On July 9, 2021 Canada announced a long-awaited expansion of the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program to seven new countries, all from the Americas region. Legal residents from these countries are eligible for a fast-track processing of a study permit application and corresponding visa, if they would like to study at a post-secondary institution (DLI) in Canada. Thus, at the moment, there are 14 countries and regions on the SDS list:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
Extremely long delays with study permit processing during the pandemic have been painful and nerve-wrecking for students who put their lives on hold. Equally, this has been inconvenient for Canadian educational institutions that do careful planning every semester making sure they have capacity and resources for all international students that arrive. As an international admissions officer and an immigration consultant, I’ve witnessed cases of students who have been delaying their studies for 4-5 semesters due to no updates from IRCC. Being from an SDS country, an international student may have their application for a study permit processed in as fast as 20 days.
If you are legally residing in an SDS country and have been admitted to a school in Canada, you may have a choice between applying for a study permit via regular (non-SDS) and SDS stream. Here are a few frequently asked questions that can help you choose which way to go:
1. What are the benefits of applying via SDS?
Since an applicant is required to provide extra documents upfront, such as proof of pre-paid tuition fees for one year, this allows a visa officer to reach a decision on an application faster. Proof of pre-paid fees and arrange GIC serves as an additional evidence of the seriousness of the student’s intentions and that they will be able to financially support themselves away from home.
2. What are the additional documents that are needed to apply via SDS?
You will need to provide the following:
- valid IELTS test results with a score of 6.0 or higher in each skill (for institutions where the language of instruction is English);
- proof of GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate) of $10,000 (conditions apply);
- proof of prepaid fees for one year tuition;
- a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from the DLI you are planning to attend;
- most recent high school/post-secondary transcript as proof you meet the admission requirements to the DLI
- proof of completed upfront medical exam.
Officers may request additional documentation at any time.
3. I don’t have IELTS because my school accepted me via Duolingo / internal language test, can I apply via SDS?
Valid IELTS (or TEF) results are required to apply via an SDS stream. If you used a different test to be admitted into a DLI, you would need to provide an additional approved test as part of your study permit application regardless.
4. I have IELTS General. Can I use IELTS General for SDS or only IELTS Academic is required for an SDS application? Will my SDS study permit application be refused if I use IELTS General?
Both IELTS General and Academic are accepted for the purpose of an SDS application. Your application for a study permit application will not be refused for the sole reason of providing IELTS General. Officers must be satisfied that you are a genuine student and will leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for your stay. This is, however, different than your application to a college or university, where in most cases, only Academic IELTS is accepted. Please check with your school for the list of accepted language tests.
5. Do I need to prepay for my entire education in Canada?
You need to provide proof of paid tuition fees and other corresponding student fees for one year.
6. What is a GIC?
A guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) is a deposit investment sold by Canadian banks. You will deposit money in the bank for a fixed length of time: it will not be accessible until your arrival in Canada. When you arrive, you will receive an initial amount, and the remaining funds will be issued to you in monthly or bimonthly installments over a period of 10 to 12 months. You will need to purchase GIC and provide a letter of attestation, the GIC certificate, as part of your SDS application for a study permit.
7. Will my chances for approval increase if I apply via SDS compared to regular stream?
Statistically, in 2019 students from the SDS country sending the largest number of students, India, were almost twice as likely to be approved to study in Canada, compared to the Indian students applying via the regular stream (%80 vs. 41%). This trend is similar in other SDS countries. However, keep in mind, that everyone’s case is unique, and the final decision on your application is made on a combination of factors, a positive outcome is never guaranteed.
8. I am originally from an SDS country (e.g. India) but I reside outside of my home country (e.g. Dubai). Can I apply via SDS?
If you are a citizen of an SDS country, you must reside in your home country to be eligible to apply via SDS. Students applying for a study permit outside of the SDS country of their nationality are not eligible and must use a regular stream.
Nearly 16,000 study permits were issued to the residents of the newly-added seven countries in 2019: Canada is definitely one of of the top for international education for residents of the Americas, mainly Brazil and Colombia. Let’s see if the addition of other regions to the SDS list will help increase the diversity of international students, which is one of Canada’s strategic goals for 2019-2024.
For most up-to-date information on eligibility criteria and process, visit the IRCC website. If you require more information about applying for a study permit via SDS or regular streams, feel free to reach out to me. Good luck!