Federal government plans to double the financial requirement for student visa applicants

Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) plans to double the financial requirement for student visa applicants and potentially limit the number of visas granted starting in 2024.

Next month, prospective international students applying for a student visa will need to show they have access to $20,635 in addition to funds for tuition and travel as part of their visa applications. This is a 106 per cent increase from the $10,000 requirement that's been in place since the early 2000s.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada Marc Miller announced the change in a press release from December 7, and said IRCC increased the financial requirements to ensure “international students are financially prepared for life in Canada.”

“The financial requirement hasn’t kept up with the cost of living over time, resulting in students arriving in Canada only to learn that their funds aren’t adequate,” Miller wrote.

He said this financial requirement will be adjusted annually based on Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off (LICO) — a figure that estimates the poverty line across Canada and is used to set admission requirements for other immigration pathways.

Since the early 2000s, the Statistics Canada LICO for a single person living in a city with a population of over 500,000 has increased by 48 per cent, from $15,362 in 2000 to $22,801 in 2021.

Miller acknowledged that the higher financial requirements could have disproportionate effects on international students of different backgrounds and that the federal government would implement pilot programs to address this issue.

But when asked for more details on these programs, Matthew Krupovich, communications advisor at IRCC, said in a written statement to The Ubyssey, “Any new developments will be communicated publicly.”

Along with a higher financial requirement for applicants, Miller said the government is prepared to significantly limit the number of visas granted ahead of September 2024 to “ensure that designated learning institutions provide adequate and sufficient student supports.”

In his statement, Krupovich reiterated the federal government’s position that these policy changes were intended to protect international students.

“This change will help recalibrate temporary residence admissions to Canada to a more sustainable level, a goal that Minister Miller announced on November 1, 2023,” he said.

When asked what circumstances would lead the government to limit the number of student visas granted, Krupovich said the federal government would work with provincial and territorial governments, post-secondary institutions and other education stakeholders ahead of any decision.

Krupovich also clarified that international students who are renewing their visa may not be required to meet the same financial requirements.

“Here an officer also has the discretion to consider additional factors outside the cost-of-living requirement,” he wrote. “This may include the applicant's demonstrated ability to support themselves financially.”

Kurt Heinrich, senior director at UBC Media Relations, said the university was aware of the announcement and planned to review how it will impact UBC’s international student enrolment approaches, in a statement to The Ubyssey.

According to UBC’s 2022/23 enrolment report, almost 20,000 international students attend UBC's Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, making up 27.4 per cent of the student population.

“We will continue to ensure the university provides appropriate services and supports to international students,” Heinrich said.