Study Permit Refusal

Learn what to do to overturn your application refusal

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Study Permit Refusal

Learn what to do to overturn your application refusal

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The unfortunate reality is that globally, 30 to 40% of Canadian study permit applications are refused, and this number has been climbing since 2019. In some countries, refusal rates reach 80% or higher.  The good news is that there are options for refused applicants, and in many cases a study permit refusal can be overcome. 

How Can You Overcome a Refused Study Permit?

Make a New Application

Making a new application is recommended when it is clear that the original application can be improved upon. This is true in most cases.

A new application can be successfull if the previous refusal reasons are known, and can be addressed, with relevant explanations and documentation. As a first step, you should gather as much information as you can, which includes the the official refusal reasons (noted on the IRCC refusal letter), and the officer's detailed reasons for refusal (found in the GCMS notes).

You will need to adress the refusal reasons directly, with relevant documentation, to show that you have overcome any concerns made by the officer reviewing your first application. The new application should be strong in all areas, especially finances and the study plan, even if those areas were not listed as refusal reasons. Just because a weakness was overlooked in the previous application, doesn't mean it will not be identified as a problem by another officer on the second review. 

Request Reconsideration

A reconsideration of the decision may be requested, if it can be shown that the decision was made as the result of a mistake or error on the visa officer’s part. This is an informal process with no guarantees of a response. Nonetheless in more serious cases it can be a suitable first option. 

Make an Appeal

An appeal, also known as Judicial Review, involves asking the Federal Court to review the visa officer’s decision of your application. Judicial Review is a suitable option when the original application already presents your case as strongly as possible, and it can be shown that the visa officer did not follow the law in coming to their decision.

The full Judicial Review process can be lengthy. However it is often possible to reach a settlement at the initial stage, which overturns the original decision and forces IRCC to have your application reviewed by a different officer. With study permit refusal rates on the rise, has become a popular strategy.

Only the documentation from the original application can be reviewed at the Federal Court. For that reason, if there are any weaknesses in the application that could be improved upon, it is usually better to make a new application. Judicial Review is a suitable option only when you've made the best case possible for your eligibility in your application.

Common Refusal Reasons and How to Overcome Them

Insufficient Funds Shown

In order to receive a study permit, you need to demonstrate that you can afford the tuition fees for your study program, and to live for the duration of the study period, without relying on any income from work in Canada.

IRCC has set a clear minimum level of funds which must be demonstrated in order to be eligible for a study permit. The minimum is defined as the sum of the full tuition/fee amount for the first year of studies, and the first year living costs. Yearly living costs are earmarked at $10,000 for a single applicant, and $14,000 for an applicant and one dependent. For each additional dependent, $3000 is added to the total. In other words, while a single applicant needs to show $10,000 an applicant with a spouse and two children needs to show $20,000 to support living costs, in addition to the first year tuition/fee amount.

If you do not meet the minimum level of funds your application is sure to be refused on financial grounds. An application that meets the minimum requirements may, however, still be refused if you do not demonstrate that you can afford to pay for the complete study program without working.

Whenever possible, it is best to proof of funds to pay tuition fees and living expenses for the full academic program. If this is not possible, you should show proof of an income source that will allow you to fund your tuition and living expenses in the future.

Unclear Source of Funds

An application may be refused if the source of funds (whether employment, personal savings, investments, gift from family, etc) has not been well documented or well explained. It is necessary to provide adequate documentation on the source of funds, in addition to the funds themselves. For employment income, you can provide employer pay slips, and bank statements that show regular salary deposits. For business income, you can provide proof of business registration, and proof of business income through a combination of bank statements, contracts, and other evidence of business activity.

Irregularities in Bank Statements

If the bank statement contains large, unexplained deposits, or shows an irregular pattern of spending or savings, it may lead to a suspicion that the funds are not truly yours, or that you are not financially stable. It is important to provide documentation and explanations for any large, irregular deposits which go towards the demonstrated funds. For example, if you received money from the sale of a car or a home, we will request proof of the sale and add a note of explanation to your statement of purpose. If you received money from a family member, we will ask for a letter of explanation/support.

Purpose of Visit

In order to receive a study permit,  you must demonstrate that the primary purpose of your stay in Canada is to study. If this is not demonstrated to the satisfaction of a visa officer, they may issue a refusal based on “purpose of visit.” This refusal reason is more likely to occur for applicants who are older than the typical student age for their chosen level of study, and is quite common for applicants above the age of 30.

International graduates usually have a legal pathway to remain in Canada and work following their studies. However, the rules say that in order to get a study permit, you must demonstrate that your primary intention is to study, and that you intend to remain in Canada temporarily, only for the duration of the study period.

For this reason, it is essential to provide a well-organized statement of purpose that makes it clear why it is logical for you to be pursuing your education in Canada. Your statement of purpose should put this decision in the context of your previous education and experience, and your future professional goals.

Choice of Study Program

A plan of studies that is not adequately justified, in light of an applicant’s past academic/professional experience and future goals, may lead to a refusal. Common scenarios are proposed studies at an equal or lesser level than have been completed in the past, or a large time gap since the last completed degree. Any plan of study that is not traditional needs to be adequately explained and documented. This is especially important for mature students.

For example, if you already have a Master's degree, and you apply for a college level program in the same field, a visa officer might determine that your proposed program will provide no educational benefit. In this situation, getting approved to a different study program that aligns better with your academic history could help you.

Employment Prospects in Home Country

Unfortunately this refusal reason is common in countries where average salaries are much lower than those in Canada. To overcome this refusal reason, it is recommended to provide documentation that shows strong employment prospects, strong finances, and strong overall ties to your home country. When an applicant receives consistent refusals on these grounds despite showing strong finances and ties to their home country, an appeal (Judicial Review) may be the most suitable option.

Family Ties

Contrary to popular belief, family ties to Canada are considered as a negative factor in the assessment of whether or not you are eligible for a temporary resident visa and study permit. Visa officers weigh the strength of your family ties to Canada as compared to your family ties to your home country. If it is determined that your ties to Canada are stronger than your ties to your home country, then the application may be refused.

A refusal based on family ties is more likely when you include your family members (such as your spouse or children) in your application. If including your family members, it becomes even more important to show that you have strong ties to your home country, and good reasons for returning there once your study permit in Canada is completed.

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