Every summer, our firm gets a lot of enquiries from international students overseas who applied for a study permit and expected an approval but instead received a refusal letter, and are wondering what went wrong.
Canadian student visa rejection is all too common. The truth is, it’s not enough that you were accepted into a study program at a Canadian school and can show you have sufficient funds for tuition fees and living expenses. There are a myriad of factors that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) takes into consideration when deciding to approve or reject applications for student visas. We hope this article will help prospective international students understand a bit more about how visa officers think when assessing temporary visa applications, so that you can try to avoid student visa rejection.
Make the first application the best application
I want to highlight that it’s a very good idea for all international students to work with a professional on your first Canada student visa application, right from the start. As you will see in our blog post about applying for a student visa, there are many factors taken into consideration by immigration officers, and you may not have considered some of these factors when you submitted your original Canada student visa application.
Canada student visa applications need to include factors like the rationale for your study program in light of your prior education, age and employment history, your personal statement of your goals, your travel history, additional documents of financial support, and what kind of lifestyle you enjoy in your home country. The acceptance letter and financial stability are necessary factors, but a well drafted and convincing study plan is absolutely key to the success of your Canadian student visa application.
But now that you have been refused…
Once you have been refused a study permit, you may be determined not to make the same mistakes again, and prepare a stronger application. It is often difficult to understand the reasons for refusal by reading only the refusal letter – as they are generalized templates with tickboxes that the immigration officer checks off. We always recommend obtaining the file notes (or GCMS notes) for any Canadian student visa rejection before deciding your next steps. The file notes should explain the visa officer doubts in greater detail, which provides you the opportunity to address those doubts in a subsequent Canadian student visa application. Remember that you need to include evidence that addresses the visa officer doubts if you hope for your study permit application to be successful.
How to Convince the Visa Officer
Still, it can be very difficult to convince a visa officer to approve a second application, even though the new application is much better prepared. The reason for this is that Canada immigration is using artificial intelligence to help with decision-making for temporary visa applications in several of its offices. There is a box on the application form that you must check to report if you have had a refusal before. In some visa posts, when a refusal is issued once, it seems that another refusal is issued automatically when you re-apply. In those situations, it’s doubtful that an actual visa officer ever looks at the file and so no one will be alert to the fact that you have done a much better job of preparing your subsequent application. The more Canadian student visa refusals you collect, the more difficult it becomes to obtain an eventual approval – no matter what you do. (This is the reason it is so important that your first study permit application is prepared as comprehensively as possible).
Can I Appeal a Study Permit Refusal?
If you have already received a Canadian student visa rejection, a meeting with a professional is really a necessity before making a new application. You need to have an honest assessment of your situation to better understand if you have a decent case to try again with a new student visa application, or if you are better off focusing your time and energy in a different direction.
If you are able to address many of the factors outlined in our post about applying for a study permit, then it may be worthwhile for you to make a subsequent study permit application. However, this student visa application needs to be perfect, and it needs to be prepared with the understanding that if it is refused, you will need to proceed to a Judicial Review if you still wish to try and have your study permit approved. If you have been refused previously, and artificial intelligence is likely to issue an automatic rejection on your new application, Judicial Review is the only option for you to have an actual person assess the merits of your Canada student visa application.
What is Judicial Review for a Study Permit Refusal?
Judicial review is, in simple terms, when a judge looks at your file to see if the officer made an error or the decision was simply unreasonable, given the evidence you submitted. This is where solid and compelling evidence comes in – a study permit request that is extremely well documented makes it very difficult for an officer to find reasons that would justify refusing it. If the Judge finds the visa officer’s decision was not transparent and reasonable based on the evidence you presented, the Judge can set it aside and send it back to another officer for a decision.
In effect, the process of Judicial Review is taking the Canadian government, specifically IRCC, to court to have them justify their refusal of your study permit. You will have access to the visa officer’s notes from the Global Case Management System saying why they refused it, but you cannot put in new evidence at this stage.
Judicial Review is the only recourse available to an individual who cannot obtain approval of their application from the visa officers. However, the process of requesting a Judicial Review is expensive – it can cost between $1000-$10,000 CAD depending on how far into the process you need to proceed until the matter is settled. It is also time-consuming and can take up to 12 months until you receive a decision.
As well, the Judge cannot grant a study permit. Your case will have to go back to the visa office for a re-determination. Still, for those international students who have been refused entry to Canada and are not ready to give up on the dream of life in Canada, Judicial Review may be your only option.
How to Prepare a Canadian Immigration Application for Possible Judicial Review?
At a Judicial Review, the judge can only look at the visa file you submitted and which the officer refused. No new evidence or information can be added at the court stage. Therefore, it’s critical that your second application is perfect, with sufficient documentation to thoroughly demonstrate the reasonableness of the request. It would be almost impossible for you to prepare your own application to the standard that is needed in order to make the Judicial Review a reasonable alternative. If you aren’t prepared to call in a professional at this stage of the game, there isn’t much point in proceeding further.
Judicial Review or a Second Application?
First let me say that Canadian Immigration Consultants are not authorized to do Judicial Review applications, including advising people on the court process or the likelihood of success in court. Therefore, if you will need to use the court process, you will eventually need to hire a Canadian Immigration Lawyer.
However, a lawyer doesn’t need to be your first step. It is our recommendation that you first meet with an Immigration Consultant who has experience making successful study permit applications after a refusal. They can assess if you should try again at the visa post because your first application was deficient. If so, they can prepare a much more robust application so that, if refused a second time, you would have an excellent chance of proving to a Judge that the refusal was not reasonable. This is the difference between the first and second applications – the first one, if it was not prepared well enough, may have been reasonable to refuse, whereas a visa officer may not be justified in refusing a better-prepared application.
If you meet with an Immigration Consultant familiar with this area, you should gain a realistic understanding of your ultimate chances for success and discuss what would be required in order to prepare an application that would be extremely difficult for an officer to find grounds to refuse. It will be far less costly for you to work with a consultant to prepare the perfected Canada student visa application, submit it and then decide what course of action is needed to move forward.
If your Canada student visa application fails again and you need to move forward with a Judicial Review, your consultant can refer you to a trusted lawyer to make the next steps. You may wonder if it would be more efficient to just meet with a lawyer from the start? Here’s why I think it’s better to meet with a consultant first.
Obviously, you want to meet with someone whom you are certain has your best interests at heart – reading Google Reviews from past clients might be a good place to start. You may not be aware, but in many law firms, each lawyer has to meet a certain number of billable hours each month. As each month comes to an end, there can be a strong incentive to take on files to meet those requirements. Sadly, I have seen many Canada student visa refusals that, in my view, did not stand a chance of being overturned by Judicial Review as the case was not strong enough, yet the client spent thousands and waited for months to receive a court outcome that was negative. Hence, my recommendation is that you talk to an experienced Immigration Consultant as your first step in exploring the possibility of a stronger application which, if refused, would lead to a stronger Judicial Review. A consultant cannot take your Canada student visa refusal to federal court, so there is no financial incentive for them to encourage you to do so unnecessarily. But ensure that you ask about the consultant’s experience with this, as not everyone has the necessary experience to provide wise counsel in this area.
The Way Immigration has experience in assisting international students to prepare study permit applications that are approved after prior refusals or upon Judicial Review. Our applications that have been unreasonably refused by the visa post have been successfully overturned in Federal Court. We have also frankly counselled applicants when warranted that their situations, in our experience, are not likely to result in obtaining a Canadian study visa. In every situation, we take into consideration what is in the best interests of the client and seek to provide a thorough understanding of the potential risks and possible rewards of a given application. We counsel all of our clients according to the standards that we would appreciate if we were in their situation – with a high level of expertise and an honest assessment of how the client should spend their funds and invest their hopes.