Canada introduces new visa process for conditional admissions

Canada visa law changes

The Canadian government has amended the visa laws regarding foreign students. The new visa process affects all international students who are to enter Canada because of conditional admissions or pathway programs. In these cases, students are required to pursue special preparatory studies (e.g. to improve their English or French proficiency)

To this day, study permit – that is Canadian study visa - once issued, allowed every international student to study in Canada for the duration of both prerequisite and academic programs (plus an additional 90 days). This meant that issuing of visa could be guaranteed for all students for the whole period of studies. Thereby, study permit includes information about the Designated Learning Institution (DLI), the institution delivering the final academic program.

On 13 July 2016 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) declared a change in the visa process. Since that day, Canadian immigration officers have been apprised to issue the student visas only for the duration of the first study program, i.e. of preparatory studies. Here is an extract from an IRCC’s statement: “Once the prerequisite program has been completed, the student can apply for a new study permit and demonstrate that the requirements of the first program have been met.” This points to the fact that upon the completion of preparatory studies students will be obliged to apply for a new visa for the duration of their second - academic - program.

The purpose of this innovation is to meet the reporting requirements for every institution where the student is currently taking his or her studies. In other words, to avoid the situation when the institution, noted as DLI on study permit, is compelled to report on students that are taking prerequisite studies in a separate school.

Canadian education establishments have been confounded by change in practice, but are about to come up with a response. “We have sent a survey out to our members to better measure the impact that this will have on them,” says Languages Canada Executive Director Gonzalo Peralta. “It is very clear, however, that nobody is happy about this. There is no doubt that Canada will lose international students as a result”.

“Immigration policy does not exist in a vacuum and should not be made behind closed doors,” he supposes. “The biggest issue with [the 13 July IRCC announcement] is that it demonstrates a fundamental lack of the necessary coordination between immigration policy and international education policy in Canada.”

The change also tends to make education providers more wary of additional predicaments for both educators and students. As Languages Canada underlines, additional demand for further student visas will result in new costs and efforts for all and hamper a transfer of students to academic studies.

“What if a student is taking their TOEFL or IELTS in July in order to commence an academic program in September?” says Mr Peralta. “They won’t have enough time to renew their permit. Do they take a semester off? Do they return home, or possibly transfer to study in another institution or another country?”

“If the process proves overly onerous and complicated, or there are processing delays that mean international students cannot start their respective intended programs on time after completing their prerequisite requirements, this may have a future impact on whether international students choose Canada,” admits Jacquelyn Hoult, director of communications for the Canadian Bureau for International Education. “CBIE’s Immigration Advisory Committee and CBIE members have expressed concern over clarity (does the regulation apply when the student attends the same institution for the prerequisite and intended program), implications for PhD and Masters students, and how it will impact students going to Quebec who require Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ).”

American education providers have recently had such issues aligned with conditional admissions and prerequisite programs. By coincidence issued on 13 July 2016, a new US Department of Homeland Security’s policy statement on student visa process triggered a series of practical questions for American education establishments and US international students.

In fact, new process policies introduced in both countries seem to be the same. Regarding visa process since that moment there is a distinction between preparatory studies and academic studies. According to the US statement, American universities may not issue I-20 (the document necessary to obtain a study visa) until the student has met all admission requirements. Canadian government now takes the same approach.

08/22/16

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