Canada updates on visa approval rules, exemptions to cap and access to PGWP

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Canada’s IRCC has invited feedback from colleges and universities on a suggested provision to reduce the window of time institutions have to verify letter of acceptances to 10 days, and hence enable speedier visa processing once provincial allocations of study permits are confirmed by late March.

Speaking at a regular town hall on the changes being made to the study visa system, a spokesperson also confirmed that each province and territory has now indeed received their cap allocation in letters from Immigration Minister Marc Miller – it was not divulged what those cap numbers are.

The confirmation rule for every letter of acceptance received was announced in October to combat fraud and introduced from December.

IRCC said it had received concerns from multiple stakeholders that many study permits would not be issued in time for the spring cohort in May.

“This will also be helpful should there be a surge in study permit applications in April”

“While we expect that many students who intend to come to Canada for the May semester will have applied for a permit before January 22 before the spring semester, we are aware that not all will have done so,” the spokesperson explained.

The IRCC is therefore suggesting a plan to remove the temporary extension to 15 days granted to DLIs to verify Letters Of Acceptance.

“Officers are currently instructed to wait 15 calendar days before processing study permit applications, but to cut down those times we’re proposing to go back to the originally intended 10 days.

“So the IRCC officers can start processing study permit applications [earlier]… this will also be helpful should there be a surge in study permit applications in April once all processes are in place,” the spokesperson clarified.

The idea is now open for public consultation, which will close on February 26.

The spokesperson from IRCC also answered questions that had been put to the organisation after there was confusion about who was and wasn’t included in the new temporary two-year cap, amid general concern surrounding the policy shifts.

Further town halls will be held with all stakeholders being encouraged to engage with national associations in the interim.

Visit and exchange students – and extending onshore

Visiting or exchange students who are staying in Canada for six months or more are not exempt from the international study permit cap, the IRCC confirmed.

The spokesperson did say that, despite visiting or exchange students being subject to the cap if they’re in Canada for more than six months, there are cases that they would not be required to provide a provincial attestation letter (PAL).

If an exchange student goes to Canada for less than six months, they are already exempt from the cap process.

But crucially, if someone comes for less than six months and they wish to extend their studies to longer than six months, they may be able to apply for a study permit while in Canada and would be exempt from the cap and PAL process, the spokesperson clarified.

They further noted that the exemptions to the cap remain as such: kindergarten to grade 12 students, those on master’s degrees or PhD programs, and certain study permit applications from foreign nationals after entry into the country.

“There are only nationals of certain countries who can apply for a study permit from within Canada.”

“Those who have work permits and study permits that are valid can also apply for a study permit from within Canada – they are really applying for an extension of their stay,” the spokesperson added. “Those people are exempt from the cap as well.”

Access to 3-year PGWP at master’s level

Those on degree granting master’s programs are now eligible for the newly extended three-year post graduation work permit. Clarity on masters program scope and delivery was provided.

“Degree-granting master’s programs provided they are at least eight months in duration and include a scheduled break will be eligible for the PGWP as of February 15th, 2024,” said IRCC.

For degree granting master’s programs such as MBAs, which are delivered primarily online, the current policy on distance learning facilitations applies.

International students must complete at least 50% of their program inside Canada online or in class

International students must complete at least 50% of their program inside Canada online or in class. The time spent studying online from outside Canada before August 31st, 2024 will count towards the length of the PGWP, as long as it constitutes less than 50% of study.

IRCC also confirmed that private colleges can have its graduates able to access PGWP – just not in the case of students studying under a curriculum-licensing arrangement between a private college and public college (PPP) .

“International students outside Quebec, graduating from the degree granting programs delivered by private institutions authorised by provincial statute to confer degrees, will continue to be eligible for PGWP, provided the program of study led to a degree authorised by the province.”

They further stated, “This may not include all programs of study offered by the private post-secondary institution.”

Visiting research students

There were also clarifications about short term visiting research students given by IRCC, “such as those who qualify for 120 day work permit exemption for researchers”.

“They do not require a study permit. If their program of study is less than six months, foreign nationals may enter Canada or remain in Canada without a study permit to attend a course or program of study of six months duration or less.”

Graduate level visiting research students are also exempt if they are enrolled in a program “resulting in a graduate degree”, the spokesperson clarified – otherwise they would be subject to the cap.

Spousal work rights

Also included in the update was information surrounding spousal work permits for international students at masters level.

“In the coming weeks, open work permits will only be available to spouses and common law partners of students pursuing master’s, doctoral, or professional degree programs such as law and medicine. Further details will be shared closer to implementation.”

“The government is acutely aware of current pressures on campus housing, healthcare and social services”

The spokesperson also defended the decision to restrict access to PGWP, which stakeholders had said ignored the “economic potential” of spouses.

“The government is acutely aware of current pressures on campus housing, healthcare and social services. As such, we are pursuing strategies to realign our immigration policies to adapt to these realities, [impacting] its citizens, permanent residents and temporary residents alike.

“Limiting open work permits to the spouses of international students on master’s and doctoral degree programs, as well as the professional degree programs, recognises these students’ extraordinary human capital and their increased likelihood of transitioning to permanent residence,” the spokesperson said.

The post Canada updates on visa approval rules, exemptions to cap and access to PGWP appeared first on The PIE News.

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