Disconnects in Canada visa cases causing havoc for students

Published 20/01/2023

Like the rest of the world, Canada’s visa processing officials have been slightly inundated over the last 12 months.

There’s been issues across the board – slow processing times, high denials in certain areas that have caused controversy, among other concerns.

As well as the IRCC’s own share of problems, various colleges have been coming under fire for their handling of these issues.

CBC, the country’s biggest news outlet, recently reported on two compelling cases. The first – Precious Christianah Ademokun, a prospective student from Nigeria who applied to a college programming course at George Brown College in Toronto.

When she sent in her visa application, she expected to wait the 60 day standard – this was not the case.

By that point, she had already sent in a near CAD$9,000 deposit – the deadline for a refund in the case she needed to withdraw also came and went as she waited for her decision.

“Students are trapped between the college and their visa forms”

Eventually, IRCC came back with that decision – a denial – and left Ademokun with no choice but to try and ask for a refund anyway. Her appeal was then rejected by George Brown College.

“Students are trapped between the college and their visa forms, and they don’t know where to go next or who to talk to,” said Nick Peterson, who is a support staff member at the college’s student association, in an interview with CBC Toronto.

He claims he gets international students with this problem at least twice a month – showing Ademokun’s case is not the only one.

It was only after pressure from the news outlet that GBC said they would review their internal practices, and refund Ademokun – but not all students in her position have the amplification of CBC. So what can be done for them?

“All throughout the pandemic, GBC has had a special – more flexible- withdrawal policy for those students who are studying online from overseas and who still have not received their study permits,” Janene Christiansen, the university’s registrar of strategic enrolment, told The PIE News.

“George Brown College, along with other post-secondary institutions, has advocated through member organisations (most notably, CiCan) for more resources to be put against the visa delay issue.

“The college also encourages students to apply for their visa as soon as possible after they receive their letter of acceptance from the college, to ensure their visa application is processed in time,” she explained.

Christiansen defended the college, insisting that the vast majority of students do withdraw on time – and also stipulated that GBC’s withdrawal policy aligns with MCU and IRCC regulations.

The IRCC, when asked about situations like Ademokun’s, said that it doesn’t “have the authority related to educational institutions” – saying it’s down to the provincial governments.

“While IRCC encourages more flexible tuition refund policies, it doesn’t set them and can’t intervene in individual situations,” a spokesman elaborated.

IRCC went on to defend its visa processing speeds, saying the current focus is on “reducing existing backlogs”.

“[These include] the applications that have been in our inventories longer than our service standards. We are aiming to process 80% of all new applications within these standards, accounting for expected delays in complex cases,” the spokesman clarified.

However, these decisions are still taking too long for some students.

Also left in limbo is Omar Burqan – a Jordanian national who came over to New Brunswick with his family to study the educational assistant program at Atlantic Business College.

The program, which was originally included in a sub-set of New Brunswick’s Provincial Nominee Program – a specially created Private Career College Graduate Pilot program – would allow Burqan to obtain a work permit after his studies end.

The work permit, CBC says, was a big reason for his moving his family over. However, he is less than two weeks out from finishing his course and still has no work permit.

This is because ABC has now been dropped from the program after crisis talks between provincial officials in New Brunswick, where the college is located and the IRCC – the IRCC declined to comment on the case.

Despite its exclusion, the page advertising the permit on ABC’s site is still up as of publication on January 18, 2023 – over five months after it was dropped.

While he currently holds a job, Burqan’s permit to work in Canada expires 90 days after graduation, and he has no idea what he will do after that.

“I asked them many times… to send me an official guarantee that wouldn’t happen to me what [happened] to my colleagues,” he said, but ABC has provided him with no communication about the program.

They have, however, repeatedly requested that he pay $7,400 he owes in tuition, to which he responded that he would if the college “follow through on their original promise” of a work permit.

The PIE attempted to contact Atlantic Business College for clarification on Burqan’s current status, and what is being done to support those who are in a similar position to Burqan. The college did not respond.

The issues come as Canada remains in the spotlight, with international students flooding through the country’s borders to study.

“As of November 30 2022, IRCC had processed over 670,000 study permits”

“With unprecedented interest in Canada from applicants all over the world, IRCC continues to set the bar higher for immigration processing,” the IRCC spokesman said.

“As of November 30 2022, IRCC had processed over 670,000 study permits, compared to more than 500,000 during the same time period last year. As a result of these efforts, most new study permits are now being processed within the 60-day service standard,” they added.

Cases like Ademokun’s and Burqan’s show that while Canada is striving for that “higher bar”, cracks in the system still leave behind some who wish to go to the country to study and in many cases, stay and work there.

However, the question must then be asked, will issues like these remain as long as colleges continue to take on more and more international students?

“This issue will be greatly mitigated if visa processing times are improved, but George Brown College, as a reputable and well-respected public institution, is committed to reviewing our internal processes and policies to ensure equitable, clear, and transparent process for all prospective students,” Christiansen added.

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