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Indian students appeared to be less interested in obtaining Canadian study permits last year, even before the federal government announced a clampdown on visas.

The federal immigration department processed roughly 308,000 study permit applications from India in 2023, a decline of 15 per cent from the previous year. Processed applications may be approved, refused or withdrawn.

It’s a trend that has picked up pace. In December, there was a 61-per-cent drop in processed applications, compared with December of 2022.

Ben Rabidoux, founder of Edge Realty Analytics and North Cove Advisors, recently pointed to this shift on social media. “Has Canada damaged its reputation in the eyes of prospective international students?” he asked on X, formerly Twitter.

India is a huge source of international students in Canada, which has seen the total number of study permits balloon to more than one million from around 350,000 in 2015. This has led to criticism that some postsecondary schools are exploiting foreign students for high tuition fees by selling them on the prospect of permanent residency, while putting pressure on local housing markets.

The federal government announced in January that it is temporarily capping the number of visas it issues to students. Ottawa has also boosted the financial requirements for applicants by more than double to $20,635.

Balpreet Singh, an immigration consultant in Surrey, B.C., said that Indian students are less interested in Canada because of the new financial requirements, the high cost of living and a weaker labour market.

Furthermore, Immigration Minister Marc Miller told Reuters in January that diplomatic tensions between the countries – Ottawa linked the Indian government to the killing of a Sikh leader in B.C. – had reduced Canada’s processing capacity and that there were fewer applications for student visas.

Decoder is a weekly feature that unpacks an important economic chart.

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