Student Direct Stream Explained
In June 2018, IRCC launched the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program which fast-tracks study permit application processing for applicants who are legal residents of certain countries.
The SDS program is in alignment with the Canadian government’s goal of attracting students from a wide variety of countries and positioning itself as a top destination for students wishing to obtain high-quality education. The program requires applicants to provide additional information upfront to officers, which in turn allows them to process applications more efficiently resulting in a faster turnaround time on decisions. In 2019, in support of the Government’s Francophone Immigration Strategy, Senegal and Morocco, were added to encourage young French speakers to study in Canada.
Prior to 2018, similar programs existed in China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam. To ensure consistency among these programs the government sought to align them resulting in the introduction of SDS. The program has since been expanded to 7 different countries and the current list includes: China, India, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal and Vietnam.
The SDS program is very attractive to students as IRCC commits to processing most SDS applications within 20 calendar days. A faster processing time gives students more time to apply to a post-secondary program at a Designated Learning Institute (DLI) and meet academic deadlines for program start dates. Pursuant to section 211.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), a DLI is a post-secondary learning institution approved by a Canadian territorial or provincial government to host international students. Regular study permit processing times can vary which can be very stressful for applicants. Most DLIs encourage applicants to apply several months in advance of the program start date in anticipation of visa processing delays. With unpredictable processing times, especially due to COVID-19, applicants may not receive a study permit application decision until after the program of study begins. In this case, a student would need to understand the post-secondary institution’s policy for situations like this, and often students will need to defer school admission to the next available term, can sometimes lose their tuition deposit, or need to pay an additional school application fee to gain admission to the next available term of study.
SDS Program Requirements
International students must apply online, live outside of Canada when they apply, and must be a legal resident living in one of the following countries: China, India, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal or Vietnam. Applicants are required to meet all other eligibility and admissibility requirements under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and IRPR and must satisfy an immigration officer that they are bona fide and will leave Canada by the end of their authorized stay. In addition to their e-application, students will need to submit the following documents (Student Direct Stream: About the process - Canada.ca):
1. An acceptance letter from a post-secondary DLI
2. Proof of first year tuition paid in full
3. Proof of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) in the amount of $10,000 CAN (if studying in Quebec, a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) from the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration)
4. A copy of their upfront medical exam confirmation document (if required)
5. A police certificate (if required)
6. Copies of recent secondary or post-secondary school transcript(s)
7. A language test result that shows either:
a. An IELTS academic or general training score of 6.0 or higher in each band, or
b. A TEF score that is equal to a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score of at least 7 in each skill
8. Some countries may require additional documents therefore applicants will need to include all the documents required by the appropriate visa office
Eligible study programs including bridging programs and prerequisite courses
Provided that an applicant meets all program eligibility criteria, students who are taking a prerequisite course or bridging program at a DLI before starting their main program of study may still be eligible to apply under the SDS. If this is the case, the letter of acceptance from the DLI must clearly indicate that the prerequisite course or bridging program is required and the main program of study must lead to a certificate, diploma or degree.
Bringing family members
One great aspect of applying under this program is that students can also bring their eligible family members. If a student wishes to bring their eligible family member(s) as described in section 1(3) of the IRPR such as their spouse/common-law partner and/or children with them to Canada during their studies, they may also be able to get faster processing on a temporary residence application such as a visitor visa, study permit or work permit. Their applications can be submitted together online as part of the family grouping at the same time as the SDS application and be processed together.
The SDS program positions students for Permanent Residence after graduation
Recently, the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship , stated “Our message to international students and graduates is simple: We don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.” Although applicants must prove that they are bone fide when applying for temporary entry to Canada as a student, the requirements of the SDS program prepare and position students towards the pathway to permanent residence and citizenship after their studies. In combination with the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, graduates with work experience will be well positioned for permanent residence through the Provincial Nominee Program, Express Entry, or alternate program. Additionally, candidates with strong French skills will be able to earn additional ranking points in Express Entry, further contributing to the vitality and growth of Francophone communities outside of Quebec.
Who is not eligible for the Student Direct Stream?
If an applicant is a citizen of one of the SDS approved countries and they live outside of the eligible SDS country they must apply through the regular study permit application process.
The future of SDS
In the new International Education Strategy for 2019 to 2024, student diversification was identified as a priority since currently more than 50% of Canada’s international students come from India and China. In January 2020, IRCC announced a new pilot project – Nigeria Student Express (NSE) at EduCanada fairs in Abuja and Lagos. Processing times for study permit applications for Nigerian students is currently 19 weeks. The pilot seeks to reduce the processing time to 20 days or less and as in SDS up-front documents will be required. However, we are waiting for IRCC to officially publish more information. Although likely delayed due to COVID-19, we can expect that in the future more countries may be added to list.