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Canada Doubles Financial Requirements for Foreign Students

New policy aims to ensure international students are financially prepared for life in Canada, but critics say it will exclude many potential applicants.

by Victor Adetimilehin

Canada has announced a major change in its visa requirements for international students seeking to study in the country. Starting from January 1, 2024, students will need to show they have $20,635, in addition to their first year of tuition and travel costs, to obtain a study permit. This is a 100% increase from the previous requirement of $10,000, which had been in place for almost two decades.

The Canadian government said the new policy, dubbed as the “cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants”, is intended to prevent student vulnerability and exploitation. “We want to make sure that international students who come to Canada are well prepared for the realities of living and studying in a different country,” said Marc Miller, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Miller added that the new requirement is based on 75% of the low-income cut-off (LICO), which is a measure of poverty used by Statistics Canada. He said the LICO reflects the minimum amount of money a person needs to meet their basic needs in Canada.

However, the policy has sparked criticism from some education experts, student groups and immigration advocates, who say it will create a barrier for many prospective students, especially from developing countries. They argue that the policy is unfair, unnecessary and discriminatory, as it does not take into account the varying costs of living across Canada, the availability of scholarships and bursaries, and the contribution of international students to the Canadian economy and society.

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, there were more than 640,000 international students in Canada in 2020, representing a 21% increase from 2019. International students contributed $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supported more than 170,000 jobs in 2018, according to a report by the federal government.

Some of the top source countries for international students in Canada are India, China, France, South Korea and Brazil. Many of these students choose Canada for its high-quality education, multicultural environment, and post-graduation work opportunities. However, with the new policy, some of them may have to reconsider their options or look for alternative destinations.

“I think this policy is very unfair and will affect a lot of students who want to study in Canada,” said Priya Singh, a 19-year-old student from India, who plans to apply for a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Toronto. “I have been saving money for years and I have a scholarship, but I still don’t have enough to meet the new requirement. I don’t understand why they are doing this. It’s like they don’t want us here.”

Singh is not alone in her frustration. A petition launched by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) has gathered more than 15,000 signatures, calling on the government to reverse the policy and consult with stakeholders. CASA said the policy is “out of touch with reality” and will “harm Canada’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive country for international students”.

Based on a report by Ghana Web, the government, however, has defended the policy, saying it is in line with international standards and best practices. Miller said the policy is similar to those of other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which also require international students to demonstrate sufficient funds to cover their living expenses. He also said the policy will be reviewed annually and adjusted as needed.

“We are not closing the door to international students. We are simply ensuring that they have the resources they need to succeed in Canada,” Miller said. “We value the diversity, talent and innovation that international students bring to our country, and we will continue to support them in their academic and professional goals.”

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