Post-secondary institutions will also be required to verify international student admission letters, under a package of reforms announced by the federal government to tackle fraud.
Speaking at Sheridan College in Brampton, Marc Miller, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said the new policies aim to “punish the bad actors” and reward the good ones “who provide adequate outcomes for the success of international students”.
He said the use of fraudulent admissions letters has been a “major concern” for IRCC and continues to “pose a serious threat to the integrity of our student program”.
Earlier this year, over 100 Indian students faced potential deportation after their admission letters to Canadian colleges were found to be fake. Multiple students spoke out, saying they were unaware the letters were fraudulent.
The government subsequently promised to take action to address fraud in the system. Miller confirmed that a dedicated government task force is looking into 285 admissions letters.
So far, it has reviewed 103 of the letters and found that 63 of those were genuine students and 40 were not. 30 of the genuine students have been issued temporary residence visas and the remaining cases are still being investigated.
“International students are not the problem”
From December 2023, an “enhanced” system for study permit processing will be introduced, through which Canada’s immigration department will directly verify admissions letters with institutions.
“I want to stress that international students are not the problem,” Miller said. “They come here with hopes and dreams and they are essential to building this country.”
In addition, a “recognised institution” framework will be implemented in time for the fall 2024 intake with additional details shared next year. Miller said it will “recognise those institutions whose international students benefit from top class services, housing and other supports”.
Colleges and Institutes Canada welcomed the announcement, with a spokesperson calling it a “positive step” towards enhancing international recruitment practices and “improving the integrity of Canada’s immigration procedures”.
A spokesperson added that the measures align “with our goal of supporting sustainable international student enrollment growth, better attuned to labour market needs”.
Miller also hinted about upcoming reforms to the post-graduation work permit program, saying it would be adapted to better meet Canada’s labour market needs, but stopped short of confirming any changes, calling it a “work in progress”.
“We have a labour shortage in the country and it can not be filled domestically,” he said.
The minister spoke about the challenges Canada’s international education sector is facing, particularly in Ontario.
“I’m not here to shut down a business model that makes sense, but what we are seeing in the ecosystem is one that has been chasing after short term gain without looking at the long term pain,” he said.
Miller added that additional measures to tackle fraud and support international students will be introduced in the future.
Responding to the new measures, Janet Morrison, president and vice-chancellor of Sheridan College, said “I am very much looking forward to seeing the impact this announcement will have on learners who often at great personal sacrifice and with an abundance of courage, choose Canada and come to our great country from around the world.”