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Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Will CIC’s new student visa timelines be competitive ?

CIC’s new guidelines to help avoid delays in visa processing have useful tips for students. Still, how to digest such language as “it is always a good idea to apply as early as possible, and at least four to six months prior to the start of classes”. Might some of the actual time processing frameworks proposed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada create an actual deterrence?

In every market, there will be a percentage of students dead set on Canada. But in most markets, the percentage is much greater which sees Canada as – at best – on the short list of countries contemplated for overseas study. One of the key facets to a student’s or family’s decision-making tree as to which country to pursue, often relates to the projected time taken to process a study permit, and the reliability of the projected times. An extra caveat here is that the “projection” often relates to perception rather than reality.

There is no question that the more the Canadian government on a market-by-market basis can run out front and make it clear what to expect, the better at least that it will engender respect, if not fondness, for its processing times. This requires accurate and widespread communications, constancy and ultimately, follow through, over a period of a couple of years in a particular market. Indeed, it seems to have managed to make major strides in that regard, even publishing an overseas office-by-office projected timeline guideline.

But are these timelines competitive? We can use the stated guidelines of Australia as a counterpoint.

For some markets they are competitive. For example, Australia lists Chinese Bachelor-bound students as falling under its 3 month guideline, Canada, which does not break down processing timelines according to academic level, projects 5 weeks. For India, Canada projects two weeks, while Australia, again projects a 3 month time frame. In our experience, we have seen consistently superb service out of these 2 critical high volume offices, with high levels of challenge pertaining to a variety of forms of misrepresentations and mala fides.

But in some high volume, and yes high fraud markets, processing times are well outside Australia’s outer limits of 3 months for 75% of cases (Canada’s projections are based upon 80% of cases). For example, the most recent projections list Islamabad at 25 weeks, Lagos at 18 weeks and Pretoria 15 weeks. 

In sum, perhaps the Canadian government can consider the following:

1. There are very few offices currently processing more than 16 weeks in the usual course. Getting all the offices within this standard would enable Canada to offer a narrower bandwidth of consistency, and tighten its formal message.

2. It could also rewrite its advice along these lines. “Depending on which centre is responsible, Canadian Study permit processing centres normally take from 2 weeks to ** (e.g. 16) weeks to process fully completed applications. Be sure to check the following link to see the latest processing timelines for the office responsible for your country. It is a good idea to leave an extra month in advance of these guidelines as not all cases can be processed in the usual time.

Canada does not need to necessarily match the performance standards of its key competitors in primary market places – it may be able to be ahead of some, while behind others. Clearly, it has made massive strides in the two largest markets while contending with high levels of complexity and necessarily high refusal rates, i.e. a high proportion of vexatious applications necessarily take longer to investigate and, hence, process. But, to the extent resources permit, it needs to keep abreast of the processing timelines of the key competitor countries in important markets so it is not too far out of line.

Ultimately, the challenge is making sure we limit the risk of granting study permits to those who don’t deserve them while also trying to reduce the risk we will lose deserving students who are deterred by particularly long processing times.

Resources:
New announcement by Citizenship and Immigration Canada
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/delay.asp

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