January 19, 2024
Ultimate Direction of the International Study Permit Program Is Inevitable. The Critical Question is How Quickly Can Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada Get There!
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
The International Student Program (ISP) remains a hot topic. I have shared my thoughts at Parliamentary Committee, in the media and in various blogs. A number of ideas as to a “fix” have been bandied about including caps, but I believe the solution is inevitable.
Because several serious issues surrounding the scope of the program and issues relating to educational recruitment, program integrity and enrolling in learning institutes that are not designated by the government have long persisted. The housing crisis has now been effectively tied, if even only by perception, to the ISP and ironically has been what has driven potential change. Plus, the influx of more refugee claimants, cost of living, and high immigration targets amongst other factors have all collated to keep the issue at the forefront in the news. Ultimately though, influx must be curbed. The critical question is how do we get there?
The Honourable Minister of IRCC Marc Miller has recently noted that part of the problem is that there are no targets for temporary residents – workers, visitors and students. And by extension no caps. Without foundational change, the numbers will continue to soar. Caps alone will not fix the issue, but it is part of the potential solution. More is needed.
I am a proponent of caps in addition to varied temporary and permanent resident streams with clearly established and well communicated eligibility criteria, targets and processing times. Applicants should be advised that applications will not be accepted and/or processed once caps are met. If applications are submitted after these targets are achieved, then they are returned. There is no reason this could not apply to the ISP. But the mode of delivery is essential. Hence, our continued advocacy for an expression of interest (EOI) model.
New Two-Stage EOI and Invitation to Apply (ITA) Selection Program
All applicants would file an EOI in various and expanded student categories. Consideration should be given to new streams which could include:
- Nimble and flexible study permit pathway for in-demand occupations;
- Distinctions between College and University Streams;
- Provincial and Municipal Study Permit Stream; and
- Humanitarian Study permits.
Points would be allocated based on factors depending on the category, educational history, previous degrees, grades, language ability, financial sufficiency, in-demand streams, educational institution, etc. ITAs would be issued to students based upon streams, caps, and other factors. All applicants would file an EOI in various categories.
Points allocated based upon factors depending on the category, educational history, previous degrees, grades, language ability, financial sufficiency, in-demand streams, and the educational institution. Applicants not selected for the school year would terminate and thus no backlog. Educational institutions would receive points based upon a few factors that might include, depending on the category, labour market outcomes, admission integrity, number of foreign students, mental health, and other supports for international students, etc.
A new EOI/ITA ISP program would serve to ensure proper intake, eliminate abuse where possible, and control inventory. Expanded categories for applicants reflective of the varied reasons for short and long-term study and/or permanent migration bolstered by effective public messaging of the ISP to better managing all stakeholder expectations while enhancing economic/social vibrancy and limiting discrimination are key to a new modernized and enhanced ISP program.
Thus, the possibility for a more measured, fair, nuanced, and effective ISP is within reach that can minimize exploitation. The EOI system would be transparent, and each category and educational institution would have its maximum allocation. The key good actors (educational institutions) would receive the most points. ITAs control runaway inventory. This is possible in part because of exciting technological possibilities like artificial intelligence solutions to manage, triage and support program delivery. A national immigration and integrated ISP plan that is multi-tiered and effectively leverages technology in an innovative, transparent, and responsible fashion, that employs plain language for applicants to follow, and engages all stakeholders would be transformative. If undertaken altogether, we can envision a future where we distance ourselves from non-transparency, bad actors, runaway inventory, inaccessibility, delays, uneven processing, bias, and unintended negative consequences. The solution in my view is in plain sight. How quickly can we get there however, remains elusive.
Thanks for reading.