Due to delays in the issuance of study visas and additional checks being made concerning certain institutions in this Canadian province, international students seeking to study in Québec, Canada, face extreme stress after processing was suspended at the end of 2020.
Since early 2020, some students, mainly from India, have been waiting for their visas to be processed, with one telling the PIE that they first applied over 49 weeks ago. According to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, the standard time study permits Indian students to be processed nine weeks.
The province suspended international applications at ten institutions, where “dubious” international student recruitment practices were identified.
The government continues investigations and verifications that students claim are slowing down the process while processing has resumed.
The students do not have a clear indication of when their visas will be processed, despite organized efforts via social media to raise awareness of the waiting times they face. Many feel overlooked by the government, they claim.
How many the delays have impacted students is not clear, but students claim the actual number is in the thousands. IRCC had not responded to requests for comments from The PIE at the time of publication.
We attend online classes and pay enormous tuition fees and go through very stressful circumstances. Our mental health is at stake,’ said one pupil.
“In the very golden years of our age, we are included in our health, wealth, and studies, and our fault is that we decided to study in Québec,” another explained. As a result of depression, several applicants said they were feeling suicidal.
Many have said they have taken high-interest loans in India to fund their studies with at least CAN$10,000 spent on a Guaranteed Investment Certificate, along with tuition fees of more than $15,000.
A petition was initiated by a student who said he spent $30,000 to study at a college in Québec and claims that instead of those applications that were first made in 2020, IRCC prioritizes new files. There are over 25,000 signatures on another petition appealing to the IRCC.
Some also expressed concerns that the IELTS results used for evidence in applications may expire before the permits’ approval, resulting in additional time and financial costs.
“In late 2020, as a result of “dubious” international student recruitment practices, the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration in Québec issued a decree suspending the processing of international applications at 10 institutions.
On January 12, requested by the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles, a decision of the Superior Court of Québec found that the suspension was a “significant inconvenience” for students.
The Ministry stated that it had resumed receiving and processing applications temporarily for students who had already submitted documents. Still, the Ministry of Higher Education continues to conduct investigations and verifications.
Following the ruling on January 12, one affected institution, CDI College in Montreal, said that “all temporary selection requests will be processed within a normal timeframe,” including those for foreign students registered at CDI College whose Québec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) expires between December 2020 and March 2021.
While IRCC has begun processing documents, students have highlighted no priority for students who have waited for the longest.
“They say that some internal inspection is going on at colleges, and that’s why they don’t release our results, but at the same time they accept new applications and encourage students to be admitted to Québec colleges,” one student noted. “It’s an IRCC with two faces. They are not thinking about us and our circumstances.
Why this sort of inequality with students from Québec? “asked another.
It has also proved trying, if not impossible, to try to get an answer from those responsible.
“On November 20, 2020, I requested my visa application for a January 2021 course in Montreal,” a student pointed out.
But I deferred to March 2021 because of the delay in the decision, but now because of the CAQ suspension of 10 DLIs, IRCC is not picking up applications from the province of Québec. Although MIFI has lifted the rest, the Canadian embassy does not respond to files and suggests communicating with immigration from Québec.
They say they talk to the IRCC when we contact Québec immigration. Four months have passed… it’s very stressful for us students. The college doesn’t support us either. Now we’ve got nowhere to go. There’s no option we have but to wait. And we have been waiting for many months… but enough is enough. Please help us.”
Responding to the PIE questions, provincial immigration authority MIFI declined to comment further on the “dubious” recruitment techniques it cited to “not prejudice the audits and investigations in progress.”
However, a spokesman said that within a maximum of 20 days after receipt of a complete application, students should receive a decision on the CAQ [Québec Acceptance Certificate], which many students say they are still waiting for.
“The Department cannot comment on processing times since the processing of study permit applications is the responsibility of the federal government,” said the MIFI spokesperson.
Earlier in 2021, due to visa delays across Canada, the PIE reported on international students facing mental health issues. Affected students who have applied to institutions in Québec have suggested that students receive their visa documents more quickly if they have used to study in other provinces.
“To simplify… we want our results as quickly as the students from the other provinces get [theirs],” one student told The PIE.
“A spokesperson for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations said that IRCC “is aware of the problems, especially those that slip through the margins and we are working with their office to ensure that those gaps are closed.
“Universities Canada said it “continues to emphasize the importance of increasing IRCC’s visa processing capacity while calling for flexibility in the requirements for biometric and language testing to ensure that students can receive their visas in time for academic deadlines.
“The university sector in Canada continues to respond to the ongoing pandemic by prioritizing health and safety for students, it added.
And CBIE told The PIE, “IRCC is committed to working across the board through a backlog of requests resulting from the series of lockdowns and other measures of public health that have affected their administrative processes.”
“Its spokesperson added that “mental health and well-being is a priority for our institutions for our students in Canada, both domestic and international.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada worked with the education sector to develop a National Standard for Post-Secondary Students’ Mental Health and Well-Being, which CBIE consulted to ensure that mental health problems and barriers faced by international students were identified and addressed. Students affected are motivated to seek immediate support.