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Canada’s international student population has risen impressively.

Last year, approximately 450,000 new study permits were issued in Canada, a remarkable number that considerably surpassed the previous all-time high set in 2019.

Prior to the pandemic, just over 400,000 new study permits were issued in Canada, with that number dropping to just over 255,000 in 2020. In comparison to 2015, the number for last year was more than doubled.

On a monthly basis, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) publishes information on new study permits that become effective. These include both fresh students arriving in Canada and foreign citizens who have previously established residency in Canada and have successfully obtained a study permit.

Predictably, the most new study permits were issued in July and August, totaling over 200,000, just before the start of the 2021/22 academic year.

Year-end data is also published by IRCC in the first quarter of each new calendar year. The information is a snapshot of all students who had a valid study permit as of December 31st. With the influx of new study permits, Canada’s international student population has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Canada had almost 622,000 international students as of December 31st. Its international student population peaked at over 640,000 in 2019, before plummeting to around 530,000 in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Canada imposed travel restrictions at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, affecting many potential students who had yet to reach the country. Canada eased these restrictions in October 2020, allowing the country’s international student population to recover. This explains why Canada saw a record-breaking number of new international students arrive last year. Last year’s high number of study permits was largely due to a double cohort of student arrivals: those who wanted to come to Canada in 2020 but couldn’t because of the pandemic, and those who planned to start their studies in Canada in 2021.

The relaxation of Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) requirements in Canada was undoubtedly a crucial factor in the recovery. Prior to the pandemic, IRCC did not allow distance learning to count toward PGWP eligibility, but they have temporarily relaxed this policy until August 31, 2022 to assist those who wish to continue their studies in Canada despite the pandemic.

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