Photo of Salman Nasir

Salman Nasir

Salman Nasir has been waiting 10 months to find out if he can study in Canada.

According to statistics compiled by the Canadian Bureau of International Education, he still might be one of the lucky ones.

Students from Nasir’s home country of Pakistan are less likely to have their Canadian Study Permits approved than students of almost any other country. Data published by the Canadian Bureau of International Education in World of Learning: 2016, shows that only students in Jordan and Haiti were less likely to have their Study Permits approved.

Nasir is one of several students who complained to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada during a Reddit forum that the paper-based Study Permit application system for Pakistan has become heartbreakingly slow. They said that students who applied for permits online were getting answers – both refusals and acceptances – quickly, but those who sent paper applications were not.

“If you don’t want to give someone a visa, reject them!” Nasir said during a Skype interview from his home in Peshawar, Pakistan. “But let them know in two, three months so they can get on with their life. My life is on hold and has been on hold for months and months and months.”

Chart showing Study Permit approval rate is highest for students from Brazil, lowest for students from Jordan

Source: A World of Learning 2016 by Canadian Bureau of International Education

Immigration communication spokesperson Nancy Caron said that Canada does not keep statistics on paper versus online processing times. However, official statistics show that overall processing times for Pakistan have dropped dramatically in recent years. For example, in March, 2015, it took Canada an average of 12 weeks to decide whether to issue a Study Permit application from Pakistan. This March, that wait was down to seven weeks.

But that’s no comfort to Nasir, who chose Canada over Germany and the United Kingdom because he was offered a prestigious teaching assistantship at the University of Ottawa.

Nasir was accepted into the Master of Science in Electronic Business Technologies to begin in January, 2017. He applied for his Study Permit in September. Records show it took a visa officer only two weeks to decide that Nasir’s application was legitimate.

“I am satisfied that the program is the next step in his education; he does have funding; his language skills are good; I am satisfied he is a BF (bona fide) student; accepted at U of Ottawa to start Jan 2017; pending checks,” read notes entered on his case file in October.

Nasir wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May asking for help. He received an email back from the Prime Minister’s Office saying they had forwarded his query to the office of Immigration Minister of Ahmed Hussen. Nasir received a note back from Immigration on May 25, 2017 assuring him that his file was being “actively processed.”

Since then, he hasn’t heard a thing. University of Ottawa has deferred his entry, and classes start in five weeks.

Nasir bought a ticket to Canada last fall, expecting to start his program in January. He hasn’t made that mistake this time.

Nasir said he didn’t know that Canada’s approval rate for Study Permits from Pakistan was so low when he chose University of Ottawa over European offers.

“I did know that cases get rejected in an ample number, but that was the least of my concern, because I was a genuine student going for my Masters in a reputable university,” Nasir wrote in an email to Polestar News.

“It’s about a delay in the decision, and wastage of almost two sessions for me plus a TA’ship in my university . . .  I didn’t expected to be granted a visa in the first place as I believe it is IRCC’s role to decide if I should be granted one or not. It has been the delay that has been worrisome, and extremely frustrating on a personal level.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada does not comment on individual cases. When asked why some countries have low approval rates while other countries have high approval rates, a spokesperson said that all decisions are made by individual immigration officers.

“Honestly now, I think I made the wrong choice,” Nasir said during the Skype interview.

“At least, I’m questioning the wisdom of my choice. If I had applied to the U.S., the UK or Germany, at least now I would know.”

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