[Legal Rant] Addressing “Gaming the System” Concerns – Indian Study Permit Applicants and the SDS Example
Perhaps this post is inevitable. The reach of s.91 IRPA might be difficult to both control or manage from here inside Canada. Other than bulk refusing the applicants of certain unauthorized practitioners/agents that are found (and it appears only in egregious cases), it is highly unlikely we will see any enforcement. We will try and cut off the Canadian links, but too often they go under the surface – a quick Use of Rep signed here, a quick portal creation there, and the situation goes unnoticed by the applicant and our system-defending officers.
What is increasingly troublesome, however, is that there appear to be ways the system is being effectively gamed – or at least it is being marketed this way. As part of my work I am quite public on Twitter and Social media, and invite those with tips and leads to tell what is going on – ground level. This is one of those tips I received.
Here is one case that I think should trouble some folks.
Canada’s Student Direct Stream (SDS) has been lauded by many in the policy space for creating a subcategory of ‘ready-to-study’ students with good language scores, funds to pay for first year tuition, and a GIC. While I do not have recent stats and need to obtain them, the benefits of these programs have historically been faster processing and higher (10-12%) approval rates to reward students who did the leg work. One of the unique features of the SDS Application is that the approval (and refusal) is issued at Case Processing Centre (“CPC”) Edmonton in Canada, taking a large weight off the local visa offices and triaging cases more effectively.
I also want to give a bit of a context for writing this piece. A study permit was refused and the individual decided to go to an unauthorized representative for the subsequent follow-up application. That agent told the individual that previous counsel had provided too many explanations and letters and that the key to approval was to ensure the Visa Application Centre (“VAC”), and by extension the local visa office, could flag the file after submission. They recommended against submitting another SDS application.
Based on my credible source, who has canvassed other immigration agents from India, who confirmed same – the on the ground knowledge now is that SDS Applications will now take significant longer than regular applications and that to get approvals, the best thing to do is to get the office processed at the local level, at Delhi.
The way to do this is two fold:
- Make sure the language test done is the PTE – so that the file has to be processed locally in Delhi; and
- Make sure that only first semester and not first year tuition is paid to avoid SDS processing and keep the file local.
This is not the first time we have heard of a perceived preferential processing for non-SDS applications. Similarly for applicants from Philippines and Pakistan we have heard similar things in the past – along with Applicants that have taken various tips to try and get their cases triaged differently. These seem to be amplified concern of Applicants by the fact September school deadlines are starting and applicants need quicker decisions rendered than the SDS ones that have been taking several months. Agents are telling students (and apparently results are showing) approvals at the local office level.
RANT: I think we have to get to a point now, where we ask ourselves why we would create a stream like SDS only to have it take longer to process and perhaps offer less competitive processing.
Without the stats at this stage, I can only pass over the anecdotes I am hearing, but there is enough of a concern on the ground (I am not going to use the word qualitative this week – it doesn’t work) that applicants are being guided by unauthorized practitioners into ‘gaming the system.’ I believe it is enough of a concern that someone should step in to ensure transparency and proper communication.
Either there should be no discrepancy in processing times (thus removing the incentive of speed) or there should be a clear policy aim to have significantly higher approval rates for SDS than non-SDS streams, as should be the case on the basis of the required documentation to be submitted and obtained prior to application.
As IRCC moves to implement technological changes and institute these rules that will triage applications, it must be very aware of those who may have unauthorized access to or are learning how these rules work so as to want to circumvent them. If the data also comes out (beyond anecdotal) to support certain actions, applicants will adjust their behaviours and will be led to do so by unauthorized reps.
If SDS is the superstar program, worthy of global expansion, it is marketed as – there’s no reason it should take longer and make one’s applicant less likely to succeed. The doors of exploitation open up if there’s not consistency in this.
[End of Rant]