Attracting International StudentsThe IRCC highlighted a number of areas where it could improve its efforts to attract, select and retain international students. Over the years, the International Student Program has grown considerably in two ways. Firstly, there has been an increase in the number of study permit applications received, and secondly, the number of study permits issued has risen. The government recognized that from 2022 to 2023, the number of study permit holders is expected to see a 17% increase. However, there are concerns that applications from certain countries and populations are not given adequate consideration. The IRCC aims to tackle this issue by
- Expanding the eligibility of specific programs, like the Student Direct Stream (SDS) to specific African and French-speaking countries. Work is ongoing to establish clear and objective criteria that will govern the expansion.
- Assess and prioritize The Nigeria Student Express (NSE). This country-specific expedited stream includes additional criteria that further provide more assurance in the study permit application.
- IRCC is planning to undertake a review of the International Student Program. It will include consideration towards attracting a more diversified pool of students.
- Increase dialogue between Canada and Quebec. The IRCC is collaborating with Ministere de I’mmigration, de la Francisation et de I’Integration (MIFI). The partnership will eventually organize a working group on study permit applications that will launch in the fall of 2022.
- Work is ongoing to better understand the needs of temporary residents, and the supports currently available to them, and promote transitions to permanent residence for students.
Ensuring Equity in the International Student ProgramThe IRCC is actively working to ensure racial equity in its programs. The significant growth in the number of international students has highlighted the vulnerability faced by some students. This could be in regard to their gender, race, age, financial status, and whether they have a disability. The CIMM mentioned that some IRCC programs might not be fair to some students due to criteria or requirements. To combat this issue, the IRCC plans to
- In March 2023, the IRCC will launch disaggregated data standards while actively engaging in anti-racism efforts to prevent discrimination. This will be done through focus groups with questions aimed at improving the IRCC’s data collection as it relates to accessibility, gender, and race issues. This will allow the IRCC to better address inconsistencies systematically.
- Develop a Disaggregated Data and Analytics Framework (DDAF) to support evidence-based policymaking and enhance service delivery. This will allow the IRCC to better reveal and address the systemic biases, inequities, and differential outcomes experienced by diverse populations.
- The IRCC will be exploring the patterns and determinants of social well-being in immigration generational cohorts with a focus on different racial groups.
- Agreement to clarify guidance on assessing temporary residence requirements and promote consistency and fairness amongst decision-makers. The IRCC is analyzing how to optimize the selection and retention of international students. It is also improving client services, program integrity, and public confidence.
Improving Client Service and CommunicationThe last recommendation by the CIMM was about the importance of providing clear, transparent and consistent communication with clients and stakeholders, including processing times and reasons for refusals. For this reason, the IRCC acknowledged that more could be done to improve communication. Achieving predictable processing times and efficient communication with international students and other clients is a top priority for the IRCC. Work on how they will meet this objective includes
- To ensure that simple and accurate information is available, the IRCC will continue to liaise with partners and key stakeholders to improve communication. This will help to respond to and support the client’s desire to study or immigrate.
- The IRCC will maintain transparency and consistency in delivering on its processing time commitments. The aim is to hire an additional 1,250 processing staff to improve the efficiency of processing networks.
- Will continue to work with its partners to discuss issues related to the vulnerability of students. The IRCC has already implemented stronger regulations for international student recruiters in Canada.
- Agree to include public consultations regarding the deployment of new technologies to process immigration applications. Some examples include artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and automated decision support tools.
The Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) tabled a report back in May that addressed international students’ challenges. It specifically focused on both recruitment and acceptance rates for those in Quebec and the rest of Canada.The CIMM is an internal government committee that oversees the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) department and monitors the federal multiculturalism policy. Their report addressed the disadvantageous and vulnerable situations that some international students face.Subsequently, The IRCC replied to the CIMM’s report this week with an aim to improve these challenges. The released response outlines the measures for international students’ attraction, recruitment and retention in Canada. The response covers pre-existing measures and offers new suggestions to help reduce vulnerabilities and aid international students through the permit application, study, and settlement process.The recommendations the IRCC addressed fall under three themes – attracting international students, ensuring equity in the international student program, and improving client services and communication.