As an international student, securing admission into a Canadian university or college is a major achievement. However, before you pack your bags and move to Canada, you must get a study permit. Canada welcomes international students because they strengthen the country’s future workforce and the higher tuition fees paid by international students helps subsidize domestic education costs.
Post the pandemic, however, study permit applicants from many countries are facing a higher than average rate of rejection due to the increasing popularity of Canadian universities and colleges and the ongoing application backlog. In 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued 329,213 study permits, and 60 per cent of all student visa applications were approved. In contrast, the study permit approval rate declined to 55 per cent in the first quarter of 2022.
If you’re planning to apply for a Canadian study permit, this article delves into the common reasons for Canadian student visa rejection and how you can avoid them.
In this article:
Reasons for rejection of Canadian student visa applications
The first step to avoiding student visa rejection is to understand what the IRCC looks for in study permit applications and the reasons for rejection. Here are 15 common reasons why IRCC rejects Canadian study permits:
Not having a letter of acceptance from a DLI
You can only qualify for a study permit if you’ve received admission to a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI). A DLI is a university or college that is allowed to accept international students. Once you secure admission, your institution will send you a letter of acceptance (LOA) which you must attach to your application. If you submit a study permit application without a letter of acceptance, or if your LOA is not from an authorized DLI in Canada, your study permit application will be rejected.
Inadequate proof that you’ll leave Canada after your studies
Visa officers want to verify whether you’ll leave Canada after completing your studies. As an international student, one of the conditions of your study permit will be that you cannot stay in Canada illegally after your study permit expires. Although you may be able to apply for a study permit extension or a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after you graduate, highlighting your intention to stay in Canada after your studies can lead to the rejection of your student visa application.
Unclear purpose of visit
If the visa officer is not convinced that your purpose of studying in Canada is genuine, they will reject your application. This can happen if you don’t include a statement of purpose, clearly stating why you want to study in Canada and how this particular study program will help you achieve your career goals. In such a case, the visa officer may think you’re not a genuine student but rather, you intend to work in Canada illegally.
Lack of financial security
Proving that you have enough funds to cover the cost of your education in Canada is essential to your student visa application. If you fail to provide sufficient documentation showing that you’ve paid your tuition fee for the first year or have the money to pay for it, as well as your cost of living during your studies, your study permit will be rejected. You should also be able to prove where you obtained the funds, such as from your savings, a bank loan, a scholarship, etc.
If you’re applying for a study permit through the Student Direct Stream (SDS), you must purchase a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) and provide the relevant documentation with your study permit application. Note that the funds you put into this GIC will be returned to you to help cover part of your living expenses during your studies.
|Note: Starting January 1, 2024, the GIC amount needed to study in Canada (except in Quebec) has been revised to $20,635. Students coming to Quebec to study will require a GIC of $15,078. Note that the GIC amounts are linked to the cost of living requirements specified by the government of Canada and will be revised every year.
Inconsistent or incomplete academic records
You must submit your prior education credentials, transcripts, and mark sheets with your student visa application. Your academic records helps prove two things—the validity of your past degrees or certifications as well as your track record as a good student. If your documents are incomplete or your past academic performance is inconsistent, the visa officer may reject your application.
Choosing a study program that doesn’t align with your prior education or experience
The study program you choose has a huge impact on whether your study permit application will be accepted or not. If your study program isn’t aligned with your projected career path, earlier education, or recent work experience, the visa officer may not be convinced that your primary motivation for coming to Canada is education. If your study program isn’t a logical next step after your prior education, make sure your statement of purpose clearly explains why you’re choosing that program and how it will help your career.
Unexplained gaps in your education or experience
Consistency in your education and work history is important. If you took a gap year during school or were unemployed for a while before applying for a study permit, this could be grounds for refusal of your application. However, if there’s a valid reason for a gap in your academic or employment history, it’s important to explain it in your statement of purpose.
Low language test score
Proficiency in English (or French if you’re going to study in Quebec or enrol in a French-language program) is an essential qualifying criterion for a study permit. A poor score on an approved language test, such as IELTS, CELPIP, TEF Canada, or TCF Canada, will likely result in your student visa being refused.
|Note: Most universities and colleges in Canada also review your language test score before granting admission to ensure you’ll be able to understand the course curriculum and interact in the classroom.
Family ties in Canada and your home country
Strong family ties in Canada can sometimes work against you when you submit your study permit application. If you have siblings in Canada, drawing attention to that in your application may lead the visa officer to suspect you won’t return to your home country after graduating. Similarly, if you highlight that you don’t have immediate family in your own country, the visa officer may think you don’t have enough reason to leave Canada after your studies.
A high volume of pending study permit applications
Although there’s not much you can do about the number of study permit applications being processed by the IRCC at a given time, a large backlog can sometimes result in a higher rate of rejection. Visa officers may reject applications for minor issues if they are reviewing more applications than normal.
Refusal of admission on medical or criminal grounds
If you don’t get a clean bill of health on your medical exam, your study permit will likely be refused. You may also be denied entry into Canada if you have committed or been convicted of a crime in the past. However, your study permit may still be approved if you were a minor (under 18) when the crime occurred.
Inadequate or inadmissible travel history
When you apply for a student visa, the immigration officer will look closely at your prior travel history. Ensure you are giving accurate dates for your international travels while filling out the application, as giving an incomplete or incorrect travel history will likely result in your study permit being refused. Your student visa will also be rejected if you are in your current country of residence illegally or if you’ve previously overstayed your visa in Canada or another country.
Missing any essential paperwork, submitting incompletely filled out forms, and not providing sufficient reasoning for the purpose of your visit or other gaps in your application can result in your study permit being denied. In addition to your LOA, proof of financial support, and proof of identity, you should also include a statement of purpose (also called a letter of explanation) and a Quebec Selection Certificate if you’ll be studying in Quebec. Review the document checklist issued by your local visa office carefully, as applicants from certain countries may have to submit additional paperwork.
Lying on your student visa application
Any inconsistency, inaccuracy, or exaggeration on your study permit application can be grounds for rejection. Immigration officials usually verify the information you provide and review your documents carefully. Make sure the details you provide in your statement of purpose and application are accurate. Submitting fraudulent documentation or misrepresentation is a criminal offence, and will not only result in the rejection of your student visa but can also bar you from entry into Canada in the future.
Hiring an unlicensed immigration consultant
If you’re hiring an immigration consultant or educational consultant to help with your study permit application, make sure they are authorized by the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC) in Canada. Approved education consultants are called Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIAs), and each RISIA is affiliated with a university or college in Canada.
Beware of unauthorized immigration or education consultants who guarantee that you’ll get admission into a Canadian school or advise you to provide false information on your application. It’s your responsibility to verify that the consultant you hire is authorized; working with an unlicensed consultant can result in the rejection of your student visa application.
Tips to improve the chances of your Canadian study permit being approved
Before submitting your Canadian student visa application, it’s important to verify that your application is complete, accurately filled out, and makes a compelling case for why you should be allowed to study in Canada. Now that you know the common reasons why study permits are rejected, here are some tips to improve the chances of your study permit getting approved:
Use a document checklist to ensure you submit all required paperwork
The document requirements for student visas can vary by country, so make sure you include all the paperwork listed on your document checklist. Don’t hesitate to include additional documents that are not specifically requested if you think it’ll improve your chances of approval. For instance, if you own a property or have a stock portfolio, including proof of those assets can help convince the visa officer that you have a reason to return to your home country after your studies.
Make sure the university or college you apply to is a DLI
Before applying to a university or college in Canada, verify that it is on the government’s Designated Learning Institution (DLI) list. Only Canadian DLIs can accept international students, and getting admission into a non-DLI school will not qualify you for a study permit.
Choose your study program wisely
The study program you plan to pursue in Canada should be related to your prior education or work experience. If there’s no direct correlation between your program and your existing career path, you should be able to explain how the skills you acquire through this program will help grow in your career. For instance, if you studied marketing in your home country and want to study data analytics in Canada, you may want to highlight how this knowledge will help you improve the performance of marketing campaigns.
Provide sufficient financial proof
If you’re applying for a study permit through the Student Direct Stream (SDS), make sure you have a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of at least $20,635 ($15,078 if you’ll be studying in Quebec). Financial institutions may deduct a processing fee or administration charge from the amount you deposit, so be sure to add that amount to your GIC payment. You’ll also have to show that you’ve paid the first year’s tuition and accommodation cost.
If you’re applying through the general study permit stream, you can provide proof of financial support in the form of bank statements, proof of scholarship, education loan, etc. The more funds you show, the better the chances of your student visa getting approved.
Include a statement of purpose with your student visa application
Although including a statement of purpose or letter of explanation isn’t mandatory, it can be very useful for your study permit application. A statement of purpose helps explain why you want to study in Canada, your reasons for choosing a particular program, and your career objectives. You should also explain any gaps in your education and experience, or inconsistency in your academic performance if any.
Improve your language test score
It’s not always easy to ace your language test on the first try. If your initial score is low, be prepared to retake the Academic IELTS, CELPIP, TCF, or TEF Canada to improve it. You’ll have to pay the language test fee again (usually around $300) but a good score will increase your chances of securing admission into a Canadian university or college and getting your student visa approved. Spend time practicing before retaking the language test and read our tips for improving your IELTS or CELPIP score.
Clarify your intention of returning to your home country
Make sure your application highlights your plan to return home after your studies. Immigration officers want to ensure you’re aware of your responsibilities as an international student, and the most important one is leaving Canada when your study permit expires. You can clarify this by including your career objectives in your home country, and how your Canadian education will help improve your work prospects at home. Understandably, your future plans will be uncertain at this stage, at least until you have experienced life as a student in Canada. So it’s best to avoid mentioning the possibility of extending your stay in Canada after graduation.
Make sure your immigration consultant is an authorized RISIA
If you plan to hire an immigration consultant to help with your study permit application, make sure they are a registered Regulated International Student Immigration Advisor (RISIA) affiliated with the school you’re applying to. RISIAs are authorized to provide guidance and advice on student visa applications, but cannot submit an application on your behalf.
What to do if your study permit application for Canada is rejected
Although it may feel that way, the rejection of your study permit application isn’t necessarily the end of your dreams of studying in Canada. You have the option to reapply for a student visa or have the decision reviewed in court. However, to do either of those things, you first need to find out why your study permit was rejected.
When your study permit is rejected, you have the right to request the visa officer’s notes on your application. These notes, commonly known as the Global Case Management System (GCMS) notes, will give you more insight into why your application was not approved. However, foreign residents cannot request GCMS notes directly. Instead, you’ll need to hire an immigration consultant or representative who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and authorize them to get the notes on your behalf. Keep in mind this process can take up to 60 days.
Once you’ve received and reviewed the notes, you should be able to assess whether your study permit was rejected for a legitimate reason. Based on the validity of the visa officer’s decision, you have three options:
1. Reapply for a study permit
If your study permit was rejected for valid reasons, such as incomplete documentation or insufficient proof of financial support, you can always reapply with additional paperwork. If possible, defer your studies in Canada by a semester so you have enough time to reapply and get your student visa. Make sure your revised study permit application is more comprehensive and does not have the same mistakes or gaps as your first application. If you’re not confident about how to strengthen your application, consider hiring a RISIA to guide you through the process.
2. Request a judicial review of your application decision
There’s no formal appeal process for the re-consideration of your study permit decision. However, if you’re confident that your study permit was unfairly rejected, you can request the Federal Court to review the decision and determine if it was reasonable. You’ll require the services of an immigration lawyer authorized to practice law in Canada to do this. Moreover, the Federal Court does not review all cases, so this approach should only be used as a last resort.
3. Rescind your acceptance from the university or college
There’s also the possibility that your study permit was rejected for a legitimate reason, but you’re unable to take corrective action. For instance, you may not have sufficient funds for your education in Canada or may have lost your academic credentials. In such a case, your only option is to decline your university or college admission and get your tuition fees refunded. The DLI may deduct an administration fee before refunding your payment, so be sure to ask how much they’ll charge. If you purchased a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) to show financial proof for your application, you’ll also need to get that refunded.
Your dream of studying in Canada hinges on qualifying for a study permit, and often, the uncertainty of whether or not you’ll receive a study permit can be stressful. By following the tips we shared, you can avoid the mistakes that most frequently lead to student visa application rejection. However, in case your application isn’t approved, don’t worry. You can always strengthen your application and reapply at a later date.