In 2021 alone, there were 621,656 international students studying in Canada. Despite the country coming under fire recently for its high visa rejection rates among students of certain nationalities, studies suggest it remains the preferred study destination for many. Last year, IDP Connect found that 69% of 3,650 students interviewed for the “New Horizons” survey ranked Canada as their most considered study destination.
However, a worrying trend emerged last year: Canada has reportedly been denying thousands of student visa applicants from countries like India and Nigeria. Some Iranian students have also been in limbo as their Canadian student visa applications have been delayed, with no end in sight.
Indian-born Radhika Patel was one such student who had her Canada student visa rejected for the second time. According to the Times Of India (TOI), Patel is a commerce graduate with distinction grades and a 6.5 bands score in the IELTS.
Canada student visa rejection rates have reportedly doubled in some countries
Patel is not the only one to suffer setbacks from not obtaining her visa. Post-COVID-19, the TOI reported that overseas education consultants are reporting high Canadian student visa rejection rates of 40% to 50% this year.
Student visa consultant Anuj Parikh was quoted saying by the daily that the refusal rate has “more than doubled” this year. Pre-COVID-19, Canada student visa rejection rates were between 15 to 20%.
Another visa consultant, Bhavin Thaker, attributed the high visa rejection rates to the “unusually high number of pending visa applications”.
Declining interest in other study destinations
Both student visa consultants speculated that another reason for high student visa rejection rates in Canada could be due to international students’ declining interest in other popular study abroad destinations such as Australia and New Zealand — two countries that closed their doors to international students due to COVID-19 concerns.
Just like Patel, stellar students with promising profiles are not safe from Canada student visa refusals either. Ankit Mistry, another student visa consultant, said: “There is no formal explanation for the rejections but most are surprising, as these are students with excellent academic profiles and paperwork.”
Processing times for student visas have also increased exponentially, and can take anywhere between nine to twelve months long, shares visa consultant Lalit Advani.
Critics allege ‘racial bias’ behind high Canada student visa refusals
The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration published a report earlier this year on the possibly discriminatory treatment faced by some foreign students, after gathering evidence on issues like high study permit refusal rates and racism within the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
The report found that Canada student visa rejection rates were particularly high among students from Africa. It also suggests that IRCC visa officer decisions “may be affected by racial bias”, following concrete proof provided by an employee focus group. Some of the instances of racism reported included internal references to certain African countries as “the dirty 30” and stereotypes of Nigerians “as particularly untrustworthy.”
Talented graduates in limbo
Student visa rejections don’t just affect prospective students. They also affect graduates who have completed their studies at Canadian universities. The frustration extends to employers looking to recruit talented graduates, as is the case with Twitter user @JeanlabUdes:
2/2 @CIHR_IRSC and @NSERC_CRSNG, our work is funded by your agencies and yet immigration Canada blocks student entry through arbitrary Visa decisions. Is there something that CIHR or NSERC can do? I am baffled, and there is a clear bias given the country of origin of the student
— JeanLab-UdeS (@JeanlabUdes) March 31, 2022
Twitter user @KomguepJules replied to a tweet posted by Minister of Immigration, Sean Fraser to rebuke his statement about welcoming “immigrants to contribute to our communities”:
Despite this dire need for immigrants, the Dakar visa office continues to reject student permit applications particularly for French speaking applicants who have the Québec CAQ and scholarship arguing that they there is no proof they will leave Canada at the end of their studies
— Komguep Jules (@KomguepJules) July 17, 2022