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Canada speeds up student visas, Nigeria

Canadian immigration services have promised to improve students visa processing times in another major student market, Nigeria, after complaints about lengthy delays. Speaking at the Canadian Education Fair in Lagos on January 23, Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria Chris Cooter said moves were being made to reduce the stress of applying.

CIC said it had begun a major drive to improve processing efficiency worldwide

“We have worked with a company to open a visa application centre which started a few weeks ago where our students can get visas easily,” he told Nigerian national newspaper the Nation.

“We have also increased the number of clinics we have so that our students can do their check-ups without delay,” he said of the medical certificates all Nigerian require before obtaining a student visa.

As previously reported in The PIE News, Canada has received complaints from other markets in recent months. In October it publicly apologised to Saudi Arabia, after waiting times of up to six weeks led to the reciprocal stalling of Canadian applications. There have also been complaints from Russia, Brazil and Colombia.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) told The PIE News the Nigerian delays were largely due to an increase in postal applications during the summer months that were incomplete and had to be returned to the applicant.

However, it said processing times varied between regions and that it had begun a major drive to improve processing efficiency worldwide. In December it opened six new visa applications centres (VACs) in West Africa (including the one in Lagos), along with new medical centres.

Plans to expand its VAC network to have global coverage and standardised services were also announced at the end of January. Client service agents at the VACs can explain, in local languages, how to fill out application forms. Until now, visa centre expansion has been limited to locations with sufficiently high volumes of applications and access to service providers.

Anecdotal evidence suggests times have already begun to improve in some markets. Cris Saito, operations manager at Brazil’s biggest agency chain STB, told the PIE  that waiting times of 60 days in early December were now around 30 to 40 days.

“The timing hasn’t really improved much but I think they are respecting the timing they had promised in advance, which is good. They are also not losing documents as before, so in terms of service I think the feedback has been better,” she said.

“Delayed visa processing is not a big issue in India”

Indian agents said they had experienced little problem. “Delayed visa processing is not a big issue in India and [Canada] are on par with most other countries,” said Arun Jacob, Director of Array Globe. Ganga Dandapani, Vice President Marketing at Canam Consultants, said applications took five days to four weeks depending how late they were submitted. Those later than five weeks before the start of a course were usually rejected.

The efforts to improve processing come in a pivotal period for Canadian international education, which stands to benefit as the UK and Australia lose students through visa-related policy hurdles. From 2005-2011 the number of international students in Canada increased 40% to more than 96,000, and a national strategy for the sector will be unveiled in spring.

Gonzalo Peralta, Executive Director of Languages Canada, welcomed the improvements but warned problems were yet to be addressed. “Steps also need to be taken to ensure that immigration staff are well-versed on bona fide Canadian institutions, both public and private. This will protect students and improve processing of visas. We look forward to seeing the results,” he said.

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