Provincial Attestation Letters now available in British Columbia

11 March, 2024

Provincial Attestation Letters now available in British Columbia

Started on March 4, 2024, the provincial attestation letter (PAL) system in British Columbia is officially in effect.
For international students applying for a study permit, inclusion of a PAL with their application is mandatory. This document serves as proof of acceptance by a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) within British Columbia's allocation. According to the B.C. government, PALs are issued by provincial authorities to the institutions, who then provide them to the international applicants.
British Columbia has been allocated a total of 83,000 undergraduate study permit applications by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Additionally, the province highlights that, based on past acceptance rates, the federal government anticipates around 50,000 approved study permit applications for the year 2024.
In comparison, the previous year witnessed 97,000 study permit applications for undergraduate programs in British Columbia, resulting in roughly 60,000 approved study permits.
According to the province, 53% of PALs will be allocated to public post-secondary institutions, with the remaining 47% designated for private institutions. This represents a 27% decrease in study permit applications for private institutions compared to 2023. British Columbia attributes this reduction to addressing "unsustainable growth."
British Columbia's PAL system marks the first release since IRCC implemented a cap on the issuance of study permits for 2024. It is anticipated that other provinces will soon follow suit to meet the March 31 deadline.


IRCC’s cap on study permit applications


The new cap imposed by IRCC on study permit applications was announced on January 22, 2023. IRCC stated that it would now grant up to 360,000 new study permits in 2024, representing a 35% decrease compared to the levels in 2023.
It's important to note that the cap does not affect study permit renewals or applications for master's or doctoral degrees.
In their announcement, the department clarified that the allocation of study permits to provinces would be based on their respective populations. According to population data from Statistics Canada, British Columbia ranks as Canada's third most populous province, with approximately 5.6 million people.
In addition to the cap, the department unveiled alterations to the eligibility requirements for Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs), along with forthcoming adjustments to Spousal Open Work Permits (SOWPs). Specifically, spouses or partners of international students pursuing undergraduate degrees will soon no longer qualify for a SOWP. However, this change has not been put into effect as of now.


Unsustainable expansion


The introduction of the cap followed numerous statements from Immigration Minister Marc Miller concerning the unsustainable nature of Canada's international student program.
In 2023, Canada had over one million active study permits, coinciding with a shortage of affordable housing in the country. Consequently, numerous international students find themselves living in substandard conditions or, in some instances, facing homelessness.
The minister said that in certain provinces, there are educational institutions akin to diploma mills that are merely producing diplomas, and this does not constitute a genuine student experience.
Moreover, the minister emphasized that certain provinces' "permissive" Designated Learning Institution (DLI) models have failed to provide international students with sufficient support, despite their substantially higher tuition fees compared to domestic students. IRCC aims to address this issue by implementing the cap, targeting entities within the system that exploit these shortcomings for financial gain.


Additional changes to B.C.’s international student program


Additional changes to British Columbia's international student program are outlined in its release.
The province anticipates that the cap will have the most significant impact on private institutions, which typically operate with less oversight compared to public institutions. Earlier this year, British Columbia introduced a set of measures aimed at addressing the unsustainable growth of its provincial international student program.
For instance, the province has decided to halt approvals for new post-secondary institutions seeking to enroll international students until February 2026. Additionally, it plans to enforce stricter standards for the approval of private degree programs, including heightened assessment criteria for degree quality, demonstrated demand in the labor market for graduates, and adequate resources and student support services.
These measures complement the introduction of new minimum language requirements for students enrolled in private institutions, aimed at ensuring that students are better equipped for the challenges of studying in British Columbia.
If you still have questions about it, do not hesitate to contact our educational consultants. We are ready to assist you at any stage of your process.
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