Refused a Study Permit?

How student visas are declined and options at your disposal

A study permit is a document issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that allows a foreign national to enter and remain in the country temporarily to partake in an academic program at a designated learning institution. A study permit has a validity period including an issue date and an expiry date.

An application for a study permit involves gathering and submitting a number of different documents and can be done either entirely by oneself or in consultation with a licensed immigration representative or counsel. The decision to grant or refuse a study permit is ultimately made by an employee of the IRCC called a visa officer.

The mode in which an application is determined is most often decided based on a paper review without an interview. An exception is that the case law stipulates that an interview should be conducted, or a procedural fairness letter given, if the visa officer has a concern about the credibility of the applicant or regarding the genuineness of the applicant’s submitted documents.

There has been a recent trend of an uptick of study permit refusals, including a doubling of rejection rates in some countries. The cause of this shift has been explained on a number of different bases, such as a dramatic increase in the number of study permit applications as some countries, such as New Zealand, lessened acceptance rates due to the Covid-19 pandemic.[1]

Refusals can also come as a surprise to applicants who have a seemingly stellar profile. After refusing a study permit application, the visa officer will send the applicant a notice of decision explaining the grounds or basis for the decision. Some grounds include:

  • Purpose of Visit – If an applicant is proposing to take a program or attend an institution that appears lower in stature (e.g., proposing to take a college program when they already have a university degree), the visa officer may doubt their intention in coming to Canada. Under these circumstances, in a study plan, an applicant can explain their research that led them to conclude that the proposed program would advance their career.
  • Acceptance Letter – A student must have written documentation showing they have been accepted into the proposed program; furthermore, the program must be from a designated learning institution.[2] The IRCC website contains a list of designated learning institutions. The written documentation of acceptance usually takes the form of a letter of acceptance.
  • Financial Status / Assets – A student must be capable of paying their tuition fees for their course or program, to maintain themselves and any accompanying family members and to pay the cost of travel.[3] Proof of funds can take various forms: bank statement covering the past several months, a student GIC, scholarship documents, proof of a student loan, etc.

Upon receiving a refusal, a few options are available to continue pursuing a study permit:

  1. b) improving the application and reapplying; or
  2. c) appealing (known in legalese as judicial review).

Reapplying may be a good option, for instance, if the visa officer identified missing information or documents (such as documents related to the areas of consideration outlined above); and this defect can be addressing by providing the appropriate information and documents. Nevertheless, even after addressing any weaknesses, the IRCC may continue a pattern of rejecting the applications despite sufficient evidence. Judicial review, therefore, may be advisable where a visa officer’s refusal or pattern of refusals is unreasonable or violated a rule of procedural fairness.

A judicial review is initiated by means of application to the Federal Court. If an application is going to be pursued, it has to be filed within the limitation period that starts on the date of refusal and ends depending on whether the matter arose inside or outside Canada. The process involves the applicant filing an applicant record and the Court deciding if leave should be granted. If leave is successfully obtained, a hearing date is scheduled. On that occasion, both sides would make legal arguments as to whether the visa refusal was reasonable and/or procedurally fair. The best outcome in such a proceeding is to have the refusal decision set aside and the application remitted to another visa officer for redetermination. Judicial review can take approximately a year.

Azimi Law has helped applicants successfully obtain student visas many times. Through a consultation, we can help you understand your legal options. We also offer legal representation for acting on these avenues of recourse.

[1] Rynnaas Azlan, “Education consultants report ‘unprecedentedly high’ Canadian student visa rejection rates”:

[2] Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227, s. 219 (“IRPR”). (

[3] IRPR, s. 220. (

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