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Saudis protest at Canadian visa delays

Canada’s slow visa processing times have finally come back to haunt it. To protest against the excessive delays faced by Saudi Arabians travelling to Canada (many of them students), Saudi embassies are deliberately prolonging processing times for Canadians travelling the other way.

“The problems are definitely not restricted to Saudi students and affect most Canadian missions”

As of September 1st, Canadians must wait 30-45 days for a Saudi visa, reports Embassy magazine. This is the “same amount of time it takes Saudi citizens to obtain a visa from the Canadian embassy in Riyadh”, according to a Saudi embassy spokesperson.

The head of the consular section of Saudi Arabia’s Ottawa embassy told the magazine that the move sent a “clear and strong message” that Canada’s current waiting times were unacceptable.

Saudis travelling to Canada to study are said to have been particularly affected by the Canadian delays. It takes about six weeks to process a study permit for a Saudi going to Canada, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, compared with two to four weeks in the UK, and three to four in the US.

Saudi students must also get a separate entry visa, valid for a limited period, which sources say is taking up to three months to renew – up from three to four weeks previously. This is worrying many who feel their visa will expire before their course finishes.

CIC spokesperson, Nancy Caron, told Embassy that the delays for study permits were due to “a sudden and unexpected increase in the number of applications received during the summer,” and added that CIC was committed to improving them.

An immigration official also blamed the extended security checks that have applied to Saudis since the 9/11 attacks.

However, others say delays are widespread and reflect a flawed immigration system. “The problems are definitely not restricted to Saudi students and affect most Canadian missions,” said Executive Director of Languages Canada, Gonzalo Peralta. “Our visa officers are overwhelmed with requests and work within a system that is not appropriate to today’s student mobility needs.”

“Canada’s is one of the most difficult embassies for Colombians. Visas take a long time”

Lina Munoz, who runs the agency Top Colleges in Bogota, Colombia, said: “Canada’s is one of the most difficult embassies for Colombians. Visas take a long time… a month at least, while for the UK it takes less than 10 days and Australia 20 days maximum,” she said.

Cris Saito operations manager at STB, Brazil’s largest international education company, said Brazilians had to wait around 60 days for visas.

Peralta warned that Canada’s international education sector, which is tipped to expand next year, could face enormous setbacks through misjudged immigration policies and processes.

“It seems that when there is change of personnel in missions the acceptance rates and processing times change as well, so the best laid out plans and investments made by Canadian educational institutions can be thrown out the window,” he said.

“For international students, it often means not being able to arrive for the beginning of their semester. For Canadian educational institutions, it means empty seats that had been assigned,” he said.

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