Navigating Enrolment Challenges: The Evolving Student Visa Process in Canada and the U.S.

By Sreya Ghose, Director, Partner Success, North America

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The student visa application process in Canada and the U.S.  continues to evolve, impacting students (particularly from India) seeking to study abroad in these countries. 

The introduction of restrictions on post-graduate work permits in Canada earlier this year prompted concerns among prospective international students. These restrictions could influence student decisions about studying in Canada. 

While Canadian universities continue recruitment efforts in India and abroad, there are a number of issues that need attention. An urgent issue relates to processing times for study permit applications. As of April 17, processing study permits applied from outside Canada via Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is approximately 13 weeks, not including the time taken for biometrics. The total time for a student permit can therefore exceed four months. In this situation, universities must proactively guide students on how to navigate this issue. For universities with in-country representatives, it is essential to remain aligned on messaging to key stakeholders – students, parents and counsellors – over the next few months. 

In the United States, demand for international student enrolment remains high. Like Canada,  visa processing challenges are a major worry. For instance, at the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai, which handles the largest F1 visa volume in India, wait times now exceed 300 days. Additionally, a report from the Cato Institute indicates an increase in denials of international student visas across various categories. These factors contribute to heightened anxiety among students preparing for the visa application process. American universities need to actively assist these students, particularly in preparing for  the critical visa interview process. 

Despite these challenges, North America continues as a leading destination for international students. Moving forward, effective communication and proactive support will be essential to reassure prospective students and sustain the internationalisation of campuses in both Canada and the U.S.