Immigration officials are turning back two of five people applying to study in Canada, with Africans suffering by far the highest rate of rejection.
With Canada now the world’s fastest-growing destination for international students, the Immigration Department has this year been rejecting 39 per cent of study-visa applications, up from a 28 per cent refusal rate in 2014.
Immigration officials say one in 10 applicants are rebuffed for apparent fraud. Others don’t make the cut because they’re unable to prove they have enough money to pay high tuition fees and rents in Canada. Others present study plans that don’t appear to make sense.
Since 2016, Canada has turned down more than 100,000 study-visa applicants a year.
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Even though most young people hire agents to make their case for a student visa to Canada, immigration lawyers in Canada confirm are fraudulent and many are poorly put together, causing confusion and wariness among border agents.
The rejections are hitting hopefuls from India especially hard, since they have grown into . Many of India’s 173,000 study-permit holders here hope to eventually obtain permanent resident status so they can get full-time jobs and obtain Canadian citizenship for themselves and family members.
Thirty-seven per cent of would-be international students from India are now being rejected by Canadian officials, causing media outlets such as to report recently, “Just as Canada became every Indian student’s hot favorite college destination, rejection rates for study permits soared.”
There was a total of 572,000 international students in Canada at the end of 2018, which makes Canada the world’s fourth biggest destination for global education. Indian nationals make up 30 per cent of foreign students in Canada, followed by China at 24 per cent, and South Korea, France and Vietnam at four per cent each.
On a per capita basis, however, Canada ranks second for foreign students, after Australia. And B.C. has the highest concentration in this country. Total foreign enrolment in Canadian educational institutions has almost doubled since 2014, particularly since the most-sought-after destination, the U.S., has been moderately limiting student and work visas.
Vancouver immigration lawyer Sam Hyman, who has been hired by study-visa applicants, says some foreign nationals with legitimate applications are rejected because their study plans, including the programs they apply for, appear unreasonable to visa officers.
Hyman said Canada’s in-demand student visas are increasingly facing “serious program integrity issues.” The most common problem is that many students are “working full-time in contravention of the terms of their study permit, which limits them to working no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session.”
Blatant fraud has also reached a critical point, Hyman said. “Bluntly put, study permit applicants from countries where ‘document touting’ and other frauds” are known to be common are leading to applicants from those countries being more closely scrutinized.
Harpreet Kochhar, assistant deputy immigration minister of immigration, told a recent conference of Canadian immigration consultants that about one in 10 study-permit applications are clearly fraudulent.
For instance, Kochhar said he’s aware of applicants who have presented visa officers with forged admission-approval letters from “The University of Nova Scotia,” which doesn’t exist. Others purport to have obtained admission letters from Dalhousie University, in which the word “Dalhousie” is misspelled.
Young applicants from African countries are the hardest hit by refusals, according to recent figures from the Immigration Department.
Eighty-six per cent of applicants from Algeria were rejected this year, as were 82 per cent from Cameroon, 81 per cent from Nigeria, 75 per cent from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 70 per cent from Kenya and 62 per cent from Ghana.
Outside of Africa, Pakistani applicants are also being treated with suspicion, with 81 per cent being refused this year. So were 55 per cent of applicants from Vietnam, 48 per cent from Iran and 40 per cent from the Philippines.
Applicants from China, who make up the second largest group of foreign students in Canada, were generally welcomed. Only 14 per cent were rejected by visa officers. There were 143,000 Chinese nationals studying in Canada at the end of 2018, more than 50,000 in B.C.
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The rate of rejection this year was also low for would-be students from Brazil (18 per cent), the United States (14 per cent), Germany (12 per cent), France and Taiwan (10 per cent) and South Korea (four per cent).
Canada has emerged as a hot spot for young people from India as competition becomes tougher in the country of 1.3 billion, says Uday Basu of The Statesman.
A statement on the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says study visa applicants can be refused if they don’t have enough money to support themselves in Canada, are not medically healthy, can’t convince a visa officer their “main purpose in Canada is to study,” rather then work, and don’t seem ready to leave the country after attending school.
The coordinating editor for India’s Statesman newspaper, Uday Basu, told Postmedia that Canada has in recent years become the prime destination of choice of many young people in economically struggling India, which is home to 1.3 billion people, half of whom are under age 25.
Since President Donald Trump is increasingly dashing young Indians hopes of living “the American dream” by obtaining study and work visas to the U.S., Basu said, Canada, with its more-open migration policies, is seen as offering an easier path if applicants’ families can afford the country’s educational programs.
The Statesman editor said the term “PR,” for permanent resident, has become “a magic acronym for thousands of ambitious Indians,” mainly from the Punjab. Canada’s Immigration Department recently confirmed on its website that 54,000 international students obtained permanent resident status in Canada in 2018, which it called “an all-time high.”
“Immigration consultants in India say that Canada has emerged as a hot spot for Indian young people,” Basu said. “They say some are moving to Canada for the sake of the next generation, as Indian cities become more crowded and the race to get into good schools and colleges is becoming tougher.”
Major schools seeing little effect from crackdown
International student has comprised roughly a quarter of people studying at the University of B.C. in recent years and the school says an increase in federal rejections of student-visa applications hasn’t changed that.
In the 2018-2019 academic year, 17,225 of the 66,266 students (26 per cent) at UBC’s Vancouver and Okanagan campuses were in Canada on study permits, according to its latest enrolment report. That’s up from 16,158 of 64,900 students (24.8 per cent) in 2017-2018, and 11,861 of 59,540 students (19.9 per cent) in 2014-2015.
“Admission rates and the number of students registered are consistent and in accordance with our planning,” Damara Klaassen, executive director for the International Student Initiative, said in an email.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents pay $179.97 per undergraduate credit, compared to $1,306.58 for international students. A full first-year course-load in arts or science costs $5,399.10 for Canadians and $38,051.70 for international students.
“We firmly believe that community engagement benefits both domestic and international students, and that diversity of opinion, perspective, and circumstance improves the educational experience for all engaged in the exchange of ideas,” Klaassen said.
The university hasn’t had an issue with the federal Immigration Department’s higher rate of rejections for applicants from African countries and Pakistan, compared to China, the U.S., France and elsewhere, Klaassen said.
“UBC has a broad and diverse international student body with students from 155 countries, and continues to see interest from around the world,” she said.
The increase in rejected applications is having “some impact” at Langara College, but most admitted students are able to obtain study permits “because our programs are well regarded, and well understood, by IRCC officials abroad,” a spokesman said in an email.
“We value diversity and respect for all cultures, and we strive to provide our students with international perspectives and experiences,” he said. “Likewise, we offer several opportunities for local students to gain international perspectives by studying or working abroad.
Langara said it also isn’t concerned about the difference in rates by country of rejected applications.
“We recruit in a wide range of countries; close to 100 countries are represented in our student body. We expect the number of successful applicants to fluctuate minimally over time in all markets,” the spokesman said.