The Canadian government has announced an increase in the cost-of-living financial requirement for international students applying for a study permit. Starting from January 1, 2024, individual students must now demonstrate the availability of CAN$20,635 in funds, more than double the previous requirement of CDN$10,000.
The move aims to address a concerning trend where students, meeting the previous threshold, struggle upon arrival, exposing themselves to potential exploitation and financial vulnerability. The adjustment is the first in a decade and reflects a broader scrutiny of Canada's international student program by the federal government.
Economically, the new amount represents 75% of the low-income cut-off in Canada (LICO), ensuring individuals have a sufficient income for basic necessities. Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, emphasized that these changes are crucial for the success of international students in Canada.
However, acknowledging that not all students can meet the increased savings requirement, the government plans to pilot initiatives to support "underrepresented cohorts" of international students. Critics, including Sarom Rho of Migrant Students United, argue that the sudden financial adjustment creates barriers for working-class students, prompting urgent calls for stability, fairness, and permanent residency for all.
The heightened financial requirement comes amid concerns about the rising cost of living in Canada for international students. A September 2023 survey by the Daily Bread Food Bank revealed that living expenses estimated during the application process significantly underestimated the actual costs for students in Toronto.
As international students grapple with financial challenges, Minister Marc Miller issued a warning to institutions and provinces, urging them to improve student supports. He emphasized the need for institutions to accept a manageable number of students and provide adequate housing or assistance in finding off-campus accommodation. Ahead of September 2024, the government is prepared to take measures, including visa limitations, to ensure institutions offer sufficient support.
These developments underscore the evolving landscape of Canada's international student program, with the government striving to strike a balance between attracting global talent and safeguarding the well-being of those pursuing education there.