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Canada visa processing behind rival study destinations, say recruiters

Students hoping to be travelling to Canada to begin classes are suffering from visa delays more than counterparts who have chosen alternative study destinations, according to experts working in the study abroad sector.

UK and US delays have eased as priority visas from the UK were reintroduced and the US opened more interview dates, stakeholders have said. Photo: iStock

Over the summer, UK embassies appealed to prospective international students to apply early for visas to avoid disappointment

Agents and student recruitment specialists have highlighted that, while most major study countries are seeing delays in visa processing, Canada is behind its rivals.

Jonathan Omagbon, director of AECC Global for Philippines & Vietnam – which supports students to study in key study abroad destinations including the UK, Australia, Canada and the US – said that the “visa delays we are seeing in Canada are by far the most serious right now”.

“The worst student visa delay we’ve seen in Canada was five plus months”

“It is not uncommon for students to wait four or more months for a Canadian student visa to be approved,” he told The PIE.

“The worst student visa delay we’ve seen in Canada was five plus months, visa delays result in stressful experiences for students.”

Stakeholders have indicated that visa processing times are fairly even regardless of where students are applying from.

“For Canada, the processing times for international student permits have more than doubled over the past year and have tripled since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic,” co-founder and CEO of Cialfo Rohan Pasari added.

“Instead of the standard 60 days, students from some regions are experiencing delays of more than 200 days. At the same time, the rejection rate for Canada is far too high.”

Sushil Sukhwani, director of Edwise International, noted that Canada’s Student Direct Stream has been recommended and encouraged.

While processing for SDS usually takes four to six weeks, Sukhwani warned that for fall 2022 visas have taken approximately 12 weeks to process.

“Interestingly the general (non-SDS) student visa process earlier took 12 weeks and presently took an average of six weeks,” he added.

“This delay has also resulted in several high-quality student applications being rejected without due review and consideration. We have several students who were going for degree programs at top universities with scholarships being refused visas.”

Students who have not received visas in time are being forced to defer to start dates, he continued.

“However most programs at most institutions for January 2023 are full and similarly several for May 2023 are full,” he said.

“There are circumstances of some programs not being commenced in January or May 2023 resulting in the student needing to delay for a year.”

Jonah Duffin, director of External RelationsIDP Connect said that the company has seen delays in visa processing across many of the major destination countries “driven by the industry bounce back from the pandemic”.

“Most major countries, whilst experiencing delays, have been able to process visas in time for students to commence their studies as scheduled. Currently, delays in Canada are impacting students start dates, however, with IDP teams based in both source and destination countries we continue to offer valuable support to students and ensure they are able to start studying as soon as possible,” he explained.

IDP’s Emerging Futures research – set to be released in October – will analyse the impact of visa delays on student choice and decision making, Duffin added.

Canada recently announced it would extend remote learning as a ‘last-minute’ move as visa delays in the country continue.

Commentators also pointed to difficulties for students bound for Australia.

“Canada and Australia are facing the biggest issue,” Pasari said.

“Australia, as the borders were closed for a very long time, they are now working on multiple categories of visas, hence the delay faced. New Zealand is facing the same challenges as Australia. As the borders have recently opened, there’s a huge backlog.”

While some visas are processed in two to three weeks, some cases have taken up to eight to 16 weeks, Sukhwani elaborated.

“This is because these has an increase in fraudulent documents received by the authorities. This though has been reported from selected regions of India, it has increased the level of scrutiny for all applications and has increased the visa processing time,” he said.

Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, warned earlier this year that Australia’s Department of Home Affairs, which oversees immigration, had been “concerned about applications involving fraudulent documents originating from certain states in India”.

“This is resulting in some students needing to defer to the next intake or commencement of studies online at select institutions,” Sukhwani added.

Stakeholders also pointed to difficulties in making visa appointments for German visas, with Pasari noting that some students are waiting months.

“For Germany it takes three to four months to get a VFS appointment for visa,” Sukhwani added.

“For Germany it takes three to four months to get a VFS appointment for visa”

“Once that is established the visa takes three to four weeks which was the regular duration. We presently ask students to seek a visa appointment on the same date that they make their academic course application. Thus by the time they receive their offer and assemble their visa documents they are well timed for their visa submission.”

Visa processing problem for France, the US and the UK are less severe than Canada, Germany and Australia, Sukhwani said.

Recent data from Enroly showed that of 12,722 students with visas who have declared their arrival plans on its platform, 12.9% report they will be arriving after their course start date. The company said the finding “may appear favourable”, especially given reports throughout the summer of significant visa delays.

Pasari added that, along with visa delays, Cialfo has also identified issues with students finding accommodation.

“It’s always wise for students to apply well in advance to avoid these challenges,” he said.

Over the summer, UK embassies appealed to prospective international students to apply early for visas to avoid disappointment. France is also doing well, regarding visa processing times, commentators indicated.

“Some institutions in UK are allowing students to arrive late for up to three to four weeks in case their visas take longer to process,” Sukhwani added.

“UK has introduced the priority visa with an extra cost can process the visa in five working days and a super priority visa that can be processed in 24 hours. This is a welcome step.”

Omagbon from AECC noted that visa processing times in Australia “seem to be improving and UK student visas are being processed in a timely manner at present which is great news for students everywhere”, which he described as a positive note”.

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