Toronto: Canada announced Monday a two-year cap on international student visas to ease the pressure on housing, health care and other services at a time of record immigration.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller said there will be a 35% reduction in new study visas in 2024. He said the country's international students program has been taken advantage of by fraudulent activity and it is putting pressure on housing and health care.
It's a bit of a mess and it's time to reign it in, Miller said.
The number of new visas handed out will be capped at 364,000. Nearly 560,000 such visas were issued last year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet retreat in Montreal this week will prioritize affordability and housing, according to a government statement.
The government said there are around 1 million foreign students in the country now and without any sort of intervention, this number would have continued to increase. The total number of foreign students is more than three times what it was a decade ago.
Miller said they have been working on stabilising the number of people entering the country yearly as housing pressures mount.
Canada grew by about a million people last year, reaching a record of 40 million as many Canadians struggle with an increased cost of living, including rents and mortgages.
The immigration minister said there are unscrupulous schools taking advantage of high tuition fees paid by foreign students without offering a solid education in return. In some cases, the schools are a way into Canada for students who can parley their visas into permanent residencies.
“It is not the intention of this program to have sham commerce degrees or business degrees that are sitting on top of a massage parlour that someone doesn't even go to and then they come into the province and drive an Uber, Miller said. If you need a dedicated channel for Uber drivers in Canada, I can design that, but that isn't the intention of the international student program,” he added.
Opposition Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre called it a mess and blamed Trudeau for granting study permits to tens of thousands of students who attend fake schools.