Study Abroad: Recent changes in Canada’s student visa – The Indian Express

— Manisha Zaveri
Canada has long been a popular destination for Indian students seeking to build a better life for themselves and their families. According to rankings by the Times Higher Education and QS rankings, Canadian universities consistently stand tall among the world’s top academic institutions. However, the recent diplomatic spat between India and Canada has become a cause of worry for Indian students aspiring to study in Canada.
Over the past few years, the Canadian government has made several significant changes to its visa policies and immigration programmes. Most new study permits are now being processed within the 60-day service standard.
In 2018, Canada introduced the Student Direct Stream (SDS) programme, streamlining the study permit application process for students from select countries, including India, China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. SDS applicants were required to meet specific eligibility criteria, including language proficiency and financial requirements.
The process of obtaining a study permit involves multiple steps, and it’s essential to recognise that processing times can vary significantly from one country to another. Therefore, meticulous planning is advisable to ensure that your permit is processed before your intended study period commences. The majority of Canadian post-secondary educational programmes typically commence their studies in September, January, or May. However, it’s worth noting that some programmes offer intakes outside of these traditional dates.
Since foreign nationals cannot initiate a study permit application without an acceptance letter from their chosen institution, it is imperative to proactively check the start dates and application procedures for the schools and programmes of interest well in advance. This proactive approach will allow sufficient time for obtaining the acceptance letter and subsequently completing the study permit application process.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced travel restrictions worldwide, the government introduced measures to facilitate online learning for international students who couldn’t travel to Canada and provided flexibility regarding study permit application deadlines. In response to the pandemic, Canada introduced temporary measures to support international students in 2021, allowing students to count time spent studying online abroad toward their PGWP eligibility. This was a significant change to facilitate international students’ ability to work in Canada after graduation.
In 2020, Canada introduced additional support measures for international students who were beginning new online programs in the fall. These measures aimed to address concerns raised by Canadian institutions regarding students enrolling, paying for their programmes, and starting online studies without being sure when they would receive their study permits.
These measures also included a temporary two-stage approval process for international students who couldn’t provide all the necessary documents for their applications but chose to pursue distance learning programmes. Under this temporary process, applicants could count their online study time abroad towards their post-graduation work permit once they received initial approval, provided they met all requirements. However, they still needed to submit the remaining documents and obtain a fully approved study permit before travelling to Canada, especially as services gradually reopened.
In addition to these measures, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is also planning to introduce a trusted institution framework to its student visa programme by 2024. This framework is part of a broader strategy to modernise the International Student Program (ISP) operated by IRCC. While specific details are limited, the framework aims to evaluate post-secondary institutions based on criteria such as sustainable intake, identifying genuine students, compliance monitoring, safety, and overall quality of the international student experience.
At present, international students getting admission to Canadian institutions must be classified under Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) approved by their respective provincial or territorial governments. For this, international students require an acceptance letter from a DLI to apply for a study permit in Canada. The framework will also establish a two-tiered structure among DLIs, with some being recognised as Trusted Institutions and others not.
However, the ongoing disagreement between India and Canada due to diplomatic circumstances, along with the recent suspension of visa services announced by the Indian Government, has created uncertainty for numerous students and their parents. This unexpected development has left students perplexed, with concerns about their educational plans in Canada and their overall safety.
It’s important to recognise that both nations share a long-standing and robust relationship, and diplomatic tensions can surface periodically.
These matters are often resolved through dialogue and cooperation.
While the temporary suspension of visa services may present challenges, it’s crucial to remain adaptable and explore alternative plans if necessary.
Aspiring students should stay updated on the latest Canadian immigration policies by regularly visiting the official Government of Canada website or seeking guidance from Canadian immigration authorities. Students intending to study in Canada should anticipate potential delays in visa processing, especially for the upcoming spring academic session scheduled for January 2024. Canada’s immigration policies have demonstrated their ability to adapt to global dynamics, emphasising diversity and inclusivity. As we look ahead, Canada continues to stand as a promising destination for individuals seeking a brighter future through quality education, unwavering in its commitment to welcoming newcomers from around the world. Depending on the situation’s progression, it is advisable for students to consider planning their academic endeavours for the following fall or autumn semester, slated for August 2024.
(The writer is the Joint Managing Director of Career Mosaic)


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