British Columbia is asking the Canadian government to spare schools that train people for key jobs such as trucking and health care from its crackdown on international student visas. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is curbing the number of foreign students allowed into the country amid rising public frustration about housing costs. But it should be careful not to squeeze out students who can fill jobs in sectors where there are labor shortages, BC Post-Secondary Education Minister Lisa Beare told reporters Friday.

Beare said she’s meeting with federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller “to continue the conversation about increasing B.C.’s allowance of letters of attestation for in-demand areas,” including trucking, early childhood education and health services. 

The letters are sent by provincial governments to schools, which send them to foreign-student applicants as proof that their application has been accounted for under Canada’s student-visa limits. 

Lagging in polls, Trudeau is taking steps to slow immigration after letting it soar to record levels. Canada’s population jumped by 1.25 million to 40.5 million in the year that ended Oct. 1, and a surge in foreign students was a key part of that rise. 

Miller announced plans in January to cap foreign student visas, reducing the number by about 35 per cent from 2023 levels — but the new restrictions don’t take British Columbia’s “unique” needs into account, Beare said in a statement. 

This year, private colleges in B.C. — Canada’s third most populous province — will get 27 per cent fewer study permit applications than they did in 2023, likely imperiling the business models of many internationally-focused institutions. 

Beare declined to comment on how many colleges could be affected. The new provincial system for attestation letters will come into effect on Monday, the B.C. government added. 

Overall, the province expects the number of approved study permits to decline about 17 per cent this year.