Starting in 2024, unexpected immigration selections and international student sanctions

The first month of 2024 has come and gone, and now we're into the second month. The month of January saw a smooth flow of Canadian permanent residency invitations and a series of new announcements related to immigration program reforms. In this column, we'll take a look at the first month of 2024 and review the new immigration system to give you a better understanding of how the immigration program will operate in the new year.

While no Express Entry category-based selections were held last month, three consecutive general selections were held, and the cutoff for each selection was slightly lower, trending downward from 546 to 541, and the number of invitations also decreased, dropping from 1,501 to 730. There were no category-based selections in the first month after the introduction of category-based selection, which is something we've been actively looking for, and we don't currently know why. We'll have to wait and see in February to see if we'll see more general selections or if category-based selections become active again.
There was also an announcement about the international student program emergency measures. On January 22, Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced the implementation of temporary measures to improve the international student system, including a cap on the number of international students in Canada, a cap on PGWPs, and a cap on the issuance of work permits, as detailed below.

First, there will be a two-year cap on the number of international student permit applications, which will result in a projected 2024 study permit volume of approximately 360,000, a 35% decrease from the previous year. In order to address regional imbalances, there will also be individual provincial and territorial caps, with larger reductions in those provinces and territories with the most unsustainable growth in international student population. As a result, state-by-state guidance on the issuance of certificates must be completed by March 31, but current student visa holders and those renewing their existing visas, as well as international students for master's and doctoral degrees and primary and secondary education, will not be affected by this measure.
Second, the issuance of PGWPs to some international students will be restricted. Starting September 1, 2024, international students in the Curriculum License Negotiation Program will not be able to obtain work permits after graduation. While this program has helped us to actively attract international students until recently, we have found that it is not as well managed as public universities and has several loopholes to qualify for work permits, which is why we are restricting the issuance.

Third, graduates of master's programs will receive PGWPs that are valid for three years. Under the current system, the duration of the PGWP granted after graduation was determined by the length of the program attended. As a result, graduates of short-term master's programs were often unable to obtain a realistic work visa, limiting their ability to find employment and immigrate to Canada. With this amendment, master's graduates will be granted a three-year work visa regardless of the length of their studies, which is expected to have a more positive impact on the employment and immigration of highly educated talent to Canada.

Fourth, the international student spouse open work permit will be restricted to master's programs. Previously, any spouse of a student visa holder was eligible for an open work permit, but now only international spouses of PhD students will be eligible, and spouses of international students at other levels of study, including undergraduate and university programs, will no longer be eligible to apply for an open work permit. This change is currently in pre-implementation status, so if you are an international student spouse and still want to apply for an open work permit, we recommend that you finalize your application before it goes into effect.

PTE Core is now officially introduced as a recognized English language proficiency test and will be used as the language test for all Canadian immigration-related assessments except for study abroad. The new Core has been developed to replace the PTE Essential and will provide more pathways to language testing for Canadian immigration, which will help lower the barriers to language testing. In particular, the PTE Core will consist of 50 minutes of speaking and writing, 30 minutes of reading, and 30 minutes of listening for a total of 2 hours, and the AI-powered assessment will provide results in a short period of time, which is a big advantage for applicants who are in a hurry to submit their language proficiency scores.

The year 2024 has gotten off to an unexpected start, with invitations being sent to only Express Entry general selection candidates and sudden restrictions on international students. We're cautiously anticipating that the new year will bring more of the same, with more changes and new measures. However, the government's commitment to bringing more talented people to Canada is a constant, so if you prepare for immigration with these basic principles, immigrating to Canada won't be as daunting as it might seem.