Figures released to The PIE News have shown that eight in 10 students in India applying for student visas via the SDS route have their applications approved, while only four in 10 non-SDS applicants gained approval.
On the other hand, of the 13,800+ non-SDS visas processed in 2021 until May from Chinese applicants, 89% were approved, while 88% of the almost 1,300 SDS applications from the country were approved.
The statistics also show that Chinese students are more likely to apply via the non-SDS route. In the first half of 2018, 4,769 SDS applications were approved, but non-SDS approvals have remained consistently higher since.
Until May 2021, 12,395 non-SDS applications were approved for Chinese students compared to the 1,134 SDS applications, which could indicate that the process is not “faster, easier and more accessible” in certain markets, as first suggested by IRCC in 2018 when it introduced the stream.
Seven countries in Latin and Central America were added recently to the list of countries where students are eligible for the express service.
The data also shows that as the SDS option was introduced across some markets in 2018, refusal rates for non-SDS visa increased.
In Q1 and Q2 of 2018, approval rates for non-SDS visas for students from India were 71% and 65%, respectively. After processing SDS applications began in mid-2018 for Indian students, the approval rates in Q1 and Q2 of 2019 for non-SDS decreased to 39% for each quarter.
However, approval rates for non-SDS did jump back up to 60% in Q4 2020.
Similarly in Vietnam, in 2018 non-SDS approvals stood at 76%, 77% and 66% for Q1, Q2 and Q3, respectively, before dropping to 34%, 44% and 42% for the same quarters in 2019, after the SDS option for Vietnam was introduced in 2018.
The data also shows the extent that the Covid-19 pandemic had on visa processing in 2020, with applications for both SDS and non-SDS visas falling compared with previous years.
IRCC noted that travel restrictions prevented most international students from travelling to Canada from March to October 2020. However, it continued to process study permit applications to the extent possible, few approvals were issued during that timeframe, as “applicants wouldn’t have been allowed to travel to Canada anyways”.
In 2020, IRCC approved 25,714 non-SDS study permits for the seven countries –India, China, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam and Senegal – compared to the 68,181 it approved in 2019.
SDS application approvals also declined in the four countries that offered the stream service for all of 2019. In 2020, IRCC approved 21,815 from India compared to 77,253 in 2019, while approvals from China fell from 2,328 in 2019 to 1,358, Vietnam from 1,527 to 584 and Philippines from 671 to 172.
Overall, the SDS route has led to increased approval rates for study permit applicants.
Between Q1 2018 and May 2021, 390,181 non-SDS student visa applications have been processed by Canadian authorities for the seven countries with a 66.2% approval rate. A total of 312,546 SDS applications have been processed over the same time period with a approval rate of 79.4%.
While the 11,388 SDS approvals from China since Q1 2018 is relative to a 95% approval rate, the picture is mixed across different countries.
Since 2019, 664 SDS applications have been approved from Pakistan with 564 refused. For non-SDS visas 5,698 have been rejected, representing a refusal rate of 78.2%.
Similarly, refusal rates for non-SDS applications from Senegal over three and half years since 2018 stands at 78%, reaching a total of 5,698 refusals. Since 2020, IRCC has only received 20 SDS applications from the country – approving seven and refusing three.
Morocco also only accounts for double digits, with 45 SDS applications approved and 23 refused since Q3 2019.
A source at an institution in Canada recently told The PIE News that in their experience, IRCC favours SDS for approvals over non-SDS route.
“The number of visa denials from non-SDS is likely to increase greatly,” they said of the new markets in the Americas where the initiative has recently been introduced. “Also SDS applicants take priority for processing which slows down the processing of non-SDS applicants,” they added.
Additionally, the upfront $10,000 Guaranteed Investment Certificate the SDS requires may act as a deterrent for many students and parents.