The general discourse on immigration law, often dominated by controversial and sensitive topics like inflow of refugees, deportations, the right balance between attracting immigrants and ensuring job to native citizens, or even anti-immigration rhetoric in neighboring countries, rarely focuses on top reasons for study permit refusals in Canada. Securing admission in a Canadian institution is often viewed as the most vital step for an international student to study in Canada while applying for and obtaining the student visa or study permit is considered a simple formality.
This perception is reinforced by the detailed guide on study permits on the government website, which along with the document checklist, creates the impression that securing a study permit is all about filling the visa form, submitting the necessary documents, providing additional clarifications, if so required by the immigration officer, and receiving the permit.
In reality, applying for a study permit can be a very complicated process involving confusing rules and regulations, subjective interpretation by immigration officers, and a cumbersome and expensive appeal process coupled with lack of transparency throughout.
Where to Find Reasons for Study Permit Refusals
With the detailed guide on the government website not listing all the reasons for rejection of the study permit, students seeking to study in Canada often feel very optimistic about their prospects, especially upon fulfilling the academic and other admission requirements of the Canadian educational institution.
A lot of information related to study permits is detailed in the Program Delivery Instructions—guidelines that immigration officers follow when processing study permit applications. These Instructions are not a part of the official guide and are not even linked to the Study Permit section on the government website.
These difficult-to-find Instructions are shared as a courtesy to stakeholders without any emphasis on the extent of vital and useful information that study permit applicants can find in the document.
Top Reasons for Study Permit Refusals
Some common reasons for rejection, often overlooked, include:
- Insufficient Family Ties to the Home CountryAbsence of adequate ties to the home country can impact chances adversely as this may raise doubts on the applicant’s intent to return home after completing his or her studies. Normally, having a family established in the home country with ownership of properties and other assets may be enough to prove family ties. The applicant must take care to avoid financial transactions and other decisions that may raise doubts about ties with the home country.
- No Job Prospects in the Home CountryA letter from the current employer indicating that the applicant is assured of a job in the home country after completing his or her education ought to be adequate to prove employment prospects. Applicants without a job in hand can submit proof that the study course they intend to join will help them qualify for jobs in the home country. Else, the immigration officer may conclude that the study permit is intended to help the applicant settle permanently in Canada.
- Inadequate Travel HistoryThis reason often impacts those who have just completed high school and have limited traveled abroad in the past. While this point is not considered in isolation and authorities must take other relevant factors into account, not having travelled outside the country or never having travelled by air may cause your study permit to be rejected.
- Financial InsufficiencyThe Program Delivery Instructions clearly states that the applicant is required to provide proof of adequate finances only for the first year of the course. Yet, applications often get rejected because the immigration officer suspected financial insufficiency. Hence, merely focusing on the first year may not suffice. Ideally, you can minimize chances of rejection by showing proof of adequate finances for more than 1-year, even though this is expressly indicated as not being required for acceptance.
- Dual IntentA study permit or a work permit is a temporary residence permit that requires the applicant to intend to leave Canada upon expiry of the permit. Yet, the doctrine of Dual Intent, as defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, permits such individuals to intend to eventually become permanent residents.A cursory reading of the Doctrine clearly shows that temporary residents are permitted to do their utmost to become permanent residents, provided they intend to leave if the permit expires before they succeed in obtaining PR status. Whether working towards PR automatically indicates intent to overstay in Canada is questionable and Dual Intent doctrine, prima facie, does not permit any such automatic inference.Yet, study permit applications are rejected, even for those with a good record of compliance, because the applicant showed intent to seek permanent residence in the country.What complicates the process of applying for a study permit is that applications can be rejected on grounds or reasons not listed or identified in the guide. The evaluating officer may choose to reject your application without seeking any additional documents, information, or clarifications.Further, complying with the guide and the Delivery Instructions too does not guarantee approval.Complying with the financial proof requirement for only the first year of your study, as required by the Instructions, could actually contribute to your application’s refusal.
Appealing against Study Permit Refusal
Finally, tackling the rejection of the study permit is difficult due to absence of a speedy and efficient system for appealing against such negative decisions. A study permit applicant has three options after his/her application has been rejected.
- Request a ReconsiderationThis involves requesting the immigration officer to reevaluate and reconsider the original decision. The offer is no obligated to entertain such requests, which means there is very little scope for a reversal of the rejection, even if the request is accepted in the first place.
- Appeal to the Federal Court of CanadaAlthough this option offers better scope for impartial assessment of the decision and reversal of a rejected based on flawed or wrong interpretation of the law, this is a time-consuming and expensive process.It can take up to twelve months for the matter to be finally heard and decided by the judge. Even then, the judge does not have the authority to modify the decision or approve the study permit.If the applicant gets a favourable ruling, then the application will be taken up by a different immigration officer who must consider the judge’s views when deciding upon the application. While the original mistake won’t be repeated, there is no assurance that the new officer won’t interpret another rule or requirement in an unfavorable manner.Practically the opportunity to study at a particular institution may have passed.Apart from the Federal Judge, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has the authority to send the case to a different officer. Yet, there is very little awareness about this option and it is difficult to access. The decision, ultimately, will be made by the immigration officer, which means the risk of flawed interpretation of the rules remains.
- Submit a New Application.Of the three options, this is probably the least advantageous for the applicant. Reapplication causes the refusal to become a part of the record, which means a wrong rejection can become the basis for rejection of future applications too.The new application must explicitly rectify the reason for which the first application was refused. If the rejection communication does not indicate the reason in detail, then the application can seek the reasons in writing through an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) request.Officially, these requests must be processed within 30 days, although it can take much longer than that. Even then, there is no guarantee that the officer’s written reasoning will be detailed enough to assist the re-application process.
Between 2009 and 2013, nearly three out of every four study permit applications were approved. While significant proportion of applicants were successful in obtaining the study visa, yet a 25-27% rejection rate means near 100,000 students are denied the opportunity to study in Canada. Canada will admit nearly 400,000 students on study permits in 2018.
A rejection becomes a permanent blemish on their record and may complicate attempts to obtain any other visa in Canada or even in other countries that attach importance to visa rejection by Canadian authorities.
Further, there is just one real appeal against a flawed rejection—a judicial appeal to the Federal Court. This is a time-consuming and expensive process. Reapplication is the preferred option because is less cumbersome as compared to an appeal, although it does not, in any way, reduce chances of another rejection.
Applicants must realize that the process is not as simple and easy as described in the guide. There is a detailed criteria indicated in the Instructions, which, due to its complexity, is best complied with through the assistance of a professional immigration lawyer.