Differential Treatment for People from Africa

Meurrens LawWork Permits

An unfortunate reality of Canada’s immigration system is that one’s country of citizenship can impact the likelihood of success in a visa application.  When it comes to visitor visas, study permits and work permits certain source countries consistently have higher approval rates than others.

The approval rate for people from Africa has been consistently lower than other regions for years.  In October 2021 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) published a report titled “IRCC Anti-Racism Employee Focus Groups.”  IRCC employees in the report stated what many already suspected, which is that applications from Africans are often treated with more scrutiny than elsewhere.


The statistics for Africans submitting temporary residence applications are mostly abysmal.  This is especially the case for Africa’s largest country, Nigeria.

For example, from January – June 2020 the study permit approval rate for the top ten source countries of applicants to Canada was, in alphabetical order, Bangladesh (27%), Colombia (66%), India (51%), Iran (30%), Japan (97%), Korea (95%), Nigeria (12%), People’s Republic of China (64%), Philippines (57%), Vietnam (56%). For some of Africa’s other large source countries of applicants the rates were 18% for Ethiopia, 26% for Kenya, 20% for the Congo, and 54% for South Africa.

In 2019, 33% of Indian nationals with spousal sponsorship applications in processing successfully applied for temporary residence visas. In China the number was 53%. For Nigeria it was 22%.

In 2020 the overall visitor visa approval rate for all countries whose citizens required visas was 66%.  For Nigeria, the approval rate was 38%.

From January – May 2020 the work permit approval rate was under 50% for citizens from Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Cuba, Curaco, El Salvador, Cameroon, Fiji, Gambia, Georgia, Haiti, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leonne, Somalia, Tajikistan, and Uganda.

The IRCC Anti-Racism Employee Focus Groups Final Report

The IRCC Anti-Racism Employee Focus Groups report contained many passages which can partially explain the low approval rates for people from Africa.

For example, Page 10 of the report states “[IRCC employees] also mentioned numerous examples of microaggressions heard internally in reference to client groups, that not only suggest to them the possibility of implicit biases affecting client treatment and processing… Examples of these include: … Widespread internal references to certain African nations as “the dirty 30.” Stereotyping Nigerians as particularly corrupt or untrustworthy.”

Page 13 stated that IRCC employees reported that “established practices meant to reflect policies can have taken on discriminatory undertones for the sake of expediency or performance. These include: Discriminatory rules for processing immigration applications from some countries or regions that are different than for others (e.g., additional financial document requirements for applications from Nigeria.)

Strategies for Applicants

African applicants who are submitting temporary residence applications for Canada should understand that while statistically their application may be refused that not all applications from Africa are.  While the systemic issues that disadvantage them are frustrating, they ultimately are what they are until things hopefully.

For the individual applicant the best way to increase the likelihood of an application being approved is to be as meticulous as possible, provide detailed letters of explanation for their purpose of travel (be it work, study or visit), apply well in advance of their planned arrival in Canada, and be prepared for the possibility of having to challenge refusals.  The goal should be an application that makes it difficult for a visa officer to refuse it, as regardless of one’s country of origin, such applications are typically, ultimately approved.