Chandigarh, Jalandhar, New Delhi:
Suicide of a 23-year-old man in Haryana comes as an extreme warning amid long waits and high visa application rejections by Canada and other countries – mainly attributed to Covid-induced lockdowns, among other reasons.
Countries in the West — favorite destinations for students, many of whom hope to make a living there — have said they are hiring new staff and prioritizing student visa applications, but the wait could be months. A late rejection can lead to loss of money and motivation. Canada has also reported that the rejection rate is higher.
If you are currently looking at a US visa, the waiting period could be more than a year.
Canada generally takes up to six months for visas; but even for student visas, the waiting time is three months, three times the pre-Covid times. And that’s today’s update from the Canadian government website. People have waited longer as their applications stalled during the Covid peaks of the past two years.
While tourists may not mind, those trying to visit relatives or take business trips are affected worse.
Hardest hit are students, who in some cases begin their courses online here, but then lose admission — and money — if rejected by the visa office.
There has been an unusual rise in the bounce rate, particularly in Canada, which has also sparked fear among consultants. A report from the Canadian Parliamentary Commission in May said 41 percent of study permit applications from India were rejected in 2021. Data from 2018 shows that this used to be 25-35 percent.
As the number of applications rises – barring a dip in 2020 due to Covid peaks – the rejections in absolute numbers seem even greater. More than 3 lakh applications were decided last year and the number is expected to exceed 4 lakh this year as the world opens up more.
Cameron MacKay, Canada’s High Commissioner for India, said: “Unfortunately, we have a post-Covid pandemic backlog of visas in every visa category. It’s a very serious backlog… We’re investing more money and more people to get through it.”
There are allegations that people from Asia and Africa are being discriminated against. But the Canadian High Commission has said that’s not true. “All applications from around the world will be assessed equally and according to the same criteria regardless of country of origin. Study permit applications will be prioritized for those prospective students who are headed to a province or area with a Covid-19 Readiness Plan,” said a spokesperson.
The delay and fear of rejection has worried students and families, especially in Punjab and the surrounding region, one of the main contributors to these applications.
“My brother had applied for a student visa for a course starting next month, but we don’t have a visa yet,” said Neetu Yadav in Jalandhar, part of the ‘NRI Belt’ in the Doaba region of Punjab. “Even if we postpone admission, there can be no guarantee of a spot in the next session,” she added.
Ashish Ahuja, a visa consultant in Jalandhar, said: “Canada as of now has a backlog of more than 24 lakh immigration applications, of all kinds. But it is difficult for us to convince students and parents.”
Canada is the preferred destination due to its relatively friendly immigration policy. So expectations are higher, as is frustration.
The suicide yesterday by a 23-year-old man in Haryana’s Kurukshetra is an extreme end to that. It wasn’t immediately clear when he had applied, but it was such a fate that he got his visa – only after he was already gone.