November 27, 2019

Study Permit Applicants Do Your Homework!

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

At this year’s Law Society of Ontario 27th Annual Immigration Law Summit I was privileged to present on the Legal and Practical Challenges to Individualized Assessments of Study Permit Applicants.  Canada’s International Student Program (ISP) is an important and expanding pathway to permanent resident status for some, and an introduction to Canada for all permitted entry. The ISP is valued at a 21.6-billion-dollar business and has produced hundreds of thousands of jobs[1] impacting various stakeholders (government, schools, potential migrants, residents and citizens alike).

Beware of the Pitfalls

But what is important to know is that there is significantly more demand than need or further still, eventual pathways for all those interested in permanent residence.  There are a number of serious issues surrounding the scope of the program and issues relating to educational recruitment, program integrity and enrolling in learning institutes that are not designated by the government.  Also. applicants must understand the inherent tension between mass processing, especially with the aid of expanding technologies like artificial intelligence, and the need for individualized applicant assessments to avoid stereotypes and generalizations that would deny entry and bar applicants who otherwise meet the requirements for a study permit.

The Onus is On You to Convince an Immigration Officer

Ultimately, officers must engage in individual assessments of study permit applications to avoid findings of unreasonableness and procedural breaches. But the onus is on applicants to submit a complete Canadian study permit application.   To apply for a study permit from abroad, an applicant must meet all legislative and regulatory requirements.[2] Aside from admissibility concerns (any medical and/or criminality issues, any past immigration violations to list but a few) key amongst the supporting documentation is a letter of acceptance from the a Designated Learning Institution.[3] The letter must include tuition fees, commencing and completion dates of the program and the date by and which the applicant must register.

The applicant must also provide proof of financial support for the duration of the studies, or for at least a year if the program is longer than a year. Applicants must also undergo a medical examination.  When an Applicant meets the requirements of section216(1)[4] of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Regulations) the language is mandatory – the officer shall issue a study permit.

Common Reasons for Refusals

Where the application is complete and has all the required documents, the visa officer must turn to the Regulations for the relevant legislation to assess the application.  Often in refusals a visa officer may use language along the lines of “is not a bona fide student,” there is a “significant gap” in their education, the proposed program of study does not “appear [as] a natural progression,” “there are local alternatives that are more cost-effective.”[5]  These considerations naturally tie into finances, previous travel history and the presence of family ties in weighing the evidence.  

Do Your Homework!

So, given this step for most foreign nationals is significant to their lives, ensure the application is prepared properly with excellent representation. Equally important is to ensure you have not fallen prey to an unscrupulous individual who is steering you down a disastrous path for profit.  As well, your expectations must be carefully examined to ensure they are realistic and what may be possible in terms of immigration pathways is fully explored before you start on the process.     

Ultimately even with expanding use of artificial intelligence in the processing of these applications an officer must conduct an individualized assessment to determine if a foreign national is not an intending immigrant and is in fact a genuine student.  However, the call for individualized assessments may uncomfortably coexist and potentially succumb to the need for speed and mass processing, for which artificial intelligence is deployed.   

Fight Unfair Refusals

Where you believe your application has been unlawfully refused there may be options to challenge that decision.  There is no doubt, individuals follow different paths in life and while many fit into the ‘cookie-cutter’ path to education, some do not. Basing decisions on generalizations creates unrealistic and unlegislated requirements for certain applicants and are wrong in law and should be challenged.

Given the importance of the ISP to Canada and its significant contribution, it is crucial even more so now in the face of AI that applications receive the careful individualized assessment that they are due.  For us as counsel, it is important we address those key areas that humanize you and better the chance of success on your application be it at the first stage or in court.  So, before you think about studying in Canada, do your homework about the process and seek out experienced legal assistance because this is an important step in your life.  Thank you for reading.

To learn more about applying for study permits please click here.

To learn more about challenging a study permit refusal, please click here.