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IRCC Imposes Student Cap, Approvals and Processing Slow Down

By Casey June 24, 2024 (Updated June 24, 2024) 2 min. read

Canada’s study permit program underwent significant changes in January, 2024. The government implemented a temporary cap on international students, distributing it among provinces and territories using a new Provincial Attestation Letter system. With a goal of approving 292,000 study permits in 2024, these changes were expected to impact the program significantly. Recent data now reveals the consequences of these policies.

Study Permit Drop in March: Processing Time Increases

In March 2024, the number of study permits processed dropped to 33,000, a considerable decrease from the 70,000+ processed in the same period the previous year. Processing times also increased, reaching an average of 10.6 weeks in March 2024, compared to 9.8 weeks in March 2023. Processing times continued to rise, peaking at 14.8 weeks in May, the longest in two years.

Indian students were particularly affected, with just over 4,000 study permits processed in March, a historically low number.

Decline in 2024 Study Permit Approval Rates

International student approvals have dropped significantly in 2024 compared to previous years. In the first quarter of this year (January to April), the approval rate for study permits was only 50%, with 76,307 applications approved out of 152,000 processed. This decline is evident in both the number of applications processed and the number approved. Detailed comparisons with previous years can be found in the table below.

YearApplications ProcessedApplications ApprovedApproval Rate
2024152,38176,30750%
2023751,705436,67858%
2022651,277355,31754%

How Long Will the Decrease in Study Permits Last?

Although the number of study permits approved in 2024 is significantly lower than previous years, this decrease is likely temporary. Study permit processing was paused in early 2024 as provinces implemented new systems, causing a backlog. Additionally, the current approval rate of 50% is lower than the 60% rate assumed when the government set the student cap. As processing resumes and catches up, interest in study permits and approvals are expected to increase throughout the year, reaching the government’s target.

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