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How best to avoid refusals in Canada study-visa applications

Recently, I read the story of a Kenyan (name withheld) who was able to accomplish his dream of studying abroad courtesy of his skill as a tennis player. Armed with all requisite documentations, the young chap had proceeded to the Embassy to secure a student visa but which was refused because the immigration officer felt he “looked like a candidate for flight risk”. Fortune, however, smiled on him a few days later when he found himself playing tennis against the said immigration officer at an interclub tennis competition. The officer busted into laughter when he was reminded of the reason he refused the Kenyan’s student visa application. Of course, the rest is now history as the visa was eventually issued to the applicant.

Although the above event occurred about 40 years ago, such reality still whispers in the present day like a ghost conjured up from the grave. Unlike the Kenyan, there are significant records of applicants whose hope of pursuing personal dreams are shattered because of ‘refusals’ not too far from the one above.

There are many whose travel plans are thwarted and hope of being reunited with distant friends and relatives are put in serious jeopardy. There are yet many others forced to be separated from their wives, husbands, children, parents, grandparents and other relatives based on reasons as ‘friendly’ as above.

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Based on data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in 2019, 75% of African students’ applications to study in different Universities in Canada were rejected compared to the global rejection average of 39%. Of this class of rejection, Algeria had the highest number of students denied study permits (86%) followed by Cameroon (82%) and Nigeria (81%) in the third position.

The rejection letters from many applicants provide only vague reference to an officer’s “I am not satisfied that you would leave Canada at the end of your stay as a temporary resident based on the purpose of your visit”; “your family ties in Canada and in your country of residence”; “your travel history” and “your personal assets and financial status”.

Few others are refused “based on your history of having contravened the conditions of admission on a previous stay in Canada” “based on the limited employment prospects in your country of residence”; and also because the immigration officer is not satisfied that “you have truthfully answered all questions asked of you”.

(How to avoid the above ‘brick walls’ and improve your visa application will be discussed in my subsequent write-up).

As an experienced immigration law practitioner, I dare say that all applications to Canada from around the world are assessed equitably by well-trained officers in strict compliance with the Immigration, Refugees and Protection Act of Canada. However, practice experience has shown that one of the reasons many applicants find themselves in these ‘refusal tsunami’ is lack of requisite knowledge of how the immigration processes work and the inability to prepare and present good visa/study permit applications; many applicants or agents that process the visa application on behalf of some applicants are not so familiar with the practice and procedure of the country they seek to enter.

The second perceived reason is not many people understand the immigration objectives of the foreign country they seek to visit/study in. For instance, some of Canada’s immigration objectives include its resolve to pursue maximum social, cultural and economic benefits of immigration in Canada. It seeks to promote family reunification and the successful integration of permanent residents into Canada, while recognizing that integration involves mutual obligations for new immigrants and Canadian society.

Canada endeavours to support, by means of consistent standards and prompt processing, the attainment of immigration goals established by the Government of Canada in consultation with relevant provinces.

To a large extent, Canada maintains the integrity of the Canadian immigration system through the establishment of fair and efficient procedures. It also facilitates the entry of visitors, students and temporary workers for purposes such as trade, commerce, tourism, international understanding and cultural, educational and scientific activities while protecting public health and safety and maintaining the security of Canadian society.

Canada promotes international justice and security by fostering respect for human rights and by denying access to Canadian territory to persons who are criminals or security risks; and works in cooperation with the provinces to secure better recognition of the foreign credentials of permanent residents and their more rapid integration into society.

Therefore, when next you present a visa application to Canada or one is submitted on your behalf – whether study permit, visitor visa or any other – ask if your application is in line with the above objectives. If it is not, you can be rest assured that your application will definitely hit a strong brick wall. On the other hand, when you are certain your application is very much within the objectives and also well put together, if it is denied, do not hesitate to reach out to an immigration lawyer to study the refusal order and advise you on the legal remedies available for visa refusals.

In conclusion, unlike the Kenyan who was fortunate, your talents and skills might not be enough to grant you passage into that desired foreign country, but immigration practice & procedures and the law might be your sure companion.

David practices civil, corporate, employment and immigration laws in Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached for questions and further comments on grcattorneys@gmail.com or 07033726207.

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