International students wait months for Canadian visa approvals amid immigration backlog

Some international students looking to attend post-secondary schools in Canada who had already started learning online with them say they have been waiting months for Ottawa to approve their study permits, putting their education and lives on hold. .

“I have no words to express how I feel. I can’t even say,” said Ravneet Kaur, who lives in Punjab in India. “You see, we’re hurting financially and there’s also emotional damage because we’ve invested our emotions as well as our money.”

Kaur was accepted into St. Clair College’s Event Management program and applied for a study permit in July 2021. She paid and was able to complete a semester of online classes last fall at the school of Windsor, Ontario, which had adapted to online classes. learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the meantime, Kaur had hoped that her study permit would be approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) so that she could attend the winter semester in person. Online classes are no longer available now that schools have returned to in-person learning after many pandemic restrictions were lifted.

Now her studies are on hold and she says she risks wasting the time and effort she has already put into her course if she is not allowed to attend school in Canada.

“We are in a dilemma. What we can do in this situation, we cannot enroll in other courses here as well, and we cannot focus on our personal life and on our professional life,” said Kaur.

“We’re not in the situation where we can do anything for ourselves. We’re just stuck.”

CBC News spoke with several other Indian students who have been waiting since last summer and fall to receive their Canadian study permits.

LOOK | International students explain why they want to study in Canada:

These Indian students desperately want to study in Canada

Ravneet Kaur and Sidh Sharma have been waiting months for approval of their study permits to continue their studies in Canada. Both from India, they attended post-secondary school online but are unsure if they can continue.

“I never thought I would waste so much time just to get to Canada. It’s been so long, it’s been six months, and sometimes I feel like it’s a total waste,” said Sidh Sharma , 20 years.

Sharma, who lives in New Dehli, applied to St. Clair’s business marketing program in November 2021 and is still awaiting a study permit.

“It’s also a depressing situation. My family is also advising me that if they’re not, you know, they’re not working on your application, you should change your country,” he said. “I was like, no, I love Canadians, I love the culture, a lot of religions and it’s just inspiring by being diverse. So I love the country. I don’t just want to let drop my candidacy.”

Like Kaur, Sharma was able to complete a semester of online learning, but said his second semester was in jeopardy as it was not offered in September, when he hopes his license will be approved.

“The college, the staff, the teachers, they’re very nice, very helpful,” Sharma said. “It’s just that the applications are not being processed. My file is under review, I don’t know what type of review is going on with IRCC.”

Sharma says his family encourages him to think about other countries to further his education, as his Canadian study permit took months to be approved, but he cares about Canada. (Submitted by Sidh Sharma)

St. Clair College is one of many schools affected by the immigration backlog. The college offers refunds to students who do not obtain an approved study visa.

In an emailed statement, a school spokesperson said that as of January 2022, approximately 800 international students at St. Clair began studying online without a study permit. Now, about 90 of those 800 students are still waiting.

Immigration backlog rises to 2 million

Students aren’t the only ones waiting to be accepted into Canada, as the immigration backlog has soared to around two million applications.

IRCC declined an interview with CBC News, but in an emailed statement, the pandemic, travel and border restrictions and limited overseas operational capacity have all contributed to processing delays beyond control. of the agency.

“We understand the frustration of anyone hoping to begin their studies in Canada when their application takes longer than expected,” a spokesperson said in an email.

IRCC said the federal government has made progress, increasing study permits by 32% in 2021 by issuing about 446,300 permits. In 2020, IRCC issued approximately 25,000 permits and approximately 401,000 in 2019.

From January to March this year, the agency handled around 136,000 applications, more than half of them from Indian nationals.

“Current study permit processing times are 11 weeks, which means we’re getting back on track for processing and making sure students can get their study permits in time to start their studies. “said the spokesperson.

WATCH | This immigration lawyer explains the backlog of immigration applications:

Lawyer explains IRCC immigration backlog

Windsor, Ont. Immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri said a backlog of immigration applications is due to a “perfect storm”.

Immigration attorney Eddie Kadri does not represent Kaur or Sharma, but said he has many clients in similar situations. Kadri said the federal application system is broken and will only get worse in the years to come.

“It’s a problem, we’re in the middle, it doesn’t get better tomorrow or the day after,” Kadri said.

“Understanding that the system is dysfunctional, the system is about to be broken and it needs new ideas, new life, but above all it needs technology to help us get out of this backlog in which we find ourselves now.”

Kadri said IRCC is incredibly overworked and understaffed, and tries to prioritize refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan, leaving many international students on the back burner.

“It’s a tragic situation everywhere, in every field. Students, I’m really sorry because they are a big part of what we want to do here with our immigration programs,” he said.

“We attract the best, the brightest to come and study here, and then hopefully they will use this opportunity and cultivate it into an application for permanent residency.”

Windsor immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri said the immigration system is “tottering on the verge of being broken” and the Canadian government needs to embrace new ways to improve the process. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Many international students become entrepreneurs who start businesses in Canada after graduation, which means jobs for Canadians, Kadri said.

“Entrepreneurs from all over the world who want to come here, who have money, lots of funds who can start businesses right away and employ Canadians — they are ready, willing and able to do so, and their processing time almost doubled just in the last month,” he said.

“They’re all in the same boat now and so that’s where Canada is missing the bigger picture here.”

Students have few options

Unfortunately for students, there are few options to move forward, according to Kadri, who recommends that they stay in close contact with their school or an immigration lawyer if they have one.

“It’s a situation that they’re going to have to be patient with, and they’re going to have to wait for this process to be completed and see what happens in the weeks and months to come,” Kadri said.

Kaur and Sharma hope to be able to continue their studies in Canada to improve. Both say they are part of social media groups and chat with dozens of other people in the same situations as them.

“We can see that there are a lot of students waiting for their visa applications, as if the files are in a jumble,” Sharma said. “They just pile up and pile up and students don’t even get a chance to visit their college.”

Sharma said he and others were postponing their studies, leaving them uncertain when they would finish their courses.

“I just want to say I’m in a bad emotional trauma,” said Kaur, who fears she might have to drop out of class.

She added that “we are the students who want to learn something. That’s why we want them to come there[toCanada[auCanadaIln’yapasd’autreraisonderrièrecelaJ’aiaccomplitellementdechosesiciaussimaisjeveuxgrandirmoi-même”[toCanadaThereisnootherreasonbehindthatIhaveachievedsomanythingsherealsobutIwanttogrowmyself”

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