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Canadian immigration reports surge in study permit applications in 2021

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Study permit applications for Canada are up nearly 30% year-to-date August 2021, compared to the same period in 2019
  • The major growth markets for Canada, including India, Colombia, Philippines, and Vietnam, are also driving application volumes this year

New applications for Canadian study permits fell by nearly half in 2020 – compared to 2019 – as the pandemic took hold. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data indicates a total of 847,852 applications in 2019, which then dropped to just under 442,000 last year.

But application volumes are poised to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2021, driven by a combination of deferred demand from last year as well as this year’s student cohort.

IRCC reports more than 730,000 new student permit applications through August 2021, a roughly 27% increase over the same period from 2019. More than half of the total volume of applications year-to-date were filed between January and May this year.

That surge in application volumes correlates to a significant deadline for IRCC processing. The immigration ministry had earlier advised that all completed applications received by 15 May 2021 would be processed by 6 August 2021. IRCC has since said that, excepting incomplete applications, nearly all files received by that deadline were processed on time. Immigration officials are working to process files received after 15 May as quickly as possible.

However, nearly 330,000 study permit applications were filed from June through August 2021 and there are reports across Canadian institutions and schools of some students needing to defer admission to January 2022 as IRCC continues to work through the backlog this year.

The growth in 2021 application volumes reflects broader enrolment trends for the five years leading up to 2020. Roughly 22% of all applications year-to-date 2021 are from Indian students, with other major pre-pandemic growth markets – including Bangladesh, Colombia, Iran, Nigeria, Philippines, and Vietnam – showing renewed strength this year as well.

Estimated processing times for new applications are available from IRCC. And IRCC is also regularly updating its COVID guidance for applicants and incoming students as well.

For additional background, please see:

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