Student visa requirements under Canadian law

By Sukhram Ramkissoon

Every year, tens of thousands of persons interested in studying in Canada attempt to apply for a Student Visas, but not everyone is not successful.

Sukhram Ramkissoon

Some who are refused by the visa offices show their courage and determination in having their refusals challenged in the Federal Court of Canada.

Immigration law governs how students, as a class of persons, may become temporary residents of Canada. To study in Canada, the law requires a foreign national to apply for a study permit before entering Canada. Under this law, an officer shall issue a study permit to a foreign national if, following an examination, certain criteria are established.

The law also provides that an officer shall not issue a study permit to a foreign national unless the person has “sufficient and available financial resources, without working in Canada,” able to pay tuition fees for their course or program of studies, maintain themselves during their proposed period of study and pay the costs of transportation to and from Canada.

The Federal Court has held that if an applicant does not meet the requirements of this provision, the officer must deny the study permit application. 

In a recent Federal Court case, a student visa was refused, and the applicant sought judicial review of her refusal, which was eventually allowed. Here are some of facts:

Mary (not real her name) is a foreign national and since 2019, she has been employed as a flight attendant based overseas. In March 2022, she applied for a study permit to Canada to pursue a one-year post-graduate certificate program at Centennial College in Toronto. In her application, which was made outside of Canada, indicated that she holds a degree from a State University. She requested a one-year study permit to attend this college from September 2022 to September 2023, with expected expenses of $25,239 (tuition), $10,800 (Room and board) and $2,510 (Other) which would be paid by herself. The total of these amounts is $38,549. The college accepted Mary into their program and provided her a Letter of Acceptance.

Mary’s application also included:

(a) her statement of intent

(b) a letter from her employer supporting her studies, and a copy of her employment agreement with a pay stub indicating her monthly salary

(c) copies of her two bank statements, one in US dollar currency and the other in her own currency

(d) an “Affidavit of Sponsorship” from her uncle, which stated that he was an industrialist and manufacturer of construction materials, and owner of the firm. He had taken the responsibility to see Mary through her education and assistance in life until her marriage. He has contributed to her growth, will continue to support her during her post-graduate studies, and would be responsible for the cost of those studies in Canada, including accommodation and flights for the period of study; and he included his personal corporate and personal bank statements in support of his affidavit.

Mary was represented in her student visa application, and in her representative’s cover letter they advised that she had paid $8,900 in tuition.  She had available approximately $35,000 in total as noted in her two bank account statements and that her uncle was ready to support her application in case she needed “emergency funding for her education”.

Mary’s application was denied in May 2022, as the officer was not satisfied that she would leave Canada at the end of her stay, based on her personal assets and financial status.

Basically, the officer was not satisfied that Mary’s financial situation did not demonstrate that funds would be sufficient or available and that bank statements show large unexplained lump sum deposits. The officer determined the bank accounts were inflated to support the visa application and that Mary would not depart Canada at the end of her authorized stay. 

In the Federal Court matter, the judge ruled that both Mary and her uncle provided financial evidence to support her studies in Canada. Although the officer found Mary’s documentation did not demonstrate that funds would be sufficient or available, the judge concluded the notes on record provided no discernable explanation as to how the officer reached that determination.

Taking all the evidence into consideration the judge concluded that the decision denying Mary’s study permit was unreasonable. The officer’s notes did not provide a reasoned justification for the negative decision, and the negative decision was set aside, and the matter was remitted for redetermination by another officer.

As you can see, it is very important for a visa officer to provide clear reasons when deciding on an application.  An officer cannot simply apply grounds for refusal, without explaining why and how they came to that conclusion.  Case law establishes this fact, and Mary’s case further solidifies this issue.

Sukhram Ramkissoon is a member of CICC and specialises in immigration matters at No. 3089 Bathurst Street, Suite 219A, Toronto, Ontario. Phone 416 789 5756.