With India-Canada relations gone sour, what’s in store for international students?

There is no indication that Canada will stop processing visas for Indian nationals, as it continues to accept new applications as it normally does. Processing times for visas for Indian nationals looking to come to Canada remain the same, with the IRCC seeking to process all 80 percent of applications within service standards regardless of nationality.

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Amid the current diplomatic row between India and Canada, international education and immigration insiders mull over the future of aspiring Indian international students in Canada, a cohort of foreign students for whom Canada is the second most preferred destination.

Just days ago, India suspended visa services for Canadian nationals indefinitely after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of India’s involvement in the assassination of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. It was the first time India has suspended visas since the Covid-19 pandemic.

A 2022 report by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) found that 40 percent of international students in Canada were Indian.

No long-term impact?
Raghwa Gopal, CEO of Canada-based global education platform M Square Media (MSM), downplayed the impact of the present diplomatic challenge on Indian student mobility. “We personally feel this is a temporary phase which shall pass soon,” he told Times of India.

Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and CEO of Leverage Edu, agrees that the current tension may not readily translate into a long-term impact. A “large part” of the Canadian economy as well as private colleges is run by Indian students choosing the country every year, and that’s “significant enough” for the Canadian government to structurally address the issue, Chaturvedi told the same publication.

He said that as a precautionary measure, they have stopped all new applications to Canada until the stand-off ends, asking their students to redirect their plans to the United States or the United Kingdom if possible. While a major policy impact may not be on the horizon, there could be a potential decrease in demand for Canada as a destination market, the CEO added.

Anurag Sinha, Ph.D., an Ontario-based serial entrepreneur and former advisor to the United Nations and local governments, pointed out concerns around the well-being of Indian students on Canadian soil, calling for workshops and consultations to “empower them with the skills required to navigate through rumors, all all while ensuring their security and providing necessary support.”

“Given their situation—far from home and with limited resources—this support is of paramount importance,” he said, encouraging an open, inclusive dialogue among members of the Sikh community, representatives from the Indian government, and Canadian officials, and taking legal measures to address instances of political extremism.

Study visa processing
While significant ramifications for trade between the two countries remain to be seen, the diplomatic issue is already affecting the movements of Canadian citizens with India pausing visa processing, noted regulated and authorized immigration consultant (RCIC) Ken Nickel-Lane.

“While it’s difficult to see the Canadian government wanting to reciprocate and do the same halting processing for Indian nationals, it may come to that, and quickly,” Nickel-Lane said. “Prudent guidance would be to ensure you plan accordingly and have fallback strategies should the situation continue to escalate.”

Asked about the issue while in New York, Trudeau responded that his focus was to maintain the rule of law in Canada, continuing to do the work it took to keep Canadians safe.

There is no indication that Canada will stop processing visas for Indian nationals, still accepting new applications as it normally does, CIC News reported.

Processing times for visas for Indian nationals looking to come to Canada remain the same, with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) seeking to process all 80 percent of applications within service standards regardless of nationality.

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