According to the report from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, obtained under an access to information request, roughly 10 per cent of international students enrolled in post-secondary institutions are “potentially” not complying with the conditions of their study permits for anything from academic suspensions to no-shows. But the number of students breaking the rules is likely higher because schools fail to report the enrolment status of up to 20 per cent of international students.
Price of Admission, an ongoing joint investigation by the Toronto Star and the St. Catharines Standard this fall, looked at the exponential growth of international students, particularly in the Ontario college system, and its impacts on Canada’s immigration and education systems. Reporting found evidence of students using their study permits as a pathway for jobs and permanent residence in Canada.
Canada’s immigration department does not have dedicated funding to monitor and investigate if international students are following immigration rules. The detection of “non-genuine students” largely relies on an honour system through reporting by the hundreds of learning institutions designated by each province.
School administrators have been required to report on international student enrolment status since 2016. This followed an explosion of international student enrolment in Canada after 2014, when immigration policy changes made it easier for students who study at publicly funded institutions to work and apply for permanent residency. There are more than 572,000 international students across Canada, a 73 per cent hike over the past five years.
The partially redacted internal government report obtained by the Star found that 90 per cent — or 587 of the 655 schools — submitted data on enrolment.
School administrators, in the spring of 2018, identified 9 per cent, or 28,049 of the 316,531 study permit holders, as being “potentially non-compliant.” They failed to report the enrolment status of 16 per cent, or 51,051 of the international students.
The report said that since 2018, officials have also been checking school acceptance letters international students use to apply for study permits. So far, 10,400 acceptance letters have been referred for verification; 12 per cent, or 1,240 cases, were identified as fraudulent.
Colleges and Institutes Canada, the largest national post-secondary advocacy group in the country, said it is challenging to track international students after arrival.