Long Security Screening Times for Canada Study Permit Applications From Chinese International Students

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Long Security Screening Times for Canada Study Permit Applications From Chinese International Students
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International students from China say their Canada study permit applications are stuck in prolonged security screenings.

This has caused students to be in waiting – often for months – after being admitted to Canadian universities, the CBC has reported. The situation is especially frustrating for them as the fall term is close to starting for most schools.

Yunze Lu, who is a master’s in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Ottawa, detailed his precarious situation.

“I have a very simple and clear background. It’s OK to be checked, but I don’t think it needs to be checked for so long.”

“It makes me feel they are doing nothing but just don’t care about my application, just throw it away.”


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Lu has completed a year of online coursework and has successfully applied to the school’s co-op program.

However, his application to come to Canada is still under review – a fact he was unaware of until he filed an access to information request to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) recently.

Xinli Guo is another international Chinese applicant sharing Lu’s concerns.

He has been waiting for months to accept an offer from the University of Ottawa’s master’s in systems engineering program, and recently expressed his thoughts on the matter to CBC.

“This is unfair to all of us.”

“I don’t think I deserve a security check because I don’t have anything related with Canadians’ national security. I’m just a normal student going to study engineering courses in Canada.”

Guo tracked his file to resolve an issue with a financial document, following which he learned that he had been placed under security review in May.

He is worried about losing his admission offer and missing the chance to apply to study abroad.

Study Permits ‘Assessed Equally’

While Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has responded by saying that all study permit applications are “assessed equally and against the same criteria, regardless of country of origin,” Vancouver-based immigration attorney Will Tao posits the worsening geopolitical situation between China and Canada contributing – in combination with increasing use of algorithms – to a rise in the delay of certain files.

“Grad students working in the computer science/tech space, and especially folks with government experience or with parents that are in the government, those are the ones that are being flagged in our experience,” he said.

“It’s very, very problematic how this has become almost a predictive analysis exercise.”

IRCC instead asserts that the delay is caused by the large number of Chinese study permit applications the department receives, and security screening is one of many factors resulting in prolonged processing times.

Since January 2021, 181,000 study permit applications have been received from China, of which 1,832 have not been processed.

Applications, according to IRCC, are processed on a case-by-case basis depending on their complexity, responses for additional information, and the ease of verifying the application’s content.

Tao, however, argues that international diplomacy plays a role in application processing times. Iran, for example, is another country which he brings up to illustrate the role of fraught geopolitical relations in security screening delays.

The University of Ottawa has also acknowledged the delay in application processing, and has said that it is “working to develop contingencies.”

It continues to advocate for a “fair, efficient, and transparent immigration system that allows students to plan their future with confidence,” writes Kupfer.

As their study permit applications are stuck in limbo, Chinese visa applicants are increasingly resorting to using the mandamus application in court to get a government decision in a timely manner, as per Tao.

Chinese applicants make up 12 percent of mandamus applications, second to India and ahead of Iran.


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Security Screenings for Immigration and Citizenship Applications

According to the IRCC website, the federal bodies that collectively conduct security screenings are:

  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
  • Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)

CSIS and CBSA are responsible for providing security advice to IRCC to ensure that applicants are not a threat to national security. They do not make application decisions.

IRCC will decide on applications if applicants are applying for:

The Immigration and Refugee Board decides on applications for refugee status from inside Canada.

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of immigration.ca featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.