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Canada adds Latin American and Caribbean countries to expedited student visa programme

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced this month that students from several markets throughout the Americas will now be eligible for Canada’s expedited processing programme for study permits
  • The expansion list includes several Caribbean markets but also the increasingly important growth markets of Brazil and Colombia

Canada announced a significant expansion of its Student Direct Stream (SDS) on 9 July 2021, with students from seven new countries throughout the Americas now eligible to participate in the expedited programme for Canadian study permits.

Students from Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago may now apply via SDS, an online option that offers faster processing times for eligible study permit applicants.

Following earlier pilots in selected Asian markets, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) first launched the SDS for China, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam in 2018. It was then expanded to include Pakistan, Morocco, and Senegal in 2019.

The premise of SDS is that eligible students are asked to provide additional qualifying information at the time of application for a Canadian study permit in return for faster processing times. The programme has a stated target to process applications within 20 days, and students are asked to include a number of items with their applications, most notably:

  • Proof of required language skills (as indicated by an IELTS score of at least 6 for English-language studies or a Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens score of at least 7 for those planning to study in French);
  • A certain level of financial security, to be shown through a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAN$10,000 and proof of tuition payment for the first year of studies.

“Our country’s diverse and inclusive 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 Canada’s Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. “The global pandemic has caused disruptions and distress for everyone, including international students. By expanding the Student Direct Stream to a more diverse range of prospective students, we have great optimism that international education will recover, and indeed flourish, as Canada emerges from the pandemic.”

The addition of Brazil and Colombia to the list of SDS countries is especially notable as both have emerged as important growth markets for Canadian institutions and schools over the last several years.

Brazilian enrolment in Canada, as measured by numbers of study permits granted by IRCC, nearly doubled between 2015 and 2019 to reach just under 15,000 students before the effects of COVID weakened those totals in 2020.

Colombian enrolment expanded even more quickly, by roughly 260% over that same period and 40% between 2018 and 2019 alone. The number of study permits issued to Colombian students exceeded 5,600 in 2019, and only India, Vietnam, and The Philippines recorded faster growth in student movement to Canada over those five years.

Educators and agents anticipate a further growth in the years ahead – both for those holding study permits for longer-term study and for students travelling to Canada for shorter-term language studies as well.

With the additional countries announced this month, SDS is now available to eligible students in 14 markets worldwide. Looking ahead, IRCC continues to express its commitment “to the continued expansion of the SDS in support of Canada’s International Education Strategy (2019–2024) and its goal of welcoming more international students from a broad range of source countries.”

Full details on programme eligibility and the SDS application process are available from IRCC.

For additional background, please see:

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