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With a large number of Indians having to face long waiting times for Canadian visas, the latest issue highlights the unwelcoming realities of the land of the maple leaf.

As per a report by The Conversation, the processing times for international student permits have more than doubled since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of the standard 60 days, students from some regions are experiencing delays of more than 200 days.

Citing a report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, the publication said that more than half a million people were turned down for study permits in Canada between 2016 and 2020.

Many of these individuals were qualified and accepted into leading programmes and often sponsored under Candian research grants and scholarships, the report noted. However, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has continued to delay the visa process. "These delays are occurring even for people already living and studying in Canada, who are simply applying for standard, allowable and encouraged postgraduate work," as per The Conversation.

The members of the University Advisory Council of the Canadian Association for Global Health, representing 25 member universities across Canada also claimed that there were ingrained inequities and discrimination which were affecting scholars around the world.

As per the members, students from low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are experiencing exceptionally long delays. Whereas, individuals from high-income countries like US and Australia have not faced such delays.

For graduate students and fellows already studying in Canada, the delays are creating fear and anxiety. The delay from the IRCC's side has threatened income and access to basic benefits like health and child care because, without a valid visa or study permit, universities cannot process their scholarship or employment payments.

While Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has put in place employee training and other initiatives to address racism, given Canada’s history of racism and discrimination in its immigration policies, greater transparency and accountability are required for more equitable policies.

The job vacancies in Canada are more than million and its shrinking population is a major concern for Justin Trudeau's government. Therefore, successful integration and retention of international students is key to filling labour shortages and tackling Canada’s demographic decline.

Meanwhile, Canada's High Commission recently said that it understands the "frustration and disappointment" of Indians who facing delays for their visa and assured it would continue to make every effort to reduce the wait time.

"We understand your frustration and disappointment and want to assure you that we are working to improve the situation. In fact, we have been processing applications throughout the year, including study permits for the September 2022 intake," the Canadian High Commission said.

"Many thousands of students in India are receiving their visas each week. We will continue to make every effort to reduce wait times against an unprecedented volume of applications received," the mission added.

It said the current processing time for study permit applications globally is 12 weeks.

"While processing times in India have been higher in 2022, we are making every effort to reduce wait times in our services globally," the High Commission said.

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