News report | | 12/01/2024 | ±4 minutes reading time

In the spring of 2023, Canada received about 865,000 applications for student visas. Almost half of the visa applications were rejected, even though the applicants had already been admitted to a college or university. Therefore, the educational institutions and the immigration department have been heavily criticised. The Canadian government has decided to tighten the conditions for applying for a student visa.

Explosive growth in the number of international students

In 2023, there were almost 900,000 international students in Canada, which is three times the amount of international students in 2013. All these students entered the country on a student visa. Economic and political factors, in combination with Canada’s high-quality education, play a role in this huge growth. Among other things, Canada attracts so many international students due to the average tuition fees being a lot lower than (for example) in the United States. Moreover, international students are allowed to have a side job. This rule is said to be frequently abused. For some time, the Canadian media has talked about people travelling to Canada on student visas and then working full-time in the country instead of pursuing their studies.

Role of Canadian educational institutions

Canadian educational institutions are encouraged by the government to admit international students. In fact, Canada’s policy is to attract as many highly skilled immigrants as possible. Moreover, educational institutions are allowed to charge international students with higher tuition fees, which makes it even more attractive for them to admit many students from abroad. Over time, a system has developed whereby organisations abroad recruit students for Canadian universities and colleges. These organisations usually work on a commission-per-enrolment basis, so their objective is to arrange as many enrolments as possible. However, in doing so, the requirements to applying for a student visa are not always explained properly.

Large volume of rejected visa applications

More student visa applications lead to more work for Canadian embassies, and for the immigration department. Moreover, these institutions have recently stated that the quality of student visa applications is now worse than ever before. In fact, 46% of all applications submitted in spring 2023 have been rejected, and they were all applications from people who had already been admitted to a study program in Canada. According to the Canadian immigration department, the applications were rejected for different reasons, but the applicants’ financial conditions were the most problematic. Indeed, many applicants were said to have failed to demonstrate sufficient financial resources to pay for their studies and stay.

Criticism of the immigration department

A strikingly high percentage of rejected visa applications were submitted by applicants from Africa and the Middle East. More than 60% of all student visa applications from African countries were rejected. The percentage of rejected applications from students from Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq is even higher, while most applications from Western countries, Japan and China have been approved.

Canada’s immigration service has long been criticised for alleged discrimination. According to an investigation from 2022, the selection process is indeed discriminatory, and the immigration department considers applicants from certain countries to be unreliable, particularly African countries. The immigration service claims to assess each visa application objectively. At the same time, the allegations have been taken seriously, and the immigration department is working hard to eliminate any form of discrimination and racism from the organisation.

Criticism of educational institutions

Since the end of 2023, universities and colleges have also faced some criticism, as politicians accuse the education sector of attracting too many international students without checking their suitability beforehand. For instance, students would not be adequately informed about the requirements to meet to obtain a student visa. According to politicians, educational institutions to take more responsibility to ensure the quality of education. The problem is said to be particularly acute at universities of applied sciences, which have been enormously internationalised in recent years.

Student visa requirements tightened

As a result of the discussion about the rejected student visa applications, the Canadian government has decided to tighten the student visa requirements. Since 1 January 2024, applicants must prove to have at least 20,635 Canadian dollars (about 12,000 GBP) in their bank account, with which they can support themselves, in addition to the cost of travelling to Canada and the amount to be paid in tuition fees. Before 1 January 2024, the minimum amount was 10,000 CAD. Moreover, student visa holders will only be allowed to work off-campus up to 20 hours per week from 1 May 2024. This maximum was temporarily revoked during the pandemic, and has not been reinstated so far. These changes are expected to make it more difficult for international students to finance their studies in Canada.

Studying on an eTA

British citizens wishing to undertake a study or exchange programme in Canada of up to 6 months usually do not need to apply for a student visa. Indeed, the Canada eTA is often sufficient. To apply for an eTA, there are no financial requirements to be met. However, on arrival, you might be asked to prove that you have sufficient financial means for your stay in Canada. Moreover, you must prove to meet certain other requirements.

e-Visa.co.uk is a commercial and professional visa agency, and supports travellers in obtaining, among others, the eTA Canada. e-Visa.co.uk acts as an intermediary and is in no way part of any government. You can also apply for an eTA directly with the immigration service (7 CAD per eTA, via onlineservices-servicesenligne.cic.gc.ca). However, not with our level of support. If you submit your application via e-Visa.co.uk, our support centre is available to you 24/7. We also check your application before submitting it to the immigration authorities on your behalf. If we suspect any errors or omissions while doing so, we will personally contact you to ensure that your application can still be processed quickly and correctly. To use our services, you pay us 7 CAD in consular fees, which we pay to the immigration service on your behalf, as well as £25.92 in service fees as compensation for our services, including VAT. Our services have saved many travellers from major problems during their trip. Should an application be rejected despite our support and verification, we will refund the full purchase price (unless an application for a previous eTA Canada was rejected for the same traveller). Read more about our services here.