Higher rejection rates have detrimental effects on international student recruitment efforts in addition to potentially damaging Canada’s reputation as a welcoming place to study, they warned.
Addressing the Standing Committee on Citizenship and ImmigrationLarissa Bezo, President and CEO of Canadian Bureau for International Education said that since 2016, more than 500,000 qualified students had had their visa applications rejected.
High refusal rates are a problem that has increased in recent years and “is growing”, particularly prevalent for applicants from Africa and Francophone Africa, she said.
“Each rejection letter is not only personally devastating to the student who has successfully qualified for admission to a Canadian institution, each rejection also arguably represents a failure of the process, a waste of resources for the student. and for the establishment,” she said.
“Higher rejection rates have a direct impact on our recruiting efforts”
“[It’s also] a loss of opportunities for the community where the student planned to study, and less chance of increasing interpersonal relationships [connections] that flow from education, to promote Canada’s long-term global engagement and future prosperity.
High visa denial rates in priority markets, particularly in French-speaking Africa, are an “urgent challenge that we must address”, said the president of Canadian universities said Paul Davidson.
While average approval rates for Canada’s top international student source countries are around 80%, with some reaching 95%, African students face the highest rejection rates, he said. indicated.
“In 2019, visa approval rates for undergraduate students from Morocco and Senegal — two of our priority countries for recruiting French-speaking students — were 55% and 20%, respectively,” Davidson said.
Statistics from 2019 suggest that three out of four applications from African students have been rejected, and more recently African education officials have alleged bias over low Canadian permit approval rates.
“Higher rejection rates have a direct impact on our recruiting efforts and Canada’s brand as a welcoming place to study and build a life,” Davidson suggested, adding that a “collaborative effort” was needed. to solve the problem.
the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations said “fundamental changes” are needed, including an increase in IRCC resources.
“International students of both official languages face many other hurdles when applying for a study permit, the process continues to be extremely onerous to understand for any young adult unfamiliar with the Canadian immigration system” , said President Christian Fotang.
The country needs to be “aware that these process failures do not end up being interpreted by potential international student applicants as breaches of respect,” Bezo noted. “The reputational risks for the Canada brand are significant.
Rejection rates are high in some target countries despite the goal of market diversification in the country’s international education strategy, she pointed out, a point also underscored by Francis Brown, director of international at Federation of Cegeps.
There are inconsistencies between visa denials and other government initiatives, he said. Quebec, for example, invests close to $50 million in promoting the province to international students and in scholarships for them.
“We believe it is essential that study permit processing be fair, just and transparent for all individuals, regardless of country, language or level of education,” he told the committee.
The reasons for the “worrying trend” among African countries are a “mystery”, according to the immigration lawyer of LJD LawLou Janssen Dangzalan.
However, he suggested that the fact that visas are not processed in-country – with the majority of the region being processed in Dakar or Dar es Salaam – could have unintended consequences.
The in-country treatment could mean that “decision makers are more attentive to the realities on the ground”, while inter-African racism may also be a problem, Dangzalan suggested.
“African and Southern applicants face greater barriers to improving their records, higher documentary requirements and higher refusal rates,” said Wei William Tao, immigration attorney at Heron law firms and co-founder of the Arenous Foundation, underlined.
“Refusals are made for obscure financial reasons or prejudicial assumptions”
“Refusals are given for obscure financial reasons or preconceived assumptions that applicants will not return to their home country after graduation.”
IRCC’s move to AI and the introduction of the Excel-based Chinook processing tool in March 2018 “threatens to further codify, render less transparent and subject to even less scrutiny biases and flaws of our man-made foundation,” he continued.
“The system will have the greatest impact on applicants from Africa and the South. The stories of suicide, financial harm and students unable to meet Canadian immigration requirements will only get worse if we are not proactive,” Tao warned.
Witnesses also said it was unclear if Chinook was the reason for the rising refusal rates, calling on IRCC to release more data. The problem of increased refusal rates goes beyond African applicants. The study permit refusal rate for India has increased from 34% in 2018 to 57% in 2020. Others pointed to India, Mexico, Colombia where the number of refusals also peaked.
“The recent growth in denial rates has us questioning the use of automated claim processing systems such as the Chinook system,” Brown added.
IRCC has been approached for comment.