Canada has become the fourth most popular country for international students to pursue studies in the world. There are currently 500,000 international students living in the country, bringing a total of $15.5 billion dollars into the Canadian economy.
The rise in Canada’s popularity as a destination for international students has, nonetheless, been accompanied by a rise in refusal rates of study permit applications in the last few years. A recent article by Kelly Toughill from Polestar – Student Immigration News reports that close to 35% of international students who applied for a study permit in 2018, were turned away from Canada. You can read the full article here.
From 2013 to 2018, we have been observing a steady rise in the difficulty of obtaining a study permit in Canada, consisting of an overall 10% increase in refusal rates. The refusal rate in 2013 was 24.5%, while it is now 34.6%. The rate of refusal differs from province to province, with British Columbia and Ontario having the lowest refusal rates (27% and 33% respectively). On the other end of the spectrum, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick represent the provinces with the highest refusals rates (51% and 54% respectively).
Refusal rates also vary greatly depending on the level of study in Canada. In 2017, PhD students had the lowest refusal rate (at around 10%), while those pursuing a college degree experienced the highest refusal rate (at around 50%). Interestingly enough, the refusal rate for those seeking to study at the Masters’ level was higher (at around 35%) than those seeking to pursue Bachelor’s studies (at around 32%).
Polestar attributes the rise in refusal rates to three main reasons: 1) a higher number of rejections for students attending university; 2) a rise in applications from those seeking to pursue studies at Canadian colleges; and 3) the rejections of students from some African, Central Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Since 2013, the fastest growing refusal category is students applying for undergraduate studies.
The Assessment of a Study Permit Application
Three factors are always crucial for an immigration officer when assessing a study permit application.
The first is that the student has a valid acceptance letter from a Canadian Designated Learning Institution AND a genuine purpose in pursuing studies in Canada. While proving the fist part is not difficult, the genuine purpose of the studies has become a source of close scrutiny over the years. As a result, we work closely with our clients to provide a clear and individualized study plan when preparing study permit applications.
The second factor is that the student has enough funds to pay for their studies in Canada, as well as their living expenses (and those of their accompanying dependants). While this factor is more objective and is based on certain monetary thresholds, we have seen many self-represented and poorly represented applicants not providing enough evidence of their funds and the origin of these funds.
The third and arguably most subjective factor is the student’s ties to their home country, or evidence that they will not overstay in Canada at the end of their temporary status. To properly deal with this part of the legal test, we need to carefully study a number of personal factors of the applicant and come up with a list of documents to best document their ties to their home country. These factors can include, the place of residence of their close family members, their past education/professional history, available assets, travel and immigration history, status in country where the application is made, amongst many other factors. The important lesson is that every study permit application is unique and needs to be catered to the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s case.
Finally, it is worth noting that while the refusal rates in study permit applications are on the rise, we are also seeing an increase in the total number of applications for study permits and, consequently, the number of international students that have been granted a valid Canadian study permit.
In order to maximize the chances of having an application for a study permit approved, it is very important to submit an application that caters to your individual circumstances, careers plans, source of funds and ties to your home country. This is what we specialize in and we are happy to provide professional advice on how to do this.
Andrew Carvajal is a Toronto lawyer and partner at Desloges Law Group specializing in immigration law, administrative law and Small Claims Court litigation.