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Canada: Visa delays risking mental health of int’l students

International students are facing serious mental health problems after waiting almost a year for their Canadian study permits to be processed, The PIE News has learnt. 

Indian students told The PIE that they were experiencing serious mental health issues because of visa processing delays. Photo: Pexels

"I’m suffering from mental trauma and I am not able to sleep properly"

Students told The PIE that they were taking medication for depression, with one student saying that they are suicidal. 

“Students have been taking antidepressants”

Some have been waiting for their visas to be processed since March 2020, and say they have had no contact from IRCC to update them on the status of their application. 

Others were given an agreement in principle to enter the country, as part of IRCC’s two-stage application process that ran last year and subsequently signed up for university courses. However they have since been rejected on the second stage. 

“This entire situation has been so miserable – and nobody has been held accountable,” an Indian student who did not want to be named told The PIE. 

“You wouldn’t believe what has been happening. Students have been taking antidepressants. Our parents have been suffering too,” she said. 

“We are in depression,” another told The PIE. “Sometimes we think we [have lost] everything, every hope… then we think to [take] wrong steps like suicide,” they said. 

Visa processing backlogs have resulted in long waits for international students who are hoping to enter Canada on study permits. 

Indian students in particular have been facing long waiting times. At the time of writing IRCC’s website estimated that study permits for Indian applicants would be issued within 14 weeks. 

However, The PIE accessed a Whatsapp group for Indian students who had applied in March, with some 194 members, and spoke with many who said that they were still waiting for their applications to be processed. 

“Everyday we live with anxiety, bad mental health and constant pressure from our parents”

These students have started their courses at Canadian universities and are studying online. But poor internet connectivity, time zone differences and the uncertainty caused by the visa backlogs has taken a serious toll on their mental health. 

“We all did our first semester online and the second semester has already started. Everyday we live with anxiety, bad mental health and constant pressure from our parents because if we receive a rejection, not only our money will have gone down the drain, but the [also the] effort and time that went into studying online at night from different time zones,” one student said. 

Another told The PIE that he had taken a large loan to finance his studies in Canada, and had paid for one semester. He did not want to lose that money by dropping out of his course. 

“We have taken loans for education and we are paying interest. If [IRCC] can’t issue a visa or give a decision, how can we plan our future? 

“The colleges fear they will lose their income, they have come up with new rules by deducing a lump amount of money we paid as fees.”

Students who applied for visas in March told The PIE, that others who had applied for their study permits more recently had actually received them, leading to questions around how processing is being prioritised. 

“We are also making great strides in processing more applications virtually”

IRCC told The PIE that it is “rapidly adapting, innovating and evolving” to best serve Canadians and those who wish to come to the country. 

The spokesperson explained that while none of the processing centres have been completely shut down, visa application centres (VACs) around the world have in many instances had to temporarily close, including in India, which has delayed processing. 

“The health and safety of our clients and staff are IRCC’s top priority when deciding to resume services at a VAC,” they said. 

“In late November 2020, VACs in India were able to start offering biometrics appointments and priority was given to applicants applying for a study permit and those applying for permanent residence in the family class as a spouse, partner, or dependent child. We continue to process those as quickly as possible.”

Two-stage assessment 

To tackle issues around students unable to provide biometrics or medicals due to VAC closures, the government created a temporary two-stage process for students who were unable to submit all of the documentation required to process their applications. However, students have also expressed concern around how visas are being processed

In the first stage of an application a students’ eligibility for study in Canada was assessed, including whether they had been accepted at a Canadian designated learning institution and had the funds required to study in the country.  

In the second stage students were able to submit documents such as biometrics, immigration medical examination or police certificates. Once this was done IRCC said officers would finalise the application process.

“I resigned my job back in March as I thought it would take two or three weeks to get a visa and then I would fly”

However students told The PIE that while they had been approved at the first stage – which was used to assess eligibility for study – they had their applications rejected at the second stage. 

One student who first applied in March and then again as part of the two-stage process, eventually had their application refused in December. 

“It’s pathetic. I resigned my job back in March as I thought it would take two or three weeks to get a visa and then I would fly,” they said. 

“But what I got from IRCC was betrayal and false hope in the name of an agreement in principle and then a refusal.

“I’m suffering from mental trauma and I am not able to sleep properly. It was a terrible experience for me. Time, money and career all wasted,” they said. 

IRCC told The PIE that under two-stage processing, a first stage eligibility approval isn’t a guarantee that a study permit applicant will eventually receive final approval. 

“At the second stage, an officer reviews the application on admissibility factors, including their biometrics, police certificates and medical exams, as well as any other information that has changed since the initial eligibility review,” an IRCC spokesperson said. 

IRCC also provided The PIE with data that said just 25 Indian applicants out of a total of 12,025 had been refused at stage two after being approved at the first stage. 

However, The PIE also had access to a Whatsapp group for Indian students who had their applications rejected at the second stage which had 93 members. 

“We are continuing to work with IRCC to ramp up visa processing capacity and calling for flexibility around biometric and language testing requirements, to ensure that students can get their visas in time for academic deadlines,” a spokesperson for Universities Canada told The PIE.

The students who commented for this piece asked to remain anonymous. 

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64 Responses to Canada: Visa delays risking mental health of int’l students

  1. It is absolutely true, due to constant stress we’re not able to focus on online studies. The decision has been pending from over 3 months, no webforms no emails are entertained. I left my job in July and was hoping for September intake, thankfully I did not start online and deferred once but again it was of no use and had to start online in January without study permit or AIP

  2. Thank you for asking questions to IRCC ON behalf of all students. If your team can ask Ircc for exact figures on Approval in principle (Aip) like how many Aip’s were given, how many of them are still in progress, how many received Approval or refusal will be more helpful for the students. Again thank you for this article.

  3. It is been more than a year waiting to go to Canada for higher studies. Even now waiting for the mail after biometrics.now it’s been more than two months. Im facing really physical and mental health issues and more than that financial issues. Please consider and respond as soon as possible.

  4. It’s very terrible situation for us. My mother mortgage her golden jewelry only for my study. She wants to see her child to study in reputed county. But , due to late visa processing and rejection after AIP in second stage proses me and my family both are depressed. Everyday suicide thought entering my mind .Definitely, one day IRCC kill me.

  5. Thanks alot PIE news for publishing this article,we are very depressed and waiting for canadian visas since march 2020. Hope so canadian embassy will soon resolve our problems

  6. M also waiting since august 2020 doing online classes after getting first stage approval since September 2020 … bcoz of time difference m facing serious health issues … but ircc giving decision on new applications rather than clearing the backlogs …. please help us … we are lossing money and also health …. depressed,stressed and suicidal…

  7. Thankyou so much for discussing on this topic.. this is really true that we are waiting for a very long time.. still there is no response.. this is seriously leading to the mentral stress of students and parents too … as a number of negative thoughts are running in mind.. its a humble request to ircc please make final decisions quickly.. Again thankyou for this article.

  8. Nobody cares about students but thanks too you seriously.we are waiting from Jan 2020 but still no reply from ircc.we have also confused that Montreal students get their visas or not because no body got his visa after suspension of caq.This is not good for those who paid alot of money to canadan’s universities

  9. Still students who applied in July are not getting vsia however who applied in December 2020 got their visa and traveled successfull. What Canada gave us after studying online for two semester. Just depression.
    Not fair

  10. I applied in March and had to defer 2 times. They have not even started processing my file and its been almost 11 months. Watching students who applied more than 6 months after me getting their approval has broken my soul. They need to be accountable, they are not being transparent at all. They are clearly lying. Thank you so much for covering this.

  11. Thank you for highlighting the plight of the students. The way IRCC has mismanaged the issue is unfortunate and at stake are the lives and the future of thousands of students. Someone needs to be accountable for this. Would be great if you people could get more attention to this issue.

  12. I submitted my application at Feb and also did the biometrics before March. Yet I am still in limbo waiting for a result from IRCC. Because of special program I am admitted to, I cannot start my course online and have deferred 2 terms already. Unfortunately, university will not allow students to have more than 2 terms deferred. Hence, my admission would be withdrawn in less than 2 month.
    I quit my job and my life is ruined because of this grave delay. Being rejected in early days would be better than waisting a year waiting for an email.

  13. IRCC should be held responsible for the creation of depressing environment around us. We have been waiting for a single update since March 2020. It seems they have taken us for granted. Applicants who just applied few weeks ago have already received decisions on their applications. Don’t they have any sense of humanity for us applicants who’ve been waiting this long.

  14. Yess its true we r feeling very low and suffering mentally .please process our files and do justice with quebec students. Do not involve panademic nd u r own personal issues for stoping us .please process our files asap!!😢

  15. Yes, it is absolutely true each and every student today in india is facing this issue. We all suffering From depression and unable sleep at night. All international student have given huge sum of money just to insure better future but still we are struggling to make our future. Please give visas to Quebec students so they can ensure better future

  16. Yeah its very problematic for students… please reply on our files as soon as possible… otherwise give us any genuine reason.

  17. Yess its true we r feeling very low and suffering mentally .please process our files and do justice with quebec students. Do not involve panademic nd u r own personal issues for stoping us .please process our files asap!!😢

  18. Yess its true we r feeling very low and suffering mentally .please process our files and do justice with quebec students. Do not involve panademic nd u r own personal issues for stoping us .please process our files asap!!😢

  19. Students who applied for quebec colleges are not geeting their results while other provinces students are getting very fast. There are thousands of students who took admission in Quebec colleges paying a thousands of dollar for studying but still do not get any decision from ircc. Pls let us know why ircc discriminate with quebec students. We cant see any single passport submission request from ircc for any quebec colleges whole money and future was stuck pls think about us we are very depressed 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  20. Quebec immigration recently said that covid cases in Quebec are now under control tomorrow the covid cases measured as 823 which is very less as compare to ontario covid cases but still there are lot of ppr from ontario colleges and Quebec colleges students are still watching wht the hell is going on😭 Pls dont involve pandemic and ur personal issues for stopping ppr for international students it affect us very badly sometimes we thinks to get suicide bcoz we lost our hope nd dont get a right way pls gave results to Quebec students requested uh on the behalf of thousands of students 🙏🏻🙏🏻

  21. Reading these replies in comments section is very stressful indeed. I applied on Jan/21 and gave my biometric recently. No updates after that. Im due for May/21, one year course. Not sure if my college allows for remote learning for one year course. I’m serving notice in my current job, IRCC must find some ways to speed up their current process.

  22. We students are facing a lot of mental pressure but IRCC is not making an effort to help the students. It’s been an year and still they are blaming covid for their mismanagement in processing. Moreover giving visa to random files than on priority basis is a proof that IRCC is a failure.

  23. The processing is still slow and random processing of study permit is taking place, I have already started online classes and still I await the decision whereas students who lodged file after me and even they deferred got their decision. I don’t known what my future holds just because of the one decision I made that I choose Canada as my study abroad destination. still the processing is not done ! hope I get my decision before my academic deadline! My mental health is really disturb by this uncertainty IRCC has cause. we are left in limbo by them and even after paying such huge amount of fees, still travel restrictions might applies to us that is $2000 for 3 days quarantine!

  24. Is there any watsapp group where we can share these issues … as i am also a student who is waiting from march…
    thanks

  25. Your statement is completely correct, so far Brazilian students who applied for their study visas in early 2020 (Jan / Feb / March) are going through horrible experiences that are affecting even mental health. Several applicants with complete applications, and by this I mean that they have already had medical examinations, provided their biometrics and received AIP in Aug or Sept 2020, are still waiting for the final decision in their processes. After almost a year of waiting, applications are being updated to request new medical exams because they are expired or about to expire.

    The most desperate of all this situation is the way the Canadian consulate in Brazil has been treating applicants, responding with generic and automatic emails with information that they are working with reduced hours and staff, and that we must wait for the final decision.

    There are students in several different situations, there are those who are already studying the second term online, those who have already postponed the beginning of their studies two or three times, and even those who had to give up their dreams of studying in Canada for not to be able to wait a year for visa processing and put their lives on hold in the meantime.

    To be honest, we don’t know what’s going on, but the fact is that new applications made in Brazil (end of 2020) are being sent for analysis at consulates in other parts of the world, which shows that the Canadian consulate in Brazil is going through some difficulty and is not being completely clear about it, especially with those who have waited so long. Regarding these new applications, despite being processed quickly, the vast majority are being rejected by officials who are in countries, such as some countries in the Middle East, where the culture and practice of studying abroad is practically non-existent, which can generate discrepancy in the eligibility analysis by different consulates.

  26. Hi, waiting for the results from last 8 months approximately. Non can imagine that how stressful it is. We request to process the files of students decided to take admission in Quebec colleges. We are loosing interest to our studies since we have no idea where and what to proceed. We kindly request to make decision on those files. Even, some of the colleges are not conducting correspondence schedule without any sort of pre-approval from the high commision. I really dont know how the things are proceeding, but this needs to be solved ASAP. We are additionally taking private classes to support our learnings and waiting for the results. Applied for CDI in july 2020, no AIP therefore not able to take online classes even. No decision has been made on the profile. Try to give results before our acedamic deadlines plz.
    Thank you

  27. We applied for supervisa since I am 7 months pregnant.

    We don’t have anyone in Canada apart from me and my husband. I am really worried and tensed since my delivery is due shortly. I need my mom to be with me. Even though I work in health sector its really really hard to get supervisa. My situation is very bad.

  28. Thank you so much for covering such a relevant subject. I am Brazilian and I have been waiting for 9 more months for answers from my visa, while other Brazilians have their visas approved with less than a month. It is totally unfair. I just wanted to have an answer! There is no standardization in the analysis of visas. Where is the equity, equality, and respect for international students? I am a PhD student and I am sure that my research can add a lot to Canada and the world. This whole situation has caused me a lot of damage, including mental issues.

  29. This report absolutely hits the nail on the head. My son applied for Study Permit in AUGUST 2020 – the status shows everything in order, but the app is “under process”. The worst part is, there is no one you can reach out to, no one in the IRCC who can advise what needs to be done. My son is getting increasingly depressed every day, I dont know what to do, I fear the worst…

  30. Rather reject me IRCC than this painful waiting. I think I have lossed everything (courage, hope, money, mental health) and the thoughts of sucidal are pulling me towards it. I don’t know what to do now, its been a long time I haven’t slept properly.

  31. I am also 1 of the victim of AIP 2 stage process. after waiting for more than 6 months I also got refusal on the basis of eligibility grounds for which I was already given AIP. Now, everyday I get suicidal tendencies because my time, money, and career is ruined by this inhumane decision

  32. Yes it’s really true we really depressed alot even not us out family is also stressed we and our families both are not able to sleep at night as ppr is not started yet and many of us are taking online classes till September but still no update about visa.we have no option we are just taking medicine to reduce this stress as no one is helping us and no one is telling us truth that when we will get our visa that’s why we stressed

  33. I got loa from college in Dec 2019 ,paid fees ,GIC in Jan 2020, then CAQ delayed . After that corona hits . Filed visa in July 2020 then wait for biometrics for months , Biometrics done on 27 November 2020. No decision was made on file yet entering in April 2021.

  34. #JusticeForQuebecStudents
    Give PPRs to studnts enrolled in Montreal based 10 DLIs that were in suspension list.We r waiting from March 2020.What is our fault.Atleast give us visa decisions, now it doesn’t matter whether it is +ve or -ve coz it’s affecting us physically & mentally

  35. Everywhere people talking about study visa or family visa, but there is another section of LMIA based Close work permit whose files ircc havnt started touching . We have a whatsap group of around 120 people looking for work permit only 4 to 5 people have got their visas till today’s date. Please help us. Mine file was submitted in oct 2020 still waiting for decision. Infact we have also spent too much money for our visas. Please do something for us.

  36. Its been 1year and 12 days that I have applied for a study permit. till date I haven’t received any update regarding my visa. No one can ever understand the pain we are going through.

    Visa applied on: March 20, 2020.

  37. I applied on 13 march 2020, and still waiting for Visa.I took load for study and I’m paying interest for that and according to college fee return policy I will get refusal after 16 April 2021 then They will not return my fee back as I started my online classes. So here I will lost overall $27,000 US dollar. (Fee + money that I have to return to bank). Hoping that IRCC will understand this and save my life. Just because of one refusal my life will be over because how I will be able to earn this amount. Please tell IRCC to clear backlogs before giving visa to new applicants.

  38. I applied on 30 September 2020 and waiting for decision since 6 months. Start my classes online in my hometown. Now I am doing job in day and taking online classes at night. My life become miserable and my sleep patterns disturb alot. I spend all of my savings on my dream to get international education but this all things make me fedup. I loose my control and patience. I am really disappointed and sick mentally. Please raise voice for us and do something for Pakistani students.

  39. Hello sir/Madam,
    I applied on 4/08/2020 and received AIP on 20 October although my application was complete i. e medical, biometric, police character certificate even after that decision on my application is not being made those who applied way after that are getting decisions. We are worried to whom they are giving priority atleast those who were given an AIP should have been given study permit. I have tried to contact them to ask about the status of my through webform but all the time I got auto-generated reply. It is my humble request to you please raise the voice of Pakistani students too who are also not getting decisions.

  40. My visa is under process since 2019 June and I gave biometrics on 19Dec2020. However, no response on Visa grant/final result from IRCC. A great trauma to mental health. I could see few of folks who applies post me have travelled. Not sure where IRCC has dumped my file. No source to contact them. Webform enquires or email result in automated responses only. In great need of help

  41. I filed my application on 8 th April 2019. I had some medical issues so my application went on hold. In June 2020 I completed my medical treatment and also medical got updated. I got aip letter on 24 August 2020.
    I got correspondence letter on 19 November 2020 after that there is no single update.usually people get ppr right after getting correspondence letter but I did not . It’s been two years now ..I am under lot of pressure now. My career is at stake I don’t know what to do…and how much I have to wait..you guys can clearly understand the frustration I am dealing with …

  42. Somehow, I came across this article. We students in Nepal to are facing the same problems. Our study permit is processed from High Commission Canada, New Delhi. I hope this article gains the attention of IRCC and processes the study permit soon.

  43. Somehow, I came across this article. We students in Nepal to are facing the same problems. Our study permit is processed from High Commission Canada, New Delhi. I hope this article gains the attention of IRCC and processes the study permit soon.

  44. I applied back on August 2020 and still waiting. I had to deffered my entry from Jan 21 to May 21, but im not sure im going to get it on time this time either.

    – Dominican student applying thru Mexican embassy

  45. Considering the situation of Indian students, which is awful already. Pakistani students have it way worse. Pakistanis who have applied aren’t getting any results considering the reasons IRCC gave, Indians who applied are a lot more in numbers compared to Pakistanis but a student from India whose eligibility starts can hope for visa in 2-4 weeks but Pakistani students with reviews started back in January/early-February haven’t received anything and no one is even talking about us. Students need to get their results accordingly but IRCC is choosing random files, usually new applications and processing them earlier than those who applied before them.

  46. Reading this article, I realised there are so many students like me who are suffering and going through mental health issue due to the delay in our visa decision. I have been waiting since June 2020, and yet there is no clue or idea about my application. It’s still in process.
    My only question is does this article solve our problem in any way?? Does IRCC even know what students are going through?? Requesting the team of this article to kindly do something if it’s possible. Because we students have tried everything and it all seems to go in vain.
    Thanks.

  47. Absolutely true, not just in India but in Philippines as well. I tried all means to get my application based on my gcms notes it has been approved but its been more than 4 months of waiting for my passport request letter to arrive still im in the waiting process, while other people only get their approval within a month. the level of anxiety is building up.

  48. I really thank you for asking questions to IRCC on behalf of the International students. It would be appreciable if your team contact and write to the IRCC regarding the problems of students. PR Files of some students are stuck at Ottawa IRCC office for more than one year due to the reasons Eligibility, criminality, info sharing and Security pending. Such things create panic in the minds of the students. Pl. do the needful in the matter. I really thank you for your efforts on the subject

  49. The same has happened to my for Experience Class – Permanent Residency.

    My progress bar was at the finish in February 2021 and nothing has changed, nor have i been contacted by IRCC. I desperately want to return to Canada and continue my career as i’m stuck in a job which is very unfulfilling. How can my application be stuck in the same section for so long? My medical is approved and all my documents are in…

  50. Students have paid 2.million atleast of Indian currency upfront and applied for visas. During covid. Lot has been changed of students family circumstances. Everyday living in anxiety is not easy. Ircc should decide applications whether visa approved or rejected within 1 month or atleast explain why ircc is holding decisions. Student can go to other countries if visa not granted. So frustrating for students

  51. There may be some students frustrated to such extent that they can’t bear the pressure and commit suicide. In India there are so many suicide happening in colleges due toultiple reasons of mental pressure like ragging, bullying in colleges , failures in exams , etc
    Ircc should not become part of this and get blame as ircc is still holding decision of innocent students since March 2020. Who will pay for all those years of student misery
    So so painful for students and awakeing call for ircc policy makers.

  52. It’s not just for India’s students, here in Iran there are lots of students who are waiting more than two years in some cases about three years for their Visa. I have started my studies online and now after 25 months there is no answer to my visa application. I’m really confused! Nobody answers why! It’s not fair. It has terrible side effe on my life. Please help us!

  53. Even here in Nigeria it is barely 9 months now yet IRCC have not said anything about my application, I am tired of all this just because I chose Canada for a higher level of study, pls IRCC should be fair to us

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