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African agents allege bias over low Canadian permits approval rates

African international student advisory agents are alleging bias over sustained low rates of student permits approvals for applications to study in Canada when compared to those for the rest of the world.

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The number of Algerian students applying for Canadian study permits increased by almost 400% between 2016 and 2020

The placement agents say the high rejection rates visas applications for students from the continent had discouraged many from seeking to study in the North American country for fear of being turned down. Agents have in turn been advising students to look elsewhere for college education if they wanted to achieve their dream of acquiring top quality education.

They are heaping blame on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for the situation where average approval for students from Africans has dipped to three times below the average of other source markets.

“The reasons given for rejection of study permits applications are never convincing enough”

“The reasons given for rejection of study permits applications are never convincing enough,” said Farook Lalji head of Study Options Africa Limited.

“They leave us with more questions than answers. It’s very frustrating because when we direct such students to other countries in Europe or Australia they easily get study visas.

“We think the real reason for rejection is basically racial profiling, when a student’s papers are right, how does an immigration official purport to know that the student won’t return home upon completion of studies, by just looking at him in the face?”

He added that the most common reason cited for refusal of study visas is that visa officers don’t feel applicants will leave Canada at the end of their stay.

The agents spoke in reaction to data shared by Canadian international education company ApplyBoard, which showed that approval for all the 137 source markets stood at 60% in 2019, while that of Africa stood at around 22%. The PIE News has previously reported that three in four African student applications were rejected in 2019.

The ApplyBoard data showed approval rates was even lower for one of the biggest students’ source on the continent – Nigeria which was a mere 17.6%, rising marginally to 18% in 2020.

Other countries such as Rwanda did not fare much better getting only 17% of visas applied issued in 2020 and which increased to 23% in 2021 between January and June. Surprisingly Zimbabwe performed better with a student visa issuance rate of 25% in 2020 that increased to 44% in 2021, Meti Basiri, ApplyBoard co-founder told the The PIE News.

On the other hand in Kenya, which Basiri saw as an emerging market, only 30% of those who wanted to study in Canada in 2020 were issued with visas, which later decreased to 27% in the first half of 2021.

“Study permit approval rates have become a significant roadblock for Kenyan students over the past few years. Though the approval rate for Kenyan nationals surpassed 52% in 2017, it fell to around 30% in 2019 and 2020,” he observed.

“In spite of the global pandemic, Algeria remained one of the most stable markets for Canadian institutions in 2020. Despite a 70% issued study permit decline across all markets, 19% more study permits were issued to Algerian nationals in 2020 than in 2018,” he said.

The number of Algerian students applying for Canadian study permits increased by almost 400% between 2016 and 2020, Basiri disclosed. This was attributable to French language which is widely used in the country with interest being directed to Quebec region. “In 2020, over 73% of Algerian students issued Canadian study permits studied at Université du Québec schools,” he added.

“We have been focusing on other destinations where students have a realistic chance of getting a visa”

According to Irene Kamau, director 3M Overseas Education Advisory Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, it had become pointless for placement agencies to continue trying to recruit students for Canadian institutions owing to low chances of success. Trying to send students to Canada was bad for both students and placement companies, she noted.

“In the last five to seven years we have been focusing on other destinations where students have a realistic chance of getting a visa. It is a waste of time and money to keep trying to go to a place where you have possibility of succeeding, as a result we prefer a destination like Australia where a visa is guaranteed so as long all conditions have been complied with,” she added.

To avoid the ‘vague’ reasons for turning down the applications, Lalji proposes that Canada expands the Students Direct Stream in Africa, like it had in some countries in Asia and Latin America earlier this year to achieve more ‘fairness’ in issuance of visas.

The SDS he said assured students from beneficiary countries almost guaranteed visa to universities, the only major requirement being able to produce a CAN$10,000 Guaranteed Investment Certificate.

Countries benefiting from the scheme include India, Pakistan and China in Asia, and Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago in the larger South America. Senegal is the only beneficiary in Sub-Saharan Africa region.

However statistics have shown that only five SDS applications from Senegal were approved in Q1 and Q2 of 2021.

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