Thousands of International Student Visas delayed

The first week of September marks the beginning of the fall term for universities and colleges across Canada, however, some students are left waiting to find out whether they can begin class. Despite being accepted into their programs and enrolling in courses, thousands of international students are still waiting for student visa approvals. Based on recent numbers from Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), it is estimated that over 160,000 students are awaiting study permit approval.

For many students, this delay has resulted in educational adjustments, such as enrolling in online classes or acceptance deferrals. Figures derived from the National Office of Statistics Canada, indicate that the reason for lengthy delays is the inflation of international students applying for study permits over the past six years. Including recent data, in the past 7 years, the population of international students within Canada has increased by approximately 43%. Nonetheless, IRCC has responded to the delays with aim of increasing the approval rate of study permits.

IRCC’s unprecedented rates of approval

Based on recurring updates from IRCC, it is estimated that over 550,000 study permits have been finalized, which boasts an estimated 18% increase compared to the processing rate in 2021. As a response to elevated numbers of international student visa applicants, IRCC has initiated updates to the department’s technology infrastructure. Moreover, the department has actioned the expansion plan for the Student Direct Stream (SDS), a system that integrates study permit approvals for seven additional countries.

The SDS is expected to accelerate study permit processing to a timeframe of 20 days, while students are expected to provide biometrics. The increase in interest can be explained by the diverse opportunities for international students in Canada such as the ability to immigrate or work post-graduation in addition to the diverse and inclusive environments., Sean Fraser, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, has reported a booming interest in the International Student Program noting the increase in demand within the past few years and with no signs of the demand slowing down.

IRCC’s Autumn Hiring Spree

In a statement on August 24th, Minister Fraser revealed the strategies that IRCC will be implemented with the aim of advancing application processing and approval, specifically study permits for international students. Among those strategies, the Minister stated in late fall that IRCC will be conducting a hiring spree to meet the high demand.

IRCC expects the hiring spree to accelerate the processing of applications significantly, however, pending departmental changes, they may require a few months for department integrations to take effect. Increasing the processing speed of applications will allow Canada’s immigration system to uphold the prosperity of communities and strengthen industries by providing crucial talent for businesses and educational institutions.

Despite the challenges that IRCC has experienced regarding international student work permits, the new strategies present actionable solutions. The integration of hiring strategies and technological advancement show promise for progress in the coming months. The aim is that the figures of international students waiting on approval will stabilize and even be reduced following these changes.