Visa Crunch

Canada: Visa Application Backlog Is An Additional Challenge For International Students

Due to the enormous volume of foreign student applications, IRCC is having difficulty keeping up with a visa backlog, which has been an “additional hardship” for overseas students throughout the pandemic.

The agency had received 112,185 study permit applications and 26,479 study permit extension applications as of February 1, 2022. According to IRCC data, Canada’s total visa backlog is approximately 1.8 million immigration petitions, of which 848,598 are temporary residency applications. However, members of the international education sector have applauded IRCC for its collaborative approach with institutions.

Currently, IRCC communicates a 13-week processing period for study permit applicants from outside Canada. The IRCC website also indicates that it is experiencing delays in receiving applications, processing applications routinely, and is unable to provide accurate processing times due to the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

The ongoing delays came after roughly 505,000 study permit applications were approved in 2021, compared to approximately 220,000 in 2020 and approximately 424,000 in 2019, the most recent year untouched by the global pandemic.

The agency also hopes that the $85 million budgeted in the 2021 Budget will help to reduce application inventories through greater staffing. In January, Canada’s Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser stated that while processing delays “have been tremendously distressing for many individuals,” providing applicants with regular processing timelines and effective communication from IRCC “remains a key priority.”

Students enrolled in co-op programs that include both academic and practical work experience have also experienced delays upon arrival in Canada. Students at Simon Fraser University had been cautioned about IRCC co-op permit processing delays of 129 days (18.5 weeks) for their placements in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.

Moreover, in order to reduce the time it takes to begin classes or co-op programs, SFU, George Brown College, and other institutions have taken advantage of IRCC’s temporary measures, which permit students to pursue studies online from different parts of the world until August 31, 2022, without impacting their post-graduation work permit eligibility.

Secondly, while waiting for a decision on their co-op work permit application, students in Canada are permitted to use their “on” or “off” campus work authorization. President and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, Larissa Bezo stressed that any IRCC backlog in processing study permits must be seen in the light of the complex, pandemic-related challenges affecting student permit applications.

Executive director of the British Columbia Council for Foreign Education, Randall Martin, advised institutions and students to be patient while IRCC reduces the application evaluation periods for international study visa applications.

Numerous visa processing offices for many countries and destinations appear to be closed or grossly understaffed as a result of local and regional Omicron surges and the rust of two years of the pandemic, and they are now also overburdened by demand and traffic.

Backlogs in study permit processing through the IRCC have been an extra issue for students attending the University of Victoria in British Columbia, according to the institution. Prior to Covid-19, 17 per cent of UVic’s student body was international, a figure that the university hopes to maintain after the pandemic.

It has established a variety of additional tools for its 3,500+ international students, including self-isolation programs and emergency funds, as well as new posts at the International Centre for Students to assist students encountering immigration issues.

“Throughout the pandemic, some students have also struggled to complete their study permit applications due to limited or unavailable in-person services such as visa application centres (biometrics collection centres) in their country of application,” a UVic spokesperson said.

The Canadian government recognizes that international student recruiting is an extremely competitive field. Attracting students not only benefits Canadian educational institutions but is also a foundation of the government’s own immigration strategy as the country seeks to fill the industry needs for a highly educated and talented workforce.

In addition to the 505,000 study visa applications, almost 143,000 candidates who had previously had a study permit moved to permanent residency in Canada between January and November 2021, according to official estimates.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only.

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