Canada adds Pakistan to its expedited student visa programme

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Canada’s immigration ministry has announced that Pakistan has been added to the Student Direct Stream (SDS) programme
  • SDS is designed to streamline visa processing for eligible students from participating countries
  • There are now five countries included in the programme, including China, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines
  • Canadian officials report that most SDS visa applications are processed in under three weeks

In 2018, Canada consolidated a series of pilot programmes to expedite processing for study permits (study visas) for students from selected Asian markets.

In June of that year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced the programme, the Student Direct Stream, and its initial implementation in China, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The programme model aims to shorten processing times for students from those four key sending markets. In order to qualify for the programme, eligible students must demonstrate:

  • Higher-than-average language skills (an IELTS score of at least 6.0 for English-language studies or a Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens score of at least 7);
  • A certain level of financial security, to be shown through a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAN$10,000 from Scotiabank of Canada and proof of tuition payment for the first year of studies.

In addition, students applying under SDS will need to show proof of having been accepted into a full-time programme at a Canadian learning institution that is designated to host international students and undergo a medical examination before applying.

Pakistan joins the programme

When the programme was officially announced in 2018, IRCC also indicated at the time that it intended to further expand SDS to other selected markets in the future, particularly those in Asia and Africa. The first such addition has just been announced with news last week that Pakistan would now be formally included in the Student Direct Stream.

“Canada’s position as a top destination for students seeking a high-quality international education is strengthened when we provide fast, reliable processing of applications,” says an accompanying statement from IRCC. “The expansion of SDS supports the Government’s goal of attracting students from a more diverse range of countries.”

IRCC adds that most SDS applications made by students from eligible countries are being processed in under three weeks.

“Canada’s diverse, welcoming society, high-quality educational institutions and opportunities to work or immigrate after graduation have made Canada a leading destination of choice for students from around the world,” said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen. “By expanding the Student Direct Stream to a more diverse range of prospective students, we’re enhancing the tremendous cultural, social and economic benefits that international students provide.”

There were just under 4,000 Pakistani students with Canadian study permits in 2018, according to official IRCC statistics. Interestingly, the overall number of Pakistani students enrolled with Canadian institutions has been largely flat over the last six years (with roughly 4,000 students holding Canadian study permits in any given year). This in spite of the fact that total outbound from Pakistan (as reported by UNESCO) has grown by more than 40% over the same period to reach nearly 53,000 students abroad as of 2017.

Canadian educators will now hope to claim a greater share of this growing South Asian market, and there is some indication that SDS can have an important market effect. This is especially noticeable in the case of an early SDS country, Philippines, where total student numbers in Canada have more than doubled over the last three years to surpass 5,000 as of 2018.

For additional background, please see:



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