What is PAL (Provincial Attestation Letter), and how does it impact international students in Canada?

The Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) is one of the recent requirements added in by Canada to the application process of foreign students for study permit. In essence, PAL is a letter intended to introduce a student who confirms their enrollment and eligibility within the set quota for international students, in the province or territory of his or her study. It is a very vital tool for study in Canada as it injects some fairness in the population growth of international students among the provinces and instills integrity in the system, ensuring a positive student experience. There are several implications of introducing the PAL system on international students in Canada, including:

Study Permit Requirement for the Application: Effective January 22, 2024, most college and undergraduate international students will require a PAL when applying for a study permit. Incomplete applications will be returned that do not include the PAL, unless there is an exemption or justification.

Verification of Enrollment: PAL confirms that a student is within the provincial territorial quota, hence contributing in-growth in International Education Program in a sustainable manner.

Implications for the International Student Population: The changes to the post-graduation work permit (PGWP) and spousal eligibility for open work permits, capped with the new PAL requirement, aim to manage unsustainable student growth and address concerns about the quality of education and student support in certain programs.

Processing and Validity: The PAL letter is issued to the institution, which then forwards it to the student. Usually, the PAL is valid for one year, and the application for processing the study permit has to be made under having the PAL.

In broad terms, the PAL requirement is a paradigm shift in the Canadian education system, ensuring a symmetrically balanced admissions process for international students and aiding in healthy growth as well as the upkeep of integrity within the International Student Program in Canada.

Who Needs PAL?

According to the new requirements of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), most international students who are coming to study in Canada at the post-secondary level—undergraduate university and college students and most non-degree graduate programs, such as certificates and diplomas—need to submit a Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) from the province or territory in which their DLI is located.

However, some international students are exempted from the requirement of PAL, which includes the following:

  • Students in primary or secondary levels.
  • Students in the Master’s or Doctoral level.
  • In-Canada visiting or exchange students who are studying in a DLI
  • In-Canada study permits and work permits, already, including existing holders of a study permit who are applying to extend its validity period
  • The family members of the holder who are in the In-Country with a study or work permit
  • Students who have already received approval for their study permit and are intending to come to Canada for an upcoming program.
  • Students who applied before January 22, 2024 8:30 a.m. EST

The PAL serves as a proof that the student’s presence has been taken into consideration for the provincial or territorial allocation under the new national cap on study permits. IRCC will not process a study permit application received without a PAL that was submitted on or after the publication date of these instructions, unless the applicant is exempt.

How to get a PAL?

Under the new PAL issuing systems, some international students seeking to study in Canada must first obtain a LOA from their preferred DLI and confirm their admission with their institution (typically through a deposit). The particular details of the monetary amount and nature of the deposit can change based on the specific DLI that an international student attends, so IRCC recommends that students contact the institution directly to discover the specific information that applies to them. Once admission is confirmed, DLIs will apply to the relevant province government on the student’s behalf for a PAL. Once a PAL is received, schools will make it available to the student, who can then use the letter, along with their LOA and other required documents, to apply for a Canadian study permit.

What details should be included in a PAL?

According to ministerial instructions provided by IRCC, a PAL for an international student should have at least the following information:

An applicant (for international students):

  1. Full name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Address
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