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Backlog processing study permits impacting international students destined for Manitoba


A federal backlog processing international study permits is impacting post-secondary students destined for Manitoba.

Ottawa’s promised a pivot to approve more study permits for international applicants but delays mean some students may not be able to start the fall term, forcing them to delay their studies.

“I would say even in the previous years it has been difficult to wait for your study permit but now there’s a longer line obviously just due to the backlog with COVID as well so that even makes it way worse,” said Tracy Karuhogo, an international student from Uganda who’s in her third year of studies at University of Manitoba.

Karuhogo came to Canada in 2019 and now serves on the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) as vice president of student life.

She’s been contacted by some international students awaiting approval on their applications to study at U of M.

It’s a process the federal government acknowledged it’s struggling to complete on time due in part to a surge in applications.

“There has been an absolute explosion in demand when it comes to Canada’s international student program in recent years,” said Sean Fraser, Canada’s Immigration Minister, during a news conference in Ottawa on Monday. “We’re doing everything we can to process as many applications as possible to get people here on time.”

Fraser said Ottawa had been focusing over the summer on processing work permits to address the labour shortage but now it’s shifting gears.

“We’ve made a pivot and through the month of August we expect we’re going to process a little more than 104,000 additional study permits,” Fraser said.

Federal data showed a backlog of about 30 per cent of study permits in July, that’s 10 per cent higher than government targets, and projections indicate numbers will only increase by the end of August with the academic year fast approaching.

The University of Manitoba said in an email, addressing the issue is critical, noting it’s shared its concerns with provincial and federal governments regarding processing times and eliminating the current backlog.

The school said it’s been in contact with new international students. They’ve been advised delays to student visa applications may impact their ability to start school in the fall term. That means some may defer to start in winter or reapply for admission next year.

Jaron Rykiss, president of UMSU, said it’s leading to several challenges.

“Having delays with your visa can also result in delays with your education,” Rykiss said. “It can result in delays with you finding a place to live. There are a whole slough of issues that come from that.”

International students make up around 20 per cent of the total student population at University of Manitoba.

Across the country their tuition fees are roughly three times more than those paid by Canadian students which post-secondary institutions rely upon increasingly as part of their revenue stream.

With the start of classes just a week away, time is running out for students stuck in the queue.

“That’s very terrifying because no one wants to miss half of their classes because on top of the study permit you find that when you receive the study permit then you have to buy the flight tickets and they are not cheap,” Karuhogo said. “We are looking forward to the government dealing with this.”

Fraser said the government wants students to come. He said it’s important not only for them but also post-secondary institutions and communities who may one day benefit from their talents and expertise as many choose eventually to call Canada home.

The federal government’s website said it’s currently taking about 12 weeks to process a study permit once it receives an application. Top Stories

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