2018 Study Permit Refusal Rates: Click on Country

Canada’s high rejection rate of international students is being driven by study permit refusals from a handful of countries, most of them in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Immigration officials rejected more than a third of all study permit applications this year and last year, but the refusal rate varied widely by the student’s citizenship.

International students from 31 countries had a less than two in 10 chance of getting a permit to study in Canada. That group includes students from Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Angola, Togo, Eritrea, the People’s Republic of the Congo and several conflict zones, including Afghanistan and Yemen.

In many cases, the refusal rate has increased dramatically in recent years. For example, more than half of all Nigerian applicants won a study permit in 2013, but fewer than 20 per cent of Nigerian applicants were granted a study permit in the first four months of this year.

The refusal rates in the map above and table below are based on statistics provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“There have been no significant policy or processing changes that would affect the approval rate of study permits.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship communications advisor Shannon Ker provided this statement about the trend:

“We can tell you that officers assess study permit applications, like any other type of application, on a case-by-case basis, based on the facts presented by the applicant.

“Officers treat all applications in the same manner, though external factors, such as changes in socio-economic conditions in the country of origin, can have an impact on the assessment of an application. There have been no significant policy or processing changes that would affect the approval rate of study permits.”

Victor Satzewich is a sociology professor at McMaster University who has studied how immigration officers make decisions.

He said there are several reasons that a cluster of countries in Africa could be seeing higher refusal rates than other countries, and higher refusal rates than they had in the past.

Many of the asylum seekers crossing into Quebec have come from Nigeria. That may be colouring how officers are viewing applications from Nigerian students, he said.

“The Nigerian case is interesting in light of broader concerns about Nigerian refugee applicants. It wouldn’t surprise me that people applying to be students would get caught up in that. The mesh might be tighter for students who want to come from Nigeria (because) the visa officer there might have concerns about the genuineness of travel.”

Officers will reject a study permit application if they don’t believe the applicant will return to their home country after finishing their studies or the applicant does not have enough money to support themselves in Canada. Applications may also be rejected if the student has a criminal record, is a security threat, has a medical condition that poses a danger to the public or has a history of immigration violations in any other country.

“The broader concern for an immigration officer is, ‘Will they go back to their country of origin?'”

Another reason for the high refusal rates for African students could be simple economics, Satzewich said.

“A general issue for people from Africa and students more generally are the funds they have available,” he said, referring to a rule that requires students to prove they have enough money to support themselves in Canada and that the money was legally obtained.

“In poorer countries, it’s harder to accumulate those funds. If a country has a lower GDP, it may be harder to do show sufficient funds and it may be harder to obtain the paperwork to show the funds are legitimate.”

Two other factors make it harder for students from poor countries and conflict zones, he said.

If a country is in trouble and citizens are desperate to leave, immigration officers may wonder if they really want to come to Canada to study, or if they just want to get in the country to stay.

Satzewich said some students are disadvantaged because it is harder for them to travel internationally. Applicants who have travelled to a wealthy nation and returned to their home have an advantage, he explained, because that is an indication to the immigration officer that they are likely to return home after studying in Canada.

But may wealthy nations require tourists from many African countries  get a visa just to visit. Applying is costly, takes a long time and the visa is not guaranteed. That means many African students don’t have the same opportunity to bolster their study permit application with international vacations, he said.

“The broader concern for an immigration officer,” he said, “is, ‘Will they go back to their country of origin?'”

All data provided or published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Data for 2018 in the map and table reflect study permit applications processed between January 1 and April 30, 2018.

Study Permit Refusal Rate: Select Countries
Country 2013 2017 2018 
India 40% 35% 29%
People’s Republic of China 13% 12% 17%
Nigeria 55% 82% 81%
Korea, Republic of 8% 4% 2%
France 3% 6% 11%
Vietnam 38% 24% 22%
Brazil 8% 21% 23%
United States of America 12% 7% 8%
Japan 4% 3% 1%
Pakistan 65% 84% 80%
Mexico 8% 9% 12%
Iran 44% 28% 39%
Philippines 46% 45% 42%
Turkey 30% 23% 40%
Saudi Arabia 7% 13% 9%
Ghana 44% 84% 89%
Germany 5% 11% 7%
United Kingdom and Colonies 7% 8% 13%
2013 and 2017 data reflects applications processed for the entire year. Data for 2018 includes applications finalized between January 1and April 30.


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