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Canada: sector considers how to improve visa refusals from African students

Failure to fill in applications is partly to blame for high study permits denial rates among African students applying to study in Canada, but stakeholders have suggested other solutions.
February 27 2024
3 Min Read

Failure to fill in applications is partly to blame for mass rejections and high study permits denial rates for African students applying to study in Canada, stakeholders have suggested.

However, there is disagreement for the reason refusal rates have been as high as 75%.

Canadian student immigration group Borderpass has told The PIE that the involvement of immigration lawyers can ensure that application forms are filled accurately and the right information given to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officials.

Until now “quacks” have been able to rip students off thousands of dollars in return for poorly filled out documentation.

While a lot of agents can ably recruit students, not many have the competence to fill study visa applications resulting in the often shockingly high African refusal rates, Borderpass’s Max Donsky said.

“While African students are as good as those from any other place, many African agents lack the resources and the support to put up high quality applications,” he told The PIE News.

Companies that use immigration lawyers or recruitment companies with qualified in-house attorneys can properly guide students, he suggested.

“Often, African students are losing money to quacks who have penetrated the industry, charging as much as C$1500 per application while as opposed to a fee of around $200 charged by well established companies,” he lamented.

Mike Henniger from Illume Student Advisory Services said that looking at overall visa rejection rates from Africa to Canada “does not tell the complete story”.

“If you drill down at look at individual institutions’ visa success rates, you see a great deal of discrepancy,” he said. Illume has previously published a white paper on best practice on recruiting international students in Africa.

Within the U15 universities some have a 22% visa success rate in Nigeria, while others have 82%, he indicated.

“Many schools do not yet have an optimal plan in place for how to efficiently and responsibly recruit African students who are right for their programs. Achieving sustainable results in Africa does not happen by making a small tweak to strategies that have worked in Asia, Latin America, or elsewhere,” he told The PIE News.

Measures that Illume implements to increase visa success rates include written explanations as part of application processes to explain academic study gap exceeding one year, as well as market-specific confirmation deadlines.

Teams also hold interviews with offer holders to verify both the authenticity of submitted financial documents and the genuine intent of students to study at their institution.

 “When schools take accountability for their visa success rates we see a great deal of improvement and reduces incomplete and non-genuine visa applicants,” Henniger added.

“This is going to be increasingly important with the IRCC regulations in Canada.”

Recruiters such as Borderpass also deploy technologies including Artificial Intelligence with the aim of helping simplify the applications process while saving students money.

Donsky explained that when the Statement of Purpose document is fraudulently or incompetently filled, a disqualification often follows.

The problem of incompetent agents extended beyond Africa, and has been affecting students from other regions of the world, including Asia, Latin America and some parts of Europe in the recent past. claimed well-known sector commentator Earl Blaney.

The outspoken critic of aggregator platforms and sub-agent networks has fuelled incompetent and inexperienced agents who wrongly advise students, he suggested.

Linking overseas education agents to authorised immigration practitioners could be one way of helping solve the problem, he said.

It would also “assist with student support throughout students’ stay, and dramatically improve the prospects of skills retention to support Canada’s economic class immigration goals”.

“As many as 70% of agents in Africa are new”

“As many as 70% of agents in Africa are new, do not have enough knowledge of the process and the institutions they represent, and often have a problem submitting the right data to the IRCC,” Blaney noted.

Despite the problem, a new report by Canadian firm ApplyBoard analysing Canadian study permit trends, shows that the situation could however be potentially changing for the better.

Of the student populations with over 2,500 valid study permits, eight of Canada’s top 10 fastest-growing student populations came from African countries. Guinea recorded a 180% growth in 2023, the fastest growing population, followed by Ghana at 167% closely followed by Nepal at 166.5%, Nigeria with 113%, and Rwanda 101% increase rates.

Other African countries including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Algeria also made the top ten list, with impressive growth rates of between 78% and 99%.

“Nigerian with the record growth in Canada last year of 113% when compared to 2022 has the fourth-largest student population in Canada, accounting for over 4% of Canada’s total international student population in 2023,” said ApplyBoard’s Brooke Kelly.

“Though changes are expected as a result of Canada’s recent international student cap, 71% of ApplyBoard’s applicants from Africa were approved for a study permit in the 2023 intake semesters,” she added.

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