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For many international students, studying in Canada is a dream come true. Receiving that letter of acceptance from a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI) can feel like the hard work is behind you. But, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), roughly 30% of all Study Permit applications are refused.

If you are a foreign national student applicant who has been refused a Canadian Study Permit you find yourself in a crushingly disappointing and frustrating situation. You’ve already been accepted into a Canadian university, college, or other designated institution, and have prepared your application for a permit with care; but something has gone wrong. In this article we outline the Judicial review process.

Common Reasons for a Study Permit Application Refusal

In most cases, IRCC will provide you with a letter that outlines the reasons for the refusal. Here are seven common reasons why IRCC may refuse your Study Permit application:

1 IRCC questions your letter of acceptance

Before you are can apply for a Study Permit in Canada you must receive a letter of acceptance from a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI). If the visa officer doubts the authenticity of your acceptance letter, or that you have met the program requirements, your letter of acceptance may be rejected.

2 IRCC questions your ability to financially support yourself

You must demonstrate that you have enough money to pay for your trip to Canada, pay your tuition fees, support yourself while you are studying and cover return transportation. If any family members will be staying with you in Canada, you must demonstrate that there is money to cover their expenses as well. The IRCC will usually ask for six months of bank statements as proof that you have enough “show money”.

3 IRCC questions whether you will leave the country after your studies

You must convince the immigration officer that your primary intent in coming to Canada is to study and that you will leave Canada once your study period is complete. Dual intent is a situation where you are applying for a permanent residence in Canada and also for a student visa. In the case of dual intent, you need to prove that if your permanent residence is rejected, when your student visa expires you will be leaving the country.

4 IRCC questions your choice of study program

If the immigration officer does not understand the logic of your choice of program, your application could be refused. If your choice of program does not align with your past education or work experience you should explain the reason for your change of direction in your personal statement.

5 IRCC questions your travel or identity documents

You need to provide a complete record of your travel history. If your identity documents are incomplete or there are blank spaces in your travel history, IRCC may determine that you are medically or criminally inadmissible to Canada.

6 IRCC has noted poor or vague documentation

You are required to provide all requested documentation, avoiding vague, broad or insufficient details to demonstrate your intent as a legitimate student. Poor or incomplete documentation and vague explanations may fail to provide a clear picture of your intent.

7 IRCC suspects the provided documentation misrepresents the application

If it is believed that a document misrepresents the application, this may lead the visa officer to conclude that you are inadmissible and/or have fraudulent intent. The information you provide must be presented clearly, completely and truthfully.

What Can You Do If Your Study Permit Is Refused?

If your study permit application was refused by IRCC, you can address the reason, or reasons, it was refused in a new application, or you may be able to respond to the refusal by applying for a judicial review. In the majority of review cases, working with an experienced immigration consultant or visa specialist to prepare and re-submit a much stronger application can lead to a higher chance of approval.

If the problem does not appear simple to rectify, or the reasons IRCC provided seem unfair, it may be time to consult an immigration lawyer for assistance with an official review of the decision. In many cases, a refusal of a study permit is the result of failing to fully satisfy one or more of the eligibility criteria. If it can be proven that you do satisfy the criteria, you have grounds to apply for a judicial review by the Federal Court of Canada.

Judicial Review of Your Student Visa Refusal

The Judicial Review process in Canada is under which executive, legislative and administrative actions are subject to review by the judiciary. A judicial review is not an appeal. It is an application to the Federal Court asking it to “review‟ a decision already made by an administrative body, which the applicant believes was unreasonable or incorrect. The applicant seeks to challenge a decision adverse to their interests.

The reasonableness standard is the default and maintains that the decision can fall within a range of certain possible and acceptable outcomes. In some limited circumstances, the correctness standard may apply instead, due to constitutional questions, questions of central importance to the justice system or questions that concern jurisdictional lines. The judicial review of a visa officer’s refusal of a study permit is based on the standard of reasonableness.

The court is unable to look at new evidence in these cases, and the applicant or lawyer can only present evidence that is before the administrative decision-maker with greater clarification. It should be noted that self-represented applicants are rarely successful. If the application under is judicial review itself is deficient, a better solution may be to re-file.

The types of errors a Federal Court will intervene on include applications where the decision-maker breached the duty to act fairly, the decision-maker ignored evidence, the decision was unsupported by the evidence that was before the decision-maker, the decision-maker erred in understanding the law on a particular subject or erred in the application of the law to the facts of the case, the decision-maker misunderstood or misconstrued facts, or the decision-maker was biased.

It’s important to hire a lawyer who is familiar with the particular type of application that was refused. There are different consequences for different refusals, and professional advice can make the difference between attending school in the upcoming fall term, or not. Many factors go into each decision to proceed with an application for leave and judicial review. Your lawyer’s experience will be vital in determining whether there was an error made, and your chances on judicial review.

A recent landmark case Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v Vavilov provided a well-defined framework for the standard of review in administrative decisions for reviewing courts in Canada. The decision-maker – in this case, the visa officer – is not required to refer explicitly to all evidence when making their decision, although it is presumed that the officer will consider all evidence. In many cases, lawyers will seek to establish that the visa officer ignored important evidence in making the decision, as the basis for overturning the refusal.

The Federal Court is one of the formal methods for challenging your student visa refusal. This method of challenge is called an Application for Leave and Judicial Review.  Leave is a legal term that means the Court will allow a hearing to be heard on the matter. If leave is granted, your lawyer has the opportunity to speak directly to a Judge about the merits of your case.

There is a time limit for filing application for leave. The Application for Leave and Judicial Review of an officer’s decision in a matter must be commenced within 15 days after the date on which the applicant is notified of or otherwise becomes aware of the matter for in-Canada decisions, and 60 days for overseas decisions.

The goal of a judicial review process application is to have a Federal Court judge overturn or set aside the refusal decision, so the decision is sent back to be re-determined by another officer. A successful application for judicial review does not mean that your application has been granted. The judge will be evaluating whether the immigration officer’s decision was reasonable or correct. No evidence will be tendered at the judicial review process hearing, but it is an opportunity to make your pitch to the court.

If the Judge agrees with your lawyer’s arguments s/he will strike the refusal decision from the record, and your application will be sent back to the visa or immigration office for reconsideration by a new officer. Again, the Judge at the judicial review hearing will not typically grant your application, but rather will give you the opportunity to have your application submitted for re-consideration.

If you have been rejected or refused study permits, contact one of our immigration lawyers to help you through your Judicial Review Process!


My application for a visitor visa was refused. Should I apply again?
Apply to the Federal Court of Canada for judicial review


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