The government has issued its response to the ICMM committee’s report on specific issues facing international students.
Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has published its response to the Canadian House of Commons Citizenship and Immigration Standing Committee (CIMM); on the necessary measures to attract, help and protect international students who come from and are already in Canada.
The report focused on three main objectives in relation to international students:
- Attracting international students to study in Canada;
- Ensuring equity in the International Student Program; and
- Improving service and communication for international students in the study permit and immigration processes.
The IRCC response focused on measures that can be taken and are already in place to help with these three goals; covering each one individually with the aim of reducing vulnerabilities and helping international students in the process of applying for a permit, studying and settling in Canada.
Attracting international students
The government acknowledged that from 2022 to 2023, the number of study permit holders is projected to increase to approximately 753,000 international students; while acknowledging the ICMM’s concern that, despite increases, the department does not adequately consider requests from certain countries and populations.
In response, IRCC has committed to:
- Explore expansion of the Student Direct Stream (SDS) to specific Asian, African and French-speaking countries. The SDS is a fast-track stream for obtaining a study permit for candidates from 14 countries;
- Investigate rates of study permit refusals (at large, and for Francophone African students specifically), destined for Quebec—through establishing a working group between Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) and IRCC;
- Maintain and re-assess the scope of the Nigeria Student Express (NSE) stream—a study permit stream created to aid students applying from Nigeria; and
- Exploring how to best promote the transition to permanent residence for international students, particularly those with the skills, experience, and language levels necessary to succeed in Canada.
Ensuring equity in the international student program
The ICMM highlighted a number of areas in its initial report to the IRCC, which identified potential initiatives to ensure fairness in the international student program and application processes. In response, IRCC has committed to reviewing practices and ensuring fairness across the International Student Program (ISP) by:
- Continue to include questions related to accessibility, race, and gender in the annual voluntary customer experience survey to learn more about how customers face unique challenges based on their demographics;
- Establish a disaggregated data and analysis framework (DDAF). Disaggregated data is data that has been filtered to understand the specific relationships it has, based on demographic characteristics; to better understand how (for example) a specific group of people is affected by a particular policy or phenomenon; group of people is impacted by a particular policy or phenomenon;
- Exploring patterns and determinants of social well-being on immigration cohorts, with a focus on different racial groups;
- Review the selection process for international students, and evaluate students on criteria more linked to their potential value; and
- Improving client service and communication
Improving service and communication to international students
Many of the ICMM recommendations involved the importance of providing clear and transparent information to clients and stakeholders, including on processing times and reasons for denials. In response to these, IRCC has responded by:
- Highlighting the recent hiring of 1,250 new processing staff by late fall 2022 to assist with processing capacity, and publish monthly data on the backlogs;
- Committing to work with Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) to implement collection of enrolment and status information data about international students, whereby DLIs will submit data elements to IRCC for real-time processing; and
- Expressing interest in continuing with initiatives like the 2022 pilot program wherein immigration officers proactively released their decision notes along with some temporary resident visa (TRV) applications, at the time of the decision, to ensure transparency and understanding;