How will Canada’s Tougher Visa Rules impact Indian Students?

Canada are tightening its student visa rules and raising financial requirements for foreign students but how will Indian students be impacted?

How will Canada's Tougher Visa Rules impact Indian Students f

"We are revising the cost-of-living threshold"

Canada has announced that it will be tightening its student visa rules and raising financial requirements for international students.

Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said the changes will come into effect on January 1, 2024.

Students wanting to study in Canada will now have to prove they have at least 20,635 Canadian dollars in available funds on top of the amount they need to pay for tuition and exclusive of any fees for dependants.

This is more than double the current amount of $10,000.

This is the latest in a series of policy changes demonstrating that the federal government is looking more closely at Canada’s international student programme and how it operates.

The tougher measures are designed to remedy a trend where some students arrive in Canada believing they can financially support themselves given that they have met the $10,000 threshold, only to find that they do not.

In those cases, students can be more vulnerable to dodgy landlords and exploitative employers.

The new amount represents 75% of the low-income cut-off (LICO) in Canada.

According to economists, LICO “represents the minimum income necessary to ensure that an individual does not have to spend a greater than average portion of income on necessities”.

Mr Miller said: “International students provide significant cultural, social and economic benefits to their communities, but they have also faced challenges navigating life in Canada.

“We are revising the cost-of-living threshold so that international students understand the true cost of living here.

“This measure is key to their success in Canada. We are also exploring options to ensure that students find adequate housing.

“These long-overdue changes will protect international students from financially vulnerable situations and exploitation.”

These new measures will impact Indian students, especially those from Punjab. Approximately 70% of Indian students in Canada are Punjabi.

Canada is the fourth biggest source of Indian arrivals.

In 2021, it accounted for 5.3% of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs).

Of these, 72.6% were people of Indian origin, 2.5% were tourists, 1.1% were travelling for business, 0.3% for medical reasons, 0.1% were students and 23.4% for other reasons.

As of the end of 2022, there were just under 320,000 Indian students in Canada, which accounts for nearly 40% of Canada’s total foreign enrolment that year.

However, the number of Indian students applying to study in Canada has dropped dramatically.

Between July and October, the number of applications dropped from 145,881 in 2022 to 86,562 in the same period of 2023.

Many Indian students go to Canada because a study visa offers them easy passage to permanent residency in just five to six years.

It is also a lure to make quick cash because the money earned in Canada is sent to their families back in India to clear the debts accumulated from loans taken out to send them to Canada in the first place.

The increase in financial requirements means that families will have to take out heftier loans to send their children to Canada.

On the other hand, the new $20,635 threshold will mean Indian students will avoid studying in Canada altogether, resulting in applications declining even further.

The government knows that not all foreign students will be able to prove they have $20,635 in savings but there are plans to pilot new ideas that will help “underrepresented cohorts” of international students to come to Canada to study.

But until then, it is assumed that less wealthy students will find it impossible to study in Canada.

Sarom Rho, the national coordinator of Migrant Students United, said:

“The feds just doubled the financial requirements for study permits, effectively creating a cap and excluding prospective working-class students worldwide who will now be scrambling in the next three weeks to find an extra $10,000.”

His association will push back against “monthly improvisations and chaotic twists that let exploitation and abuse continue” and continue to speak up for stable, fair rules and permanent residency for all”.

The new threshold is naturally a shock to many students but a notable portion of international students are already finding it difficult to live comfortably in Canada.

For some Indian students, they work throughout the week and travel to their studies at the weekend.

This desperation to earn money has led some Canadian employers to take advantage of the situation.

The number of work permits issued to international students coming in through the International Mobility Program has increased significantly during the last three years, particularly after weekly limits on work hours were lifted.

The program allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers without having to complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment.

This means many are hired to do labour-intensive jobs, working for below minimum wage.

In response to the changes, Khushpal Grewal, of the Montreal Youth Student Organisation (MYSO), said:

“Instead of reducing college fees, controlling rentals, or providing affordable public transportation, the government is increasing the burden on international students.

“Before the Covid era, when Canada faced a labour shortage, immigration rules were relaxed, leading to a surge in student numbers over the past few years. Now, they’re tightening regulations according to their convenience.”

Varun Khanna, also part of MYSO, referred to historical parallels, stating:

“Looking back, even in 1908, the Canadian government altered rules for Indian immigrants.

“Initially, they were required to bring 25 dollars, which was later increased to 200 dollars – a substantial sum at that time.”

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

Image courtesy of Canadian Visa

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