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Proposed Changes Would Strengthen Canada's International Student Program

OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 12/28/12 -- New measures to prevent fraud in the International Student Program (ISP) were proposed today by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.

"Attracting the best and brightest young minds from around the world is key to the continued success of Canada's economy and long-term prosperity," said Minister Kenney. "But there are too many stories of international students who pay a lot of money and leave their families back home to study in Canada, only to find out they have been misled. These changes will help us better protect international students and the reputation of Canada's post-secondary education system by making sure that international students are coming to quality institutions that comply with basic standards of accountability."

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is proposing regulatory changes to limit study permits to students attending institutions designated by provinces and territories. The proposed changes would address concerns that some institutions are providing poor-quality programs or facilitating, knowingly or not, the entry of foreign nationals to Canada for purposes other than study.

Under the proposed amendments, CIC would work with provinces and territories - which are constitutionally responsible for education - to develop a framework to designate educational institutions that will be permitted to host international students. If a school is not designated, it would be able to continue offering programs of six months or less to foreign nationals in Canada on regular visitor visas. Visitors who wish to enroll in short-term courses do not currently require a study permit, and this would continue to be the case.

Eligible international students attending designated institutions would also be able to work part-time off-campus, without having to apply for a separate work permit. This new flexibility would contribute to Canada's appeal in attracting the best and brightest students from around the globe.

Furthermore, to help eliminate abuse of student visas, changes are being made to ensure that the primary intent of an international student in Canada is to study. Currently, foreign nationals are able to apply to any Canadian school or business offering training in Canada and need only demonstrate an intent to study - there is currently no requirement for them to actually pursue studies once in Canada and no way of tracking whether they do. These changes would provide CIC the authority to request evidence from study permit holders to verify their compliance with study permit conditions. International students would be removed from Canada if they fail to meet new requirements.

The proposed changes respond to findings from a 2011 evaluation of the International Student Program, which concluded that gaps in the program leave it open to abuse and fraud. Similar reforms have already been implemented by Canada's key competitor countries for international students. These changes will strengthen Canada's position as a leader in international education.

"By improving the International Student Program, we are strengthening Canada's reputation as a destination of choice for international students," said Minister Kenney. "In addition to the economic impact, international student graduates are a great source of potential permanent immigrants. For those who choose to stay in Canada, their Canadian education and their language skills are important factors for success."

"International students are vital to the global experience offered on university campuses across Canada," said Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). "They enrich our institutions with their cultures, languages and unique perspectives and have a positive economic impact on communities coast to coast. We support efforts to strengthen Canada's reputation as a destination of choice for students around the world."

"The Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) and CIC collaborate to maintain the integrity of Canada as a destination of choice for international students," said James Knight, President and CEO of the ACCC. "Canada's 140 public colleges and institutes are renowned for the quality of their programs and services for international students. We welcome measures to preserve the excellence of the Canadian brand."

As part of the consultative process, the proposed changes were posted today in the Canada Gazette for a 45-day public comment period.

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Building a stronger Canada: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) strengthens Canada's economic, social and cultural prosperity, helping ensure Canadian safety and security while managing one of the largest and most generous immigration programs in the world.

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