allocation’

CIBC economist Benjamin Tal said the allocation is better understood as a “re-allocation,” with Ottawa wanting to make sure that the new cohort of international students is spread out throughout the country.

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“This is more or less by design, because the focus is really the housing market in places like Ontario and B.C., where they are simply unaffordable,” he said.

Tal added it would be good for the Canadian economy for international students to be spread out across Canada, especially to areas where their numbers have been notably low. The previous trend of a high number of international students going to B.C. and Ontario was “suboptimal,” Tal said.

“I think that you will see more and more provinces attracting foreign students. The universities (in those provinces) will be getting used to it,” Tal said. “The financial aspect of universities will improve. And that’s something that I see as a positive.”

Manan Gupta, owner of Skylake Immigration, told Global News that prospective international students are already asking about provinces outside of the big two.

“They are really now looking at other avenues to start a new life. But they are also very concerned about the quality of life in those provinces because they haven’t heard much about it,” he said.

Gupta’s immigration agency is based in Brampton, Ont., which has a strong South Asian presence in the international student community. Gupta said peer feedback on student life in Canada helps students make choices about school. Provinces outside of B.C. and Ontario lack those strong peer feedback channels.

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“They don’t have any peer experience. They want to take a well-informed decision, because ultimately they want to … (know) what the opportunities are after studies,” Gupta said.

Gupta said the concentration of student population in B.C. and Ontario is overdue to be diluted. He believes the rapid growth seen in recent years was largely due to a lack of regulation of private colleges.

“We have seen some unrealistic growth due to lack of regulatory control by these two provinces,” he said.

Tal said that in the short term, the rental markets in some other provinces might fluctuate.

“Alberta and Saskatchewan will see a significant increase in the rent demand and even home prices,” he said. “But … moving people to other places that are more affordable is, I think, a reasonable approach (long term), while capping the number of foreign students in all other provinces.”

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He said that while some could be concerned about the drop in international students affecting the labour pool, he argues companies shouldn’t rely on them for “cheap labour.”

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“I don’t think that the economy should operate in an environment in which you have endless, cheap labour.”

He added that in the long run, fears around Canada’s reputation as a higher education destination will also be allayed.

“I think that the relatively low tuition, affordable housing, health care, all those forces, will eventually bring them back to Canada.”

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