College and universities across the country are back in session, but many international students are missing out as Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) massive immigration backlog forces them to stay home.
International students are a key component of Canada’s ambitious plan to admit more than 400,000 permanent residents annually. Their younger demographics, excellent English skills, domestic education credentials and likely Canadian work experience make them perfect candidates to graduate straight into the local workforce and settle comfortably into life in this country.
They have also become a critical part of the business plans of Canadian colleges and universities, thanks to the substantially higher fees educational institutions can demand of international students compared with their domestic counterparts — many of my clients pay upwards of $50,000 per year for their studies.
But you would never know the incredible value of international students if you judged based on the unacceptable treatment they have received from IRCC in recent months.
As of mid-August, processing delays meant more than 160,000 students were still waiting for an answer on their study permit applications, with IRCC failing to meet its 60-day service standard in more than a third of its cases — many of which fall under the Student Direct Stream.
With term time approaching, this was the absolute worst time for the agency to fall short of its responsibilities. It was completely unnecessary and preventable with a bit of planning and notice to students, as I told CTV News in a recent interview. International students who decide to come to this country to study are making a significant investment — not just in Canada, but in their future — and they deserve better than the frustration and confusion that they are currently getting in return for their outlay.
IRCC has promised to boost its staffing to increase capacity in the short term, but as I explained in a separate interview with CBC News, this is too little too late for the international students who have already sacrificed tuition payments and rent deposits thanks to their inability to start on time.
Sadly, this kind of operational failure is nothing new for IRCC, whose broken culture is characterized by a complete lack of transparency and accountability. Rather than sinking further resources into the archaic consular-based systems that are the source of many of IRCC’s problems, I would like to see an independent commission kickstart a much-needed reform of the agency.
In the meantime, I recommend that prospective international students with their hearts set on studying in Canada apply well ahead of time, since experience leaves me with little faith that IRCC will tackle its issues in a timely way.
If you’re faced with a delay that threatens to interfere with your studies, you should immediately contact IRCC, and ask them to finalize the application. If necessary, seek a mandamus order from the Federal Court. You should also determine whether you can start classes remotely and/or defer the start date, subsequently providing IRCC with an updated admission letter.
While we have recently been able to help a few students get approval by way of mandamus applications, we hope that IRCC undergoes the necessary structural reform to ensure that students who choose Canada are not ignored.
If you are facing an immigration challenge and would like to schedule a consultation, please reach out. We would be happy to help you.
This information is intended to bring insight into the issues and should not be interpreted as legal advice.