By: Ivy Lerner-Frank

Part 1: First-hand insights into the Study Permit application process
Students and parents might wonder what is in a visa officer’s mind when they review an application for a study permit.

It’s simple!

A visa officer always wants to make sure that the student whose file is in front of them is going to Canada to study.

Visa officers want to approve cases. I know, because I was one, for many years, in China, Hong Kong, and in India. I’ve been asked by the Maple Assist folks to share some of my insights with their readers about how things work, how decisions are taken, and other information that prospective and new students might benefit from knowing. This first set of articles are all about Study Permits, and how to understand what is needed for you to meet the requirements for the issuance of a Study Permit.

Visa officers understand the importance of international students for our colleges and universities, communities, and our country.

Canada allows students to work while studying, and, if you meet certain conditions, to remain on after graduation working and then applying to become a permanent resident. Visa officers understand that. They can’t predict the future, though, so they need to make sure that while you are in Canada for your studies, that you are actually studying. Makes sense, right?

So, to do their job properly, a visa officer must ensure that every student is genuine – in other words, that they truly intend to study. Your job is to provide them with the right information to help them make that decision. The best way for you to help the visa officer is to ensure that your application is as complete as possible, with all the information easily understandable and well organized.

The Canadian government believes that students should be able to fill these out the application forms themselves. If you are asking someone to help you, like an agent or even a friend, that agent or person must sign the form where it asks the question.

Remember that truthfulness on the application is the most important thing – you can be banned from Canada for five years if your application contains false information. A visa officer wants to understand who you are, that it’s reasonable for you to go to Canada to study, and that you will do what you set out to do without breaking any laws. Tell the truth and be honest in your application.

Remember: Visa officers look at thousands of cases during an application season. They need to be able to look at a case and make the best assessment as quickly as possible. Make it easy for them by providing clear information that makes sense!

Part 2: Put yourself in the visa officer’s shoes

They want to make sure that you are a genuine student.

They don’t expect you to be at the top of your class – although that would be great — but you do have to show that you have performed consistently in your studies, and that what you want to study is reasonable.

The visa officer will want to make sure that you have a consistent track record of academic success; that’s the best indicator that you are serious and will do well in Canada. You also have to show that you have funds to support the study –I’ll talk about that later.

Why do you need to provide all this information? I know it seems like a lot! The visa officer has one thing in mind: they want to make sure that once you get to Canada, you will be studying. They want to make sure that you have the commitment to study and enough money to support yourself. Otherwise, you’ll be worrying about money and won’t be able to be successful in your studies. And, of course, they don’t want you to work or stay on illegally.

The college or university that you apply to is going to approve or refuse you based on your academic record and other factors. You may even meet with representatives of the institution in your home country. If your marks have been high, then going abroad to study is clearly a good investment for you and your family – and will make sense to the visa officer, too.

If you have failed many courses, though – even if you have secured admission to an institution – for the visa officer, the rest of the file needs to confirm that you are serious and have the intention to be a diligent student.

Let me give you an example: if you have training as an engineer and apply to do a program in Canada as a personal support worker, the visa officer might be scratching their head to understand why you want to make that switch.

Lots of people change their careers, but it has to make sense to someone who doesn’t know you – and all a visa officer has to go on is what is there in the application.

You would have to write a very clear statement of purpose about why you want to make this change in your life, after all the studies that you have undertaken in a totally different field.

Visa officers read those statements of purpose, so they can understand who you are.

That’s why it’s important to write any statement for yourself, too –you don’t want someone else to do for you.

Going abroad to study is a good opportunity to take responsibility for your own actions and becoming independent!

Remember: A visa officer looks at each file as a whole, to see what a reasonable person would conclude after looking at all the information available. Put your real—and best – self forward!

This is a 5 article series on Study Permits. Stay tuned for the next segment!

Content provided for Maple Assist by Ivy Lerner-Frank

Ivy Lerner-Frank is a former Canadian diplomat whose career has focused on people: as a visa officer in Hong Kong, Beijing, and New Delhi, and as Trade Commissioner promoting innovation and education in Beijing and New Delhi. A previous Director of the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program, a pre-arrival service for new immigrants funded by the Government of Canada, Ivy is the founder and CEO of Lerner/Frank Consultants, providing strategic advice to institutions and organizations seeking to navigate the international education landscape.

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