Long waiting times for Canadian study permits a ‘nightmare’ for Iranian students

Canadian student visa
Iranian students have been left in a limbo as they await a decision from the IRCC to approve their Canadian study permit, which has dragged on longer than the expected 12-week visa processing times. Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images/AFP

Studying in Canada is a dream for many international students. For some, however, the first hurdle that stands between their study abroad dreams are delays in securing a Canadian student visa or study permit.

Eleven Iranians are in limbo as their Canadian student visa applications have been delayed, with no end in sight. This has forced affected students to put their plans on hold, making it difficult to plan for the future.

Canadian student visa delays halt study plans for Iranians

Speaking to The PIE News, Hediehsadat Mian said she had to defer her studies at Polytechnique Montréal as many as three times. She had originally filed her student visa application in April 2021.

Mian was due to begin her fully-funded electrical engineering programme by autumn 2021, provided there were no hiccups in her application. According to the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) website, the average processing time of a Canadian student visa application is 12 weeks.

However, she claims that to this day, she is still waiting on a decision regarding her Canadian student visa application. Despite repeatedly contacting the IRCC in her quest to receive updates on her visa application, she has been met with generic responses.

The status updates range from her application being put through a “routine background check” process to the department simply remarking that they are unable to determine when the visa application process will be finished.

Mian told the portal that she aspires to be a good professor and continue her studies at a prestigious university; with the persistent delays in Canadian student visa application, she is unsure of what the future holds for her and for other affected Iranian students.

When filing for her student visa application, Mian had to travel to Turkey as there are no visa application centres in Iran to collect applicants’ biometrics. In 2021, Canada abruptly closed its embassy in Tehran following severed diplomatic ties with Iran.

This has forced Iranians, who make up six percent of applicants who have to travel to neighbouring countries to give their biometrics when applying for a Canadian visa. For Iranians, the nearest visa application centres are in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Visa delays are not a new issue

Last year, Peiman Pour Momen had his offer to pursue a PhD programme at the University of Saskatchewan withdrawn after being forced to defer his admission thrice. At the time, he had been waiting for his Canadian student visa to come through for 18 months.

“I am devastated. I’ve wasted 18 months of my life and still there is no end to this nightmare,” Momen was quoted saying by the Toronto Star.

As of September 2021, as many as 3,200 Canadian student visa applications filed by Iranians were pending approval. The lengthy processing times have not only caused frustration among applicants, but so did the high refusal rates.

The issue of student visa delays among Iranians is not just common in Canada, but in Australia too. Visa delays among Iranians caused them “excruciating hardships”, with some waiting up to years for their Australian student visa to come through.

Some PhD applicants even reported developing stress-related illnesses due to visa uncertainties — including autoimmune diseases, acute stress disorder, and weight loss.