Report recommends increased transparency and more collaboration between IRCC, the provinces and designated learning institutions
Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is reporting an unprecedented surge in demand for study permits from international students. According to ICEF Monitor, the numbers are continuing to increase as pandemic restrictions are loosen around the globe and students are returning to Canada to begin or complete their post-secondary education.
The increase in applications for study permits was a topic of conversation at a recent virtual symposium by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CIBE). Officials from IRCC were present to discuss the volume of applications they have received as students move away from online programs and return to classrooms in Canada.
“While COVID had quite an impact on our immigration programs, we’ve seen a strong recovery,” said Cynthia Ralickas, a director for IRCC. “Recent study permit figures have surpassed the pre-pandemic levels with over 500,000 study permits being issued in 2021 and over 600,000 study permits being active in Canada as of the end of 2021.”
The first four months of 2022 saw most applications coming from India, the Philippine’s, Nigeria, and Colombia. India and the Philippines are two of the largest sources of immigrants to Canada.
Canada has a reputation for being a desirable place to study for international students. The most recent report on international students by CBIE says that Canada’s reputation for safety and stability is a major deciding factor in where students from abroad choose to study.
Processing backlog for study permits
In 2021, IRCC reported a 56% increase in study permit applications over 2020 as well as receiving 175,000 applications in the first quarter of 2022 alone. This has resulted in long processing times for study permit applications.
However, ICEF Monitor recently reported IRCC data that indicates a total of 621,565 study permits were held by international students attending programs of at least six months’ duration in 2021, which is still below pre-pandemic levels.
As of July 17, there were nearly 200,000 people waiting for their initial study permit application to be processed. The IRCC processing time tool says study permits for those outside of Canada takes 12 weeks on average to process if they are not applying for the Student Direct Stream.
To combat processing times and improve immigration policy, a report by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has been brought to the House of Commons in Ottawa that lists 35 key recommendations.
Expand the Student Direct Stream
Among these recommendations is that IRCC review and expand the Student Direct Stream, which can act as an expediated process for candidates who are legal residents of one of twenty eligible countries.
Those who are eligible for the Student Direct Stream may get their permit in as little as 20 days. The report encourages IRCC to expand the list of eligible countries and review the criteria to make it fair for all. The report particularly mentions including West African countries on the list of eligible countries.
More transparency and greater collaboration
Additionally, the recommendations call for more transparency in showing the criteria IRCC uses when selecting students as well as allowing more flexibility for the evidence used to establish that an applicant meets the financial criteria.
The report also added that there needs to be more collaboration between IRCC, the provinces and designated learning institutions to regulate recruiters who travel and recruit from abroad and ensuring that they are providing prospective students with information on how to spot fraud and scams.
IRCC takes these recommendations seriously, says Ralickas. “When reports like that are tabled in Parliament the government does have a responsibility to respond, to really consider each of the recommendations and think about how each one applies to the work being done and the directions we are taking within the department.”