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Canada doubling cost-of-living requirement for international students

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Canada will more than double the cost-of-living financial requirement for incoming international students on Jan. 1, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller announced today.

Under the current requirement, which has been in place since the early 2000s, study permit applicants need to show they have $10,000 saved to cover their tuition and the cost of living in Canada.

However, Miller said the financial requirement hasn’t kept up with the cost of living over time, resulting in students arriving in Canada only to learn that their funds aren’t adequate.

"Moving to a more accurate cost of living level that helps international students arrive with necessary resources to live and study in Canada, future increases will be tied to the low-income cut-off Statistics Canada announces every year," he said.

For 2024, a single applicant will need to show they have $20,635, representing 75 per cent of low-income cut-off (LICO), in addition to their first year of tuition and travel costs. The change will apply to new study permit applications received on or after Jan.1, 2024.

The threshold will then be adjusted each year when Statistics Canada updates the LICO. The 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.

Miller announced a handful of other updates to the international student program, including that the waiver on the 20-hour-per week off-campus work limit will be extended to April 30, 2024 for current international students. Moreover, Miller said the government is considering expanding the off-campus work hours for international students to 30 hours per week while class is in session.

"Our data shows us that 80 per cent of international students work more than 20 hours per week," he said.

The federal government launched the pilot project that removed the cap on the number of off-campus hours international students can work in November 2022, and it was set to expire at the end of this month.

Miller also announced the extension of a distance learning measure that allowed students to count time spent studying online toward the length of a future post-graduation work permit, as long as it constitutes less than 50 per cent of the program of study. The measure will stay in place for students who begin a study program before Sept. 1, 2024, but not for students who begin study on or after that date.

Meanwhile, the government will wind down a temporary policy to allow international graduates with expired or soon-to-be-expiring work permits to apply for an 18-month permit extension. Foreign nationals with a post-graduation work permit expiring up to Dec. 31, 2023 are still eligible to apply, but anyone whose permit is set to expire after that date is not.

The changes come as Miller said the federal government plans to "significantly" limit the number of visas issued to international students "to ensure that designated learning institutions provide adequate and sufficient student supports as part of the academic experience."

Last month, in response to growing concerns about the rising cost of living and widespread affordable housing shortages in Canada, the ministry announced a new framework to recognize learning institutions that provide international students with high-quality services and support, including housing.

"It would be a mistake to blame international students for the housing crisis but it would also be a mistake to invite them to come to Canada with no support including how to put a roof over their heads," Miller said on Thursday.

"That's why we expect learning institutions to only accept the number of students that they're able to provide for, able to house or assist in finding off-campus housing." 

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