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New Study Permit Application System and Attestation Letter

The landscape of international education in Canada is undergoing significant changes, with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introducing measures to uphold the integrity of the country’s education system. At the forefront of these changes is the requirement for an attestation letter from the relevant province or territory for undergraduate study permit applications, highlighting the government’s commitment to supporting international students and maintaining the quality of education and services.


What is an Attestation Letter, and How Do I Get One?


An attestation letter is a confirmation from the province or territory expressing support for the international student. IRCC announced that this requirement will be mandatory for undergraduate study permit applications submitted after January 22, 2024. The issuance process for these letters is expected to be in place by March 31, 2024. It’s crucial for international students to stay informed through official channels like the IRCC website or by reaching out to their university’s International Student Centre.


However, graduate students, including those enrolled in master’s, Ph.D., or other graduate programs, are exempt from this requirement. Most universities in Canada will notify undergraduate students admitted for the Spring or Fall 2024 terms via email about the attestation letter issuance process.


Pre-January 22, 2024, Applicants and Study Permit Extensions


Applicants who submitted their study permit applications before January 22, 2024, need not provide a provincial attestation letter. This requirement applies exclusively to new applications after that date, with exceptions for graduate students. Current study permit holders and those seeking extensions are unaffected by these changes; no attestation letter is necessary for a study permit extension.


Provincial Attestation Letter System in British Columbia


British Columbia (B.C.) takes the lead in implementing the provincial attestation letter system, effective March 4, 2024. This system mandates international students to submit a Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) with their study permit application, confirming acceptance by a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) within the allocated limits.


B.C. reveals that it has been granted an allocation of 83,000 undergraduate study permit applications for 2024, marking a reduction from the previous year. The PALs will be distributed, with 53% allocated to public post-secondary institutions and 47% to private institutions, a deliberate move to counter unsustainable growth.


IRCC’s Cap on Study Permit Applications and Policy Changes


IRCC announced a cap on new study permits for 2024 on January 22, 2023, limiting them to 360,000, a 35% reduction from the previous year. The cap allocates study permits to provinces based on population, with B.C. being the third most populous province in Canada. This decision comes amid concerns about the sustainability of Canada’s international student program, as highlighted by Immigration Minister Marc Miller.


Accompanying the cap are changes to eligibility criteria for Postgraduate Work Permits (PGWPs) and upcoming alterations to Spousal Open Work Permits (SOWPs). Minister Miller emphasizes the need to address “unsustainable growth” in the international student program, targeting institutions that offer inadequate support despite charging higher tuition fees.


Recognizing the potential impact on private institutions, B.C. has introduced measures to curb the unsustainable growth of its international student program. Approvals for new post-secondary institutions enrolling international students are paused until February 2026. The province also implements higher standards for private degree programs, ensuring better assessment criteria for degree quality, labour-market needs, and student resources.


These changes, combined with new language requirements for students at private institutions, underscore a comprehensive approach to fostering a positive and sustainable international student experience in Canada. As other provinces gear up to meet the March 31 deadline for implementing attestation letter systems, the Canadian education landscape is undergoing transformative shifts that aim to foster quality education and sustainable growth.


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