After speaking with a number of embassies and agents, Languages Canada found that students from some countries – including Japan, Vietnam, Korea, China and in Western Europe – are having their study permits approved quicker than expected.
“We have inside information from IRCC clarifying that [estimates on the website] are historical average times”
The reason for these quicker processing times, according to Languages Canada’s Diego Sanchez, is that estimates on IRCC’s website are based on historical data, and are not future projections.
However, Sanchez stressed that not all countries are seeing quicker processing times. Students in India in particular are still likely to face delays as application centres remain closed.
“Visas are being processed and they will be processed much faster now,” Sanchez, who is manager, international promotion and marketing at Languages Canada, told The PIE.
Sanchez explained that his organisation contacted individual embassies to get a better sense of what processing times actually are.
“What one of the embassies told us, was what’s on the website is 15 weeks. But in reality, visas are being approved in eight weeks. We didn’t get the same kind of information from every embassy,” he said.
“We have inside information from IRCC clarifying that [estimates on the website] are historical average times. That does not mean these are the times for future processing of permits,” Sanchez added.
Bonnie McKie, executive director of the Canadian Association of Public Schools – International, said that the small print on IRCC’s website appears to confirm this point around how estimates are based on historical data that might no longer be accurate.
“It does indicate that the processing times are based on historical data, on an average of the processing times of recent weeks and months.
“During a significant part of that time, offices were, in fact, closed. So it’s not actually a forward looking projection. It is based on historical data, when things weren’t moving for a good number of months… So it is very inaccurate,” she said.
McKie said that CAPS-I is anecdotally hearing that students have received approvals since October 20.
“Now that there are some exemptions, students have been able to arrive in the last three weeks and are just finishing their quarantine and beginning in some of our member schools already,” she said.
Visa application processing has been the source of much frustration for many international students – and there are concerns that longer processing times could put students off from applying to courses.
“We’ve been encouraging people to actually apply because they are getting the visas”
While Sanchez said that not every agent and student would be aware of IRCC’s website, there was a risk some would be dissuaded from applying.
Languages Canada are now communicating to its members that the IRCC estimates are historical and not necessarily representative of current processing times.
“We tell them the information on IRCC’s website is past processing times. Do reach out to your contacts or agents and students and let them know they should consider this.
“We’ve been encouraging people to actually apply because they are getting the visas,” he said.
Sanchez stressed that the picture remains complex and that the situation differs from country to country – India in particular continues to have problems with visa processing times.
“In India, the visa application centres where you give your biometrics, they’re closed and this impacts the processing time.
“But if you look at Japan, Vietnam, Korea, China, a lot of countries in Western Europe, those application centres are open, they’re collecting biometrics and those visas will be granted in a much shorter time,” he added.
“Visa Application Centres in India will be offering limited services until further notice”
Indian students have been expressing their concerns with visa processing times on Twitter – with some saying that Canada’s decision to let international students into the country is essentially rendered useless if they are unable to get visas processed.
VFS Global, which processes student visas on behalf of the Canadian government, has said on its website that “due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Visa Application Centres in India will be offering limited services until further notice”.
The High Commission of Canada in India has said in a tweet that VACs will begin scheduling limited biometric appointments as of November 20 in Delhi, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru.
Applicants from India can also begin scheduling limited appointments for biometric enrolments at centres in Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune from November 25, VFS has also said.
Despite Language Canada’s reports that processing times are improving, some students are experiencing difficulties in countries other than India.
UK resident Hamish Scott, whose son is enrolled in a film course in Canada, reached out to The PIE to say that despite his son applying for a visa in July, he has not yet received his study permit.
“He got in touch with the Canadian authorities in July and went off to do his visa interview, he did his biometrics and everything and since then enquiries about how things are going are met with silence,” Scott said.
“Every communication which has been sent by webform and email has resulted in nothing. This means that my son has missed two start points for his program and is staring down the barrel at missing the January start point. The institution is pulling its hair out saying they are doing everything they can,” he said.
“We are talking about the High Commission of a country with a fantastic reputation, that is still promoting Canada to overseas students. I think this is something that needs to be put in the spotlight,” he added.