The number of study permits granted to foreign students has exploded in Canada. A way for some to set foot in the country with the sole objective of requesting asylum, noted Radio-United States.

Students enter UQAC.

More than 300 foreign students enrolled at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi requested asylum last year. (Archive photo)

Photo: Radio-United States / Mireille Chayer

On paper, there are sometimes hundreds, even thousands of foreign students per educational establishment. But increasingly, a significant number of them never set foot in the school that opened the doors to Canada for them.

In just one year, the number of asylum seekers arriving in Canada on study permits has almost tripled.

According to federal data obtained by Radio-United States, more than 11,300 asylum requests in 2023 concerned people who initially came to Canada to study. Or 8% of the total number of asylum requests made last year, a record year.

For years, Canada has not monitored the number of applications to study in Canada and, out of financial gain, schools have been motivated to bring in more and more foreigners. Ottawa has lost controljudges immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who has been studying for several years trade around these study permits.

We left the door open for anyone to come to Canada with study permits. We have not monitored the number of permits issued each year.

A quote from Richard Kurland, immigration lawyer

This phenomenon has grown enormously in a short time.

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In the space of five years, the number of asylum seekers entering Canada on study permits has increased sevenfold. At the same time, the number of study permits approved has also increased significantly, but to a much lesser degree.

Targeted Quebec universities

This situation concerns many private and public establishments, particularly in Ontario, where there is a high proportion of permits issued to Indian nationals.

Located in the suburbs of Toronto, Seneca College is at the top of the institutions having registered the most foreigners who end up requesting asylum. Other private Ontario establishments are affected.

Conestoga College.

Conestoga College, in Ontario, welcomed more than 30,000 international students in 2023. A spectacular increase in just a few years. (Archive photo)

Photo: Cameron Mahler/CBC

Conestoga College, for example, saw a phenomenal jump in international student enrollment (from 6,000 to 30,000 between 2018 and 2023), with, again, a sharp increase in the number of people seeking asylum once they arrived. in the country thanks to their study permit.

But Quebec is not left out. Far from there. Unlike other provinces, this problem essentially targets public institutions located in the regions, far from the Montreal metropolis.

no show","text":"In recent months, we have been made aware by the management of higher education establishments of the phenomenon of foreign students who enroll, but who end up never attending their classes, which 'we call them no shows'}}">In recent months, we have been made aware by the management of higher education establishments of the phenomenon of foreign students who enroll, but who end up never attending their classes, what we call no showrecognizes the office of the Minister of Immigration, Christine Fréchette.

Our hypothesis is that these are the same people who obtain a study permit and who subsequently apply for asylum seeker status.

A quote from Maude Méthot-Faniel, spokesperson for Minister Christine Fréchette

His predecessors have already tightened the screws, in the past, on private colleges recruiting Indian students on a massive scale. Now, eyes are turning to certain Quebec universities, which have also greatly increased the number of foreign student registrations.

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At the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC), more than 300 people registered at the establishment requested asylum last year. An increase of 342% in just a few months.

It is very difficult to find the causes of this situation.indicates Marie-Karlynn Laflamme, spokesperson for the Saguenay establishment, who says poorly equipped.

It is impossible to know the intentions of people from abroad who apply for admission to UQAC from a perspective other than that of studying there.

A quote from Marie-Karlynn Laflamme, spokesperson for UQAC

This phenomenon is similar at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières or at Laval University. These establishments share a common desire to attract more and more French-speaking African students to their ranks.

Admissions decisions are based on academic criteriadefends Laval University. The person does not declare their refugee status when completing an admission applicationwrites spokesperson Jérôme Pelletier by email.

Spectacular increase in registrations in Quebec

The Legault government regularly blames its federal counterpart for the massive increase in the number of temporary immigrants in Quebec. However, Quebec also participated in this increase by granting a record number of Quebec acceptance certificates (CAQ), a document prior to the issuance of a study permit by Ottawa, reserved for foreign nationals wishing to study in Quebec.

Last year, according to data released by the Access to Information Act, Quebec accepted nearly 157,000 CAQs, compared to 122,000 a year earlier and 97,000 in 2020. If desired , the Legault government also has the freedom to impose conditions for obtaining this certificate.

Profitable students for schools

What is problematic is that we are misusing the immigration systemestimates Quebec lawyer Krishna Gagné.

In his eyes, the study permit has sometimes become a key to setting foot in Canada. To apply for asylum, the person must find a way to arrive in Canada. If she manages to obtain an admission letter (from an establishment), it may be a route that may even be more feasible than the tourist visa.she adds.

Establishments have been used as a gateway to Canada, either to seek asylum or to find work.

A quote from Krishna Gagné, immigration lawyer

This situation would nevertheless be profitable for certain public and private institutions which would turn a blind eye to these stratagems, believes immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.

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Each student pays thousands of dollars to the school to come study in Canada. For schools, these are very significant sums. Because of this, there is a whole trade outside of Canada and it happens outside our laws.argues the Vancouver lawyer, who calls for more verifications from government authorities.

By paying these amounts and these sometimes high registration fees, a student obtains a virtual guarantee of arriving legally in Canada, he summarizes.

Schools must be motivated to monitor their students carefully and to carefully select people who will successfully complete their studies in Canada.

A quote from Richard Kurland, immigration lawyer

We must control the number of permits granted to each school, he suggests. If we see that many foreign students do not come to a specific school, the following year, the government must reduce the number of permits.

Ottawa, for its part, ensures that it is aware of these issues. It's necessary tighten the turnsadmits the federal Minister of Immigration, Marc Miller, in a recent interview with Radio-United States.

The latter, while casting blame on private colleges Ontario, does not hesitate to also criticize the laxity of certain universities.

Public institutions are not exempt from criticism.

A quote from Marc Miller, Federal Minister of Immigration

We have this phenomenon of people here for other reasons, with student visas, and who subsequently request asylum. It is a problemconfides Minister Miller.

Minister Marc Miller.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced several measures to limit abuse of study permits.

Photo: The U.S. Press / Spencer Colby

New rules imposed by Ottawa

In recent weeks, the federal government has also introduced new rules surrounding the arrival of foreign students in Canada. A temporary two-year ceiling was even put in place and an increase in financial requirements was decreed.

To also make these schemes linked to study permits less attractive, Ottawa has also decided, as of next September, to limit the number of hours of work permitted each week for these students to 24.

Before the pandemic, this maximum was set at 8 p.m., but the government lifted this cap in 2022 to counter the lack of labor.

With the collaboration of Louis Blouin

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