Immigration officials in Canada are processing study permits for international students at a record pace with almost 360,000 of these applications completed this year as of the end of July.
That’s up 18.4 per cent over the roughly 304,000 completed during the comparable period last year which was itself a record-breaking year.
“We’ve finalized almost 560,000 study permit applications in 2021. Beating the previous record from 2019 by 31 per cent,” reveals Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on its new website to provide updates on the processing of applications.
In its bid to clear its backlogs, the IRCC expanded the Student Direct Stream (SDS) which allows it to process study permit applications from international students to seven more countries in 2021.
The steam initially had four countries participating – China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam – and was expanded to include Pakistan, Morocco and Senegal in 2019.
Then, in July last year, the IRCC expanded the SDS again also to include:
- Antigua and Barbuda;
- Costa Rica;
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and;
- Trinidad and Tobago.
International students using the SDS, which was first launched in 2018, are supposed to get their applications processed within 20 days and must provide their biometrics as soon as possible.
“Our country’s diverse and inclusive society, high-quality educational institutions and opportunities to work or immigrate after graduation have made Canada a leading destination of choice for students from around the world,” said then-Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in July last year.
“The global pandemic has caused disruptions and distress for everyone, including international students.
“By expanding the Student Direct Stream to a more diverse range of prospective students, we have great optimism that international education will recover, and indeed flourish, as Canada emerges from the pandemic.”
Hiring Blitz At IRCC Seeks To Bring On 1,250 More Employees By Autumn
Faced with a mounting backlog of applications at the IRCC, the Canadian immigration department has been on a hiring blitz to bring aboard another 1,250 employees by this autumn to cut processing times.
“There is unprecedented interest in Canada as a destination for newcomers from around the world,” said Fraser in late August.
“A well-run immigration system supports our communities’ futures and allows our industries to tap into the essential talent and new business opportunities so they can continue to grow and remain competitive. We will continue to take steps to strengthen immigration, for the benefit of our businesses, our economy, and all Canadians.”
The IRCC has also extended the amount of time international students can take their courses online in their home countries and still qualify for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) later.
“Distance learning measures have been extended to Aug. 31, 2023,” announced the IRCC last month. “But they are being reduced in scope.
“As we transition back to pre-pandemic requirements, we encourage international students to come back to Canada. A transition period is available for those who may need some time to do so.”
Online Learning Extended For Another Year For PGWP
International students studying online from abroad or who submit a study permit application no later than Aug. 31, 2022, will continue to be able to complete up to 100 per cent of their program online without affecting their eligibility for PGWP.
After that, study time completed from abroad starting on Sept. 1, 2023, will be deducted from the length of their PGWP, regardless of when they began their studies.
The extension of temporary distance learning measures will affect those starting programs from the beginning of this academic year, as early as Sept. 1, 2022, through to the end of the summer study session next year, on Aug. 31, 2023.
Under these measures no more than 50 per cent of the credits earned can be completed outside Canada to remain eligible for a PGWP.
On its website, the IRCC claims there were now only 2.4 million applications in its inventory at the end of July, down from about 2.62 million roughly halfway through that month.
Opposition parties in the Canadian Parliament have repeatedly criticized the ruling Liberals for the massive backlog of applications at the IRCC.
Last month, Fraser took exception to the characterization of all of the applications at the IRCC being described as a “backlog” and insisted that only those applications that were beyond the service standards were rightful to be considered the backlog.
By that definition, though, Canada was still facing a backlog of 1.3 million applications that had been there for longer than the service standard.
41% of temporary residence applications were still in backlog at end of July
That included 580,000 applications for temporary residence, 303,300 for permanent residence, and 246,000 citizenship applications.
That means 41 per cent of temporary residence applications, 47 per cent of permanent residence applications and 65 per cent of citizenship applications were then beyond the service standards set by the IRCC.
“We’re taking action to reduce the backlogs of applications within our inventories,” states the IRCC on its website. “Our goal is to process 80 per cent of applications within our service standards.
“This allows for expected delays in some very complex cases or when we need more information from our clients before we can finalize their files.”
In August, India, the biggest source of new permanent residents to Canada, called on Ottawa to help its international students so they could come and learn in Canadian colleges and universities this autumn.
“In recent years, Canada has emerged as a preferred destination for Indian students for post-secondary education,” the High Commission of India noted in an advisory.
“Currently, more than 230,000 students from India enrolled in post-secondary institutions in Canada are making a positive contribution to the Canadian economy, including through an estimated $4 billion (in American dollars) in tuition fees.”
At the exchange rate in effect on Aug. 25, that U.S.-$4 billion worked out to almost $5.2 billion in Canadian dollars or about $22,494 per Indian student in Canada.
In Tuition Fees for Degree Programs, 2021/2922, Statistics Canada noted last year Canadian universities are increasingly dependent on the tuition fees of international students to stay afloat.
“In 2021/2022, the average tuition fees for international undergraduate students in Canada rose 4.9 per cent from a year earlier to $33,623,” noted Statistics Canada.
“This follows a 7.1 per cent gain in 2020/2021. Increasingly, postsecondary institutions have relied on income from international students as part of their revenue stream.”