Canada’s heavy backlog of visa applications, which is expected to touch five lakh in 2022 from India alone, has led to a high refusal rate. This trend, which emerged with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, has affected the future prospects of several applicants, including those with high IELTS scores. Those from Punjab have been affected the most as applicants from the state contribute to about 65 per cent of all visa applications. The Indian Express explains why Canada is rejecting so many applications and whether it is expected to improve in the near future.
Why Canada, the numbers
Approvals for study permits significantly increased in Canada in the early 2000s. According the to an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Canada (IRCC) report, the country had a total of 2,25,295 study permit holders in 2010; in 2014, there this number jumped to 3,30,125 — a 46.5 per cent increase in the span of five years. Between 2015 to 2019, this exponential growth continued, and Canada recorded an 82.3 per cent increase – from 3,52,365 in 2015 to 6,42,480 in 2019 – in study permit holders.
Local education consultants reveal that according to the IRCC report, 2,18,640 students from India got study permits in 2019. The country’s application approval rate was 63.7 per cent that year, about three per cent more than that of other countries. During the pandemic, 80 per cent of all student applications were aspirants from Punjab and some from Haryana.
As Covid restrictions relaxed in 2021, a tiny dip (-5 per cent) was noticed in application approval; around 2.17 students received their study permits.
The number aberration
The distorted image of the current scenario is a consequence of various factors – a severe backlog in application processing, a growing number of applications and a high rate of rejection.
The number of applications received by the IRCC has continued to increase and the department hasn’t been able to process them in time. Experts point out that the backlog of applications from India crossed the 4-lakh mark in 2021 and is expected to touch the 5-lakh mark in 2022. Punjab contributes to 60-65% per cent of these applications. Guided by its own yearly targets, the IRCC is rejecting several applications and is unable to keep up with the growing backlog.
Experts said that since applications from Punjab are high every year, the refusal rate is expected to grow to 60 per cent for aspirants from the state but will linger around 45 per cent for aspirants from across the country.
Consultant Gurpreet Singh of Kapurthala-based i-Can Consultancy said that increase in visa refusal is a pan-India factor now but for Punjabi students, the refusal rate is high due to a high number of applications.
Refusal rate may jump
Narpat Babbar, consultant and owner of Jupiterr Academy, said that the refusal rate is not expected to go down but will increase manifold. He said that the increasing number of applications along with high unemployment rates in Canada has led to a high number of rejections.
“Now a large number of students from Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and southern states are also applying…the Canadian government is also preferring diversification while accepting applications from India. Indian aspirants are also being challenged by other South Asian countries as Canada is promoting diversification,” Babbar said. He also said that refusal rates may be high for Indian students as the country’s economy is more stable than other South Asian countries.
A silver lining
Experts said that within a couple of years the refusal rate will automatically go down. They said that officials, while considering IELTS band scores and academic records, also look at the course and college students are opting for.
“When the students from India are applying in different courses, they should keep in mind the three main industrial regions of Canada where different sectors are flourishing…when students choose a course, they must prefer colleges of that region where they can learn about the industry and get a practical understanding,” said Babbar. He said that students must clearly outline this and justify their reason of choosing a course in their Statement of Purpose (SOP) to improve chances of getting their visa approved.
Another consultant said that visa approval is also high in areas under the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) programme of Canada as the government wants a sufficient workforce to develop those regions.
Khilandeep Singh, director of Ludhiana-based Can-Able Immigration Consultants, said that students can apply for courses not provided by colleges in India and mention that as a reason in their SOP.
Consultants have also advised students mainly from Punjab to avoid applying to colleges and universities in crowded cities like Toronto just because their families or relatives live there.