Study Permit Applications: Why Are They Refused?
According to statistics released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”), in 2022 alone, IRCC finalized 919,000 study permit applications, which is 29% higher than the previous year. By 2027, the federal immigration department forecasts this number to raise to 1.4 million.
Foreign nationals apply to study in Canada for a variety of reasons, including the quality of the education, better career opportunities or simply due to its inclusive and diverse culture. In light of the increases in the rate of study permit refusals in Canada, this article will review the reasons for some of the refusals and how they can be addressed.
No matter the personal motivation for someone to apply for a study permit in Canada, applicants invest significant financial resources in this life plan and are sometimes faced with harsh and arbitrary decisions by IRCC.
From 2019 to 2021, IRCC approved roughly half of all study permit applications and 77% of the study permit refusals were based on the applicant’s alleged inability to demonstrate that their intent in Canada is temporary and that they would leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay. In 26% of refusal cases, the applicant’s personal assets and financial status were at the core of the refusal. In understanding the reasons behind a refusal, we inevitably ask ourselves how assessments are conducted by IRCC and what can impact their decision.
The most commonly cited reason for refusal of a study permit is the applicant’s purpose of visit, which should be to study. However, depending on the manner in which the study permit application is presented and the documents to support it, the applicant may not be able to adequately convince IRCC that their intent to Canada is to study, an intent that is temporary in nature. The documents to support a temporary intent must demonstrate the following:
- The ties that the applicant has with their country of origin or residence,
- The financial capacity of the applicant to support their studies in Canada, and/or
- Simply the logic in pursuing education in another country.
The ways in which IRCC can interpret the documents provided can vary greatly depending on the visa office completing the assessment, and this variance can lead to unpredictable outcomes for the applicant. We must also keep in mind that, although dual intent is accepted by the Canadian immigration law, applicants must be cautious about suggesting that they intend to remain in Canada long-term, including to apply for permanent residence. Although foreign students have various options to extend their stay following completion of their study program, our Government is highly encouraging designated learning institutions to manage the expectations of foreign students in this regard due to the highly competitive nature of the permanent residence programs available.
According to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”) the applicant in a study permit application has to demonstrate that they will leave Canada at the end of their temporary stay. For example, applicants should describe their ties to Canada and abroad, as well as provide proof of their financial capacity to support themselves in Canada. They can also present a study plan to outline their purpose of study and careers goals, which could further corroborate their temporary intent. Other criteria such as travel history, previous academic achievements and Canadian immigration history may also have an impact on a study permit application.
IRCC’s assessment does at times appear to be subjective and we have observed a difference of interpretation of the IRPA criteria by the judiciary. It is possible to conclude that having limited family ties abroad could indicate that the nature of the intent is not temporary and that the applicant is less likely to leave Canada at the end of their study program.
According to a report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration from the House of Commons published in 2022, a particularly high refusal rate for students applying for Bangladesh and Pakistan is observed, which is particularly concerning. Often times, the outcomes of IRCC’s assessments are based on a perceived credibility concern rather than insufficient evidence relating to the applicant’s lack of documentary evidence to support their intent to study. Canada is also reviewing their international student recruitment programs in order to tackle various unethical practices such as dishonest consultants attempting to exploit the immigration system and fraudulent documents being obtained to support a study permit application.
Moreover, applications from countries such as Iran or Afghanistan have also seen high refusal rates over time and this can be explained by the particularly unstable political climate in the country.
The refusal rates in study permits can also vary according to the designated learning institution’s language of instruction. For example, French-language universities face higher refusal rates than English-language institutions where the acceptance rate is higher due to the vaster pool of international students that it may accept.
In conclusion, study permit applications are immigration applications that must present a complete and credible picture of the applicant and the reasons that justify their temporary move to Canada. Every application being unique, as legal representatives our role is to proactively address all anticipated application concerns and portray a credible and exhaustive application to adequately demonstrate the criteria set forth by the IRPA.