Thousands of international students are waiting to find out if they will be able to enter Canada in time for in-person classes as another academic year approaches.
According to the most recent data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), as of August 15, nearly 169,000 students are waiting for Canada to approve their study visa applications.
Federal data show that about 34 per cent of international student visas are pending and taking longer to process as of July after exceeding the deadline set by the government.
IRCC spokesperson says that despite prioritization of study permit applications for students starting their studies in September, it is expected that some international students may not have their applications processed before fall to begin their studies.
However, according to the IRCC, wait times will decrease in the upcoming months, said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on Wednesday during a press conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.
By the end of the year, the IRCC anticipates that study and work permit processing times will be back to normal, according to Fraser. By the end of this year, the situation would have significantly improved; he assured reporters.
Nevertheless, that is not fast enough for students eager to begin the school year. As a result, Canadian universities are asking the federal government to speed up the visa process.
According to UBC spokesperson Matthew Ramsey, around 500 out of 4,000 new international students had reported experiencing difficulties in receiving their visas as of August. However, this number could be higher and change daily.
The University of Toronto also offers deferrals to all eligible students who cannot enter Canada due to study permit delays. This fall, the university will be preparing for largely in-person classes.
A U of T representative stated, “the number of students contacting their registrars with study permit concerns is higher than typical, but an exact number of impacted students is not yet available.”
The University of Manitoba has also voiced concerns about processing timeframes and clearing the backlog of student visa applications to the provincial and federal governments.
Sean Moore, a University of Minnesota representative, says, “Some impacted students might choose to defer their start date until the winter term or reapply for admission next year.”
Steps Taken To Help Students
While the COVID-19 pandemic’s travel limits and replacing outdated equipment have resulted in considerable delays, the government claims that this year’s high number of applications and the situation in Ukraine have only added to the inventory backlog.
Nearly 360,000 student visas have been processed by IRCC so far this year, a 17 per cent rise from the same period in 2021.
According to Fraser, the immigration department is processing more study permits than ever before, and the huge backlog results from the enormous demand rise.
In an interview with The Canadian Press on Wednesday, he stated, “We are trying to get as many people here for their start date as possible.”
Universities are working to give accepted students options and support during the ongoing study visa uncertainty.
Lise Laporte, senior director of Western International, said the university recognizes how difficult this is for these students and is working with them individually to find the best solutions based on their program of study and particular situations.
The statement continued that we have extended the deadline for international students to defer their entrance to September 27, 2022. The prior cutoff date was August 31.
According to Fraser’s announcement on Wednesday, the IRCC is currently on a hiring surge to add 1,250 new staff members by the end of the fall to deal with the enormous backlogs.
On Thursday, IRCC announced that, at the federal level, international students studying online from outside of the country or who submit a study permit application by August 31, 2022, will continue to be able to complete up to 100% of their program online without affecting their eligibility for post-graduation work permits.
Fraser also says that the department will give monthly updates on the number of pending, completed applications and those that took longer than expected to process.