Canada sees sharp drop in study permits for Indian students
Canada's Immigration Minister Marc Miller reported a significant decline in the number of study permits issued to Indian students late last year, following India's expulsion of Canadian diplomats involved in processing these permits.
This reduction was also due to fewer applications from Indian students amidst a diplomatic row over the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada. In an interview, Miller expressed doubt that these numbers would recover soon, citing ongoing diplomatic tensions since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's June statement linking Indian agents to Nijjar's murder in British Columbia.
The dispute has hindered Canada's ability to process applications from India, with the country forced to withdraw 41 diplomats, or two-thirds of its staff, from India in October. Consequently, Indian students have been exploring educational opportunities in other countries, according to a spokeswoman for the minister. This situation led to an 86% decrease in study permits issued to Indians in the last quarter of 2022, dropping to 14,910 from 108,940, as per previously unreported official data.
C. Gurusubramanian, counselor for the High Commission of India in Ottawa, mentioned that some Indian students are considering alternatives to Canada due to concerns about residential and teaching facilities at certain Canadian institutions.
Indian students have been the largest group of international students in Canada, with more than 41% (225,835) of all permits in 2022. Miller commented on the uncertain future of diplomatic relations, especially if charges are laid in the Nijjar case.
International students, who contribute about C$22 billion ($16.4 billion) annually, are crucial for Canadian universities. The government is also looking to reduce the overall number of international students in response to a housing shortage. Miller indicated that the government plans to introduce measures, including a possible cap, to lower the number of international students in the first half of this year.
Canada, known for its ease in obtaining work permits post-graduation, intends to address its generous postgraduate work permit program and crack down on "fly-by-night" universities. Planned measures include curbing off-campus work hours for international students, which could impact labor in the food service and retail sectors.
In 2023, Canada expected around 900,000 international students, a threefold increase from a decade ago. Miller noted that 40% of these students, or about 360,000, were Indian. Despite a 4% decline in permits to Indian students last year, they remained the largest group.