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British Columbia has implemented a provincial attestation letter (PAL) system for international students, effective March 4, 2024. Here are the key details:

  1. Purpose of PAL: International students must submit a PAL along with their study permit application. The PAL serves as proof that the student has been accepted by a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) within the limits of its allocation.
  2. Issuance Process: The B.C. government issues PALs to institutions, who then forward the letters to the international applicants.
  3. Allocation: British Columbia has been granted a total allocation of 83,000 undergraduate study permit applications from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Based on previous acceptance rates, the federal government expects this to result in approximately 50,000 approved study permit applications for 2024.
  4. Comparison to Previous Year: There were 97,000 study permit applications for undergraduate programs in B.C. last year, resulting in approximately 60,000 approved study permits.
  5. Distribution of PALs: The distribution of PALs will be as follows:
    • 53% for public post-secondary institutions
    • 47% for private institutions
  6. Purpose of Reduction: Reducing PALs for private institutions aims to counter unsustainable growth.
  7. IRCC’s Cap: IRCC introduced a cap on study permit applications. As of January 22, 2023, they will issue up to 360,000 new study permits in 2024, representing a 35% reduction compared to 2023.

About Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) System

The Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) is an official document issued by Canada’s provincial or territorial government.

  • The PAL confirms that the province or territory is aware of your intent to study within its jurisdiction.
  • It also affirms that your chosen program aligns with the region’s immigration and labour market needs.
  • The PAL ensures that international students are accounted for within a provincial or territorial allocation under the national cap for study permit applications.
  • International undergraduate students whose study permit applications were received by IRCC after 8:30 a.m., ET, on January 22, 2024.

British Columbia Puts Cap on Study Permits

B.C. now operates under a cap system for study permits. The allocation of permits is based on population, with B.C. receiving its share of permits accordingly.

  • Pause on Approvals for New Institutions: Until February 2026, B.C. will pause approvals for new post-secondary institutions seeking to enroll international students. This step allows for a more controlled expansion.
  • Higher Standards for Private Degree Programs: Private degree programs must meet elevated approval standards. Criteria include rigorous assessment of degree quality, demonstrated labor-market demand for graduates, and adequate resources and student support.
  • Minimum Language Requirements: Students at private institutions will now face new minimum language requirements. This ensures students are better prepared for academic success and life in B.C.
  • Study Permit Renewals and Advanced Degrees: The cap does not affect study permit renewals or master’s or doctoral degrees. Students pursuing advanced degrees can continue their studies without any impact from the new regulations.

Allocation Based on Population

The Canadian government has decided to allocate study permits to provinces based on their population. This means provinces with higher populations will receive a proportionate share of study permits.

British Columbia (B.C.) is Canada’s third most populous province, with approximately 5.6 million people. As a result, B.C. will receive its share of study permits according to this allocation.

Changes to Post Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs)

The eligibility criteria for Postgraduate Work Permits (PGWPs) have also been modified. However, the announcement does not provide specific details about these changes.

Spousal Open Work Permits (SOWP)

The upcoming changes to Spousal Open Work Permits (SOWP) will impact spouses or partners of international students pursuing an undergraduate degree. They will no longer be eligible for a SOWP.

Diploma Mills and Legitimate Student Experience

Immigration Minister Marc Miller highlighted the issue of diploma mills in certain provinces. These institutions churn out diplomas without providing a legitimate student experience.

Some provinces have permissive models for Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs), resulting in inadequate support for international students despite higher tuition fees.

The cap aims to address this by targeting bad actors within the system. Reducing the number of study permits issued will shrink their source of income.

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