Students from those countries who can satisfy a series of criteria encompassing language skills and financial resources will benefit from faster processing times.
Language requirements are stricter than for regular study permits. To qualify for the SDS, students needs to have a qualifying score of at least IELTS 6 for English or a 7 in the Niveaux the Compétence Linguistique Canadiens for French – or have graduated from a Canadian – curriculum high school.
“IRCC is committed to finding ways to…make its services faster, easier and more accessible”
In addition to this, students will need to submit proof of tuition payment for the first year of study in a designated learning institution in Canada, purchase of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate – a deposit in a bank account in Canada which guarantees a rate of return over a fixed period of time – and of a medical examination.
Students who don’t satisfy these requirements can apply through the regular study permit application.
The SDS complements the Express Entry system, IRCC explained in a statement, and these students will be “well placed” to proceed on to permanent residence and Canadian citizenship after they finish their studies.
A spokesperson from IRCC said the new scheme was aligning different programs that were already in place in those countries.
“IRCC is committed to finding ways to improve its International Student Program by making its services faster, easier and more accessible,” they said.
“Similar programs to SDS have been in place in China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines for a few years. We are aligning them together into one program to ensure consistency.”
Universities Canada welcomed the development, stating that it will make it “easier and faster” for students to study in Canada.
“Canada’s universities welcome the announced improvements to the visa application process for eligible students from China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines,” Universities Canada CEO Paul Davidson told The PIE News.
“The Study Direct Stream will make it easier and faster for even more of the world’s best and brightest minds to come to Canada and enrich our campuses.”
But Gabriela Facchini, international business development and partnerships manager at Sheridan College, said the new program could have negative effects on student recruitment.
The new SDS program is similar to the SPP program, another scheme that streamlined student visas for those headed to Canadian colleges, but includes both colleges and universities.
“It is hard to say how the increased competition from the addition of universities to this program will affect colleges as well,” she said.
She also posited that the financial prerequisites could act as a deterrent for students and may make life more complicated for agents.
“I hope this program does not expand to other markets”
“Many markets have no confidence in banking systems, so the idea, even if they have the funds, to transfer $10K to a Canadian bank they know nothing about would be a huge problem and it is very likely that students would choose alternative destinations where this is not a requirement,” she explained.
“The SDS option is also a lot more complicated for agents who have to convince students to not only pay for two terms of study but also to leave a $10K deposit with a bank,” she added.
“Just last week, a Vietnamese contact here in Canada thought the agent was trying to scam their family member in Vietnam and I had to assure them this was a bonafide process.”
Facchini added that she fears that the SDS applications will take priority, leaving anyone choosing to apply outside of the SDS more likely not only to wait longer but have greater chances of being rejected.
“I think it will make it more difficult for Canada to attract students as other markets do not make it so difficult to get students,” she concluded. “I hope this program does not expand to other markets.”
The IRCC spokesperson told The PIE added that the new program will be evaluated and potentially expanded in 2019 to Africa, with IRCC looking at options in Kenya and Senegal.
“Expansion to Senegal would be in line with the department’s focus to attract more French-speaking students to Canada,” they explained.
IRCC recently announced the creation of a new Francophone Immigration Hub in the context of the government plans to increase francophone immigration outside of Quebec with a target of 4.4% of all immigrants by 2023.