Visa delays in Canada risking the mental health of Students

Visa delays in Canada risking the mental health of Students


International students are on the verge of a nervous breakdown after waiting for almost a year for their Canadian study permits to be processed.

Students have admitted to taking medication for depression, with one student even saying that they are suicidal.


For as long back as March 2020, students have been waiting for their visas to be processed. They have had no contact from IRCC either to update them on the status of their application. Those who had been given an in principle agreement to enter the country, as part of IRCC’s two-stage application process last year, have since been rejected in the second stage after they had signed for university courses.


The entire situation has been extremely miserable with no one being held accountable, an Indian student had said.


With their future at stake, students have even resorted to taking antidepressants, with their parents just as worried by the state of things.

Desperate students are losing hope and even contemplating taking serious actions such as suicide.


Visa processing backlogs have resulted in long waits for international students crushing their hopes of entering Canada anytime soon.

Indian students, in particular, have been facing long waiting times. IRCC’s website had estimated, at the time of writing this, that study permits for Indian applicants would be issued within 14 weeks.

Although these students have started their online studies at Canadian universities, their problems are far from over with poor internet connectivity, time zone differences and uncertainty caused by the visa backlogs.

There is a constant build-up of fear amongst the students that if they receive a rejection, their money will have gone down the drain and the effort put in by studying online and persevering through time zone differences, all will be for nothing.

Another student is worried because they have already taken a large loan to finance their international studies and has paid for one semester. If he was forced to drop out of the course, it would be a huge financial loss to his family.

Their future is uncertain and hinged upon IRCC fixing the visa backlogs. The colleges have added to the students’ burden by asking for lump sum payment to secure their income.


Students who had applied for visas recently have actually received them, leading others, who have been waiting for their visas since March, to question the prioritisation of processing.

IRCC, on the other hand, has described itself as ‘rapidly adapting, innovating, and evolving’ to best serve Canadians and those who wish to come to the country.

IRCC has explained that while none of the processing centres have been completely shut down, visa application centres (VACs) around the world have, in many instances, had to temporarily close, including in India, which has delayed processing.

VACs were shut in accordance with health and safety concerns of IRCC’s clients and staff, and in November 2020, VACs in India were opened to offer biometrics appointments and applicants applying for study permits and those applying for permanent residence in the family class as a spouse, partner, or dependent child were given top priority.


Two-stage assessment 

The government of Canada created a temporary two-stage process for students who were unable to submit all of the required documentation or to provide biometrics or medicals due to VAC closures.

In the first stage, the student’s eligibility to study in Canada is assessed, including whether they have been accepted at a Canadian designated learning institution and had the funds required to the study in the country.

The second stage involves submission of documents like biometrics, immigration medical examination or police certificates. Once, this is done, IRCC officers finalise the application process.

However, as mentioned earlier, students have repeatedly been rejected at the second stage with one student’s application process starting in March, and after converting to the two-stage process, being rejected in December.

One person recounted their experience as follows, “It’s pathetic. I resigned my job back in March as I thought it would take two or three weeks to get a visa and then I would fly but what I got from IRCC was betrayal and false hope in the name of an agreement in principle and then a refusal. I’m suffering from mental trauma and I am not able to sleep properly. It was a terrible experience for me. Time, money and career all wasted.”

IRCC has admitted that first stage eligibility approval is not a guarantee that an applicant will definitely receive a final approval. They explained their procedure recounting that at the second stage, an officer reviews the application on admissibility factors, including their biometrics, police certificates and medical exams, as well as any other information that has changed since the intial eligibility review.

There is also a discrepancy in terms of accountability, with IRCC providing data showing that only 25 Indian applicants out of a total 12025 have been refused, while another news source has found this number to be 93.

A spokesperson for Universities of Canada has reassured students and said that they are continuously working with IRCC to ramp up visa processing capacity and calling for flexibility around biometric and language testing requirements, to ensure that students can get their visas in time for the academic deadlines.


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