Late last year, the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration in Québec issued a decree suspending the processing of international applications at 10 institutions as a result of “dubious” international student recruitment practices.
“We are feeling frustrated, harassed and depressed”
Since then the ministry said it had resumed the reception and processing of applications on a temporary basis for students who had already submitted documents.
However students told The PIE News that are still waiting for their applications to be processed. In response, they held protests in Chandigarh, India, in front of the office of the General Consulate of Canada and handed applications to a member of staff.
“Many of those students have been attending online classes since fall 2020 without having any surety they will have a visa or not,” one of the students who was at the protest told The PIE.
“Our money is deposited in those ten colleges. We are feeling frustrated, harassed and depressed,” they added.
As of yet the students who took part in the protest said that they had not received an official response from the Canadian authorities.
Delays happening across Canada
The PIE learnt that many students from institutions that weren’t featured on the list of ten Québec institutions are still waiting for their visas to be processed. This includes students who applied to institutions in other provinces and territories.
The PIE worked with international students to put together a data set to better understand how many of them are still waiting for their visas to be processed.
Some 519 students provided information about their applications. Of these responses 486 were from students who had applied for a study permit in either 2019 or 2020 but who had still not received PPR.
“I have raised plenty of webforms and submitted the fresh documents but nobody cares”
While the overall majority of these students had applied to one of the ten Québec colleges that had applications suspended, a significant number of students (165) had applied to institutions that aren’t on the list.
This means that students are still facing significant delays from provinces and territories across Canada and not just Québec. For example there were 129 students who had applied to Ontario-based institutions in 2019/2020 and still have not received a response.
“It’s been more than 14 months that I have been waiting for my study visa approval. I lodged my file in February 2020 with complete documents but then Covid-19 happened and I am still waiting for my visa. I have raised plenty of webforms and submitted the fresh documents but nobody cares,” one student studying online at an Ontario college told The PIE.
Reports from immigration consultants also appear to show that some students who have applied for the May 2021 and September 2021 intake have had their applications processed.
Students who applied for their visas over a year ago told The PIE that they believe that IRCC is not prioritising the backlog of applications over new applications.
The PIE contacted IRCC for comment on the students’ concerns but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Serious mental health concerns
Earlier this year The PIE reported on how visa processing delays have been affecting the mental health of students.
While speaking with a number of Indian students, the pressure of the delays was apparent. Two students told The PIE that they were suicidal and many others said that they were suffering from depression.
In a previous response concerning the mental health impact that the processing delays have had on students IRCC told The PIE: “We understand that the situation can be stressful for international students waiting for their visa to come to Canada. People experiencing mental health issues should seek medical attention in their community.”
IRCC provided The PIE News with the following comment on 16/04/2021:
The government recognises the tremendous social, cultural and economic benefits that international students bring to Canada and that there are benefits for students who choose to study in Canada beyond earning a degree or diploma.
While we can’t speculate on any specific case, there are a variety of reasons that a study permit application submitted a year ago, at the start of the pandemic, could still be in processing and not finalised.
From March to October 2020, travel restrictions prevented most international students from travelling to Canada, even if their study permit application was finalised and approved. With reduced processing capacity during the pandemic, IRCC prioritised finalising applications for those who were exempt from the travel restrictions at the time, such as family members of Canadians and agricultural and health-care workers.
After travel restrictions for students changed in October, IRCC has prioritized study permit applications from prospective students whose designated learning institution (DLI) had a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by their province or territory. When the list was introduced, fewer than half of the DLIs in Canada had a COVID-19 readiness plan. Since then, the list has been updated every 2 weeks and the number of DLIs on it has grown, with about 75% of active DLIs now on the list of DLIs with approved COVID-19 plans.
During the pandemic, IRCC has also allowed applicants to submit incomplete applications and provide missing documents later in the process. In some cases, this meant that IRCC didn’t have a complete application from the applicants for weeks or months and wouldn’t be able to finalise the application until all of the missing documentations were submitted by the clients. IRCC recently announced changes to the processing of incomplete applications.
Study permit processing is also continuing for applicants accepted to study at one of the designated learning institutions identified as being part of an investigation by the province of Quebec. Additional checks and verifications may be necessary for officers to reach final decisions in these cases, resulting in slower processing.
Despite the processing challenges presented by the global pandemic, all applications submitted will still be finalised as soon as we are able to do so.
Throughout the pandemic, IRCC has strived to accommodate international students and be fair with applicants by introducing a variety of temporary policy changes.
For instance, IRCC recently extended and expanded measures to benefit international students studying online from abroad: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2021/02/government-of-canada-announces-further-measures-to-support-international-students.html
Temporary facilitative measures were put in place earlier in the pandemic to recognize that restrictions related to the global fight against the spread of COVID-19 meant that many students were studying online from abroad.
For students who complete most or all of their program from abroad, we encourage universities and colleges to provide meaningful Canadian experiences to their students and alumni, both virtually and once they are able to travel to Canada, to help them transition to working here.
As Canada and countries around the world continue to fight the spread of COVID-19, those measures have been extended and expanded. Through these measures, international students whose program was already in progress in March 2020 or who started a program in any semester from spring 2020 up to fall 2021 will be able to:
– Count the time they have studied online from abroad from March 2020 to the end of 2021 toward the eligibility and length of a PGWP without penalty
– Complete up to 100% of their program(s) online from abroad and remain eligible for a PGWP.