IRCC Policy Update – Study Permit Rule Update and Strategy

In the recent policy update, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) made significant adjustments to the study permit rule, which will have profound effects on international students and their family members. First, the document requirements for applying for a study permit have increased; students now need to provide more detailed financial proof and school admission data. This is to ensure that applicants have sufficient funds to support their studies and living in Canada and possess the academic ability to complete their chosen programs.

Moreover, the policy update has relaxed the limitations on part-time work hours for international students. Initially, during the pandemic, an administrative order temporarily relaxed the restriction on off-campus work hours to more than 20 hours per week, but this order was revoked as of April 30, 2024. Starting this fall, in September 2024, students who meet the new requirements will have more off-campus work hours. This change aims to better help students afford tuition and living expenses. This policy adjustment not only increases job opportunities for students but may also affect family members holding a spousal open work permit, as their work permit conditions might be adjusted based on the student’s educational status.

For international students wishing to work in Canada after graduation, IRCC has also updated the regulations for the post-graduate work permit. These adjustments ensure the flexibility of policies, enabling graduates to transition more effectively into the Canadian labor market and providing more support and opportunities for graduates seeking long-term residency. These changes are expected to positively impact Canada’s attractiveness for international education and enhance its status as a top learning destination.

Furthermore, let us look into the impact of the latest regulatory adjustments and administrative orders by the Canadian Federal Immigration Agency on future new international students regarding:

  • New application totals and additional requirements
  • Work hour restrictions during and between academic terms
  • Spousal work permits during and after studies
  • Post-graduate work permits
1. New application totals and additional requirements

According to news releases by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on December 1, 2023, January 22, 2024, and April 29, 2024, several significant visa policy changes were announced:

  • Quota Management System: For diploma and undergraduate level study permits, a quota management system has been implemented, with the target for issuing 360,000 permits in 2024.
  • Application Documentation Requirements: Each study permit applicant must submit an admission letter from the school. Additionally, based on the case officer’s requirements, other supporting documents may be needed.
  • Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL): Whether attending a language school, preparatory course, or a formal program, most students are required to provide a Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) from their province or region.
  • Financial Proof Adjustment: Starting from January 1, 2024, applicants coming to Canada alone for study must provide proof of financial capacity to cover the first year’s living expenses, which has been increased from 10,000 CAD to 20,635 CAD.
  • Post-Graduation Work Permit Policy: For master’s and doctoral programs lasting over eight months, even if the planned curriculum duration is less than two years, graduates can still apply for and receive a three-year open post-graduation work permit.
  • Spousal Work Permit: Only the spouses of master’s and doctoral students can apply for and receive an open spousal work permit.

These policy changes will significantly impact international students planning to study in Canada and their family members, especially adjustments in financial proof requirements and visa quotas, which will require more rigorous preparation and application processes.

2. Work hour restrictions during and between academic terms

You must continue to register as a full-time student in accordance with the standards set by the Federal Immigration Agency (at least 9 credits per semester) and the school regulations and departmental requirements (9, 10, 12, 15 credits or more per semester), and you must also meet other conditional restrictions (e.g., it cannot be a declared leave of absence).

  • During the Semester
    • On-Campus Work
      • You can work within the campus area without restrictions on the employer.
      • Work as a teaching assistant, research assistant, or else positions funded by school units, employed at off-campus locations.
    • Off-Campus Work
      • Starting from the opening day after September 2024, off-campus work can be up to 24 hours per week.
      • For those employed by companies outside of Canada and paid by those companies, there are no hourly limits.
      • If employed by a company registered in Canada and paid from Canada, even if your actual workplace is outside Canada (including Canada’s floating territories), you must adhere to the maximum weekly work hour limit.
    • During Academic Breaks (Winter and Summer Holidays)
      • No hourly limits.
      • No location restriction.
      • No restrictions on the location of employer.

If you are about to graduate and almost certain to do so, even if you are not a full-time student in your last semester, you can still work unlimited hours at school. (As long as you are willing to work hard, and your professors/bosses have not gone easy on you, especially for those confirmed for direct admission to master’s or doctoral programs or those who are guaranteed advancement to combined master’s and doctoral programs).

It’s important to note that work hours exceeding 20 per week accumulated under a student visa, and its directly derived co-op or internship work permits cannot be counted towards work experience for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). However, other programs such as non-EE PNP, EE-Linked PNP, EE\FSW, EE\FST, etc., are still applicable. Additionally, remote work for a company outside Canada during the academic term cannot be included in the CEC calculation.

3. Spousal work permits during studies and after graduation
  • During regular semesters
    • According to a news release by the Federal Immigration Agency dated March 19, 2024, the legal spouses or the common law partner of a student who meets the following qualifications can obtain a spousal work permit:
      • Master’s and Doctoral students in general academic fields.
      • Undergraduate and higher in specific biological, life, and medical sciences.
      • Undergraduate in applied science and engineering.
      • Undergraduate and higher in the field of education.
    • Spouses of other postgraduate (i.e., post-bachelor’s diploma) students are not eligible.
  • After Graduation (according to the news releases and updates issued by the Federal Immigration Agency on July 14, 2023, and March 28, 2024)
    • High-skill occupations are considered to be those in the National Occupational Classification (NOC), Training, Education, Experience, and Responsibilities (TEER) categories 0, 1, 2, or 3. They are regarded as TEER 0 or 1.
4. Post-graduate work permits

According to the official announcement from the Federal Immigration Agency on April 15, 2024, students who meet the following qualifications may be issued a post-graduation work permit corresponding to the duration approved:

  • Based on the official course duration set by the school (whether completed earlier or later, it does not affect the validity of the work permit issued).
  • Exchange students who study at institutions abroad but still obtain credits or other certifications from their original institutions in Canada.
  • Graduates from flight schools within Canada who obtain a commercial civil aviation pilot license, or who acquire flight instructor qualifications and are confirmed or employed as flight instructors.
  • Residents of Quebec who study and meet specific eligibility criteria.
  • General academic graduate programs at the master’s and doctoral levels.

It is important to note that study breaks of less than 150 days during diploma programs (approved and documented) are permissible; additionally, it should be clarified that not all school graduates are eligible for a post-graduation work permit, with general rules as follows:

  • Public Schools:
    • As long as the campus is confirmed to be covered.
  • Private Schools:
    • Verify whether the school qualifies for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWP).
    • Confirm if the campus is eligible for PGWP.
    • Check if the diploma program is covered (most are listed positively, a few well-known private schools are listed negatively).

For more details, please consult the official website of the Federal Immigration Agency about Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) at