Last updated on July 10th, 2020

Last Updated on July 10, 2020 by Steven Meurrens

One of the more common reasons for a study permit application to be refused is because a visa officer determines that an applicant’s proposed program of study in Canada is unreasonable given the applicant’s background.  The wording of such refusals varies, but it typically includes statements about how an individual could study in a similar program for a cheaper cost in their country of residence, or that there is no logical academic progression given their previous studies.

The following is an example of such a refusal.

The Law

Visa officers have the authority to determine whether a study permit applicant’s proposed program of study is reasonable.  It is reasonable for an officer to find that an intended program does not accord with an applicant’s previous academic history.  Officers can also question applicants who are abruptly changing career paths.

However, the decisions of visa officers must demonstrate that all evidence of applicants was considered. Where they do not, the decisions will be unreasonable.

For example, in Taiwo v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), Justice Shore stated that:

The Officer should not have doubted the Applicant’s explanations regarding his change of career path. The Applicant first studied in Sociology from 1995 to 2000, even though from 2004 to 2012, he has been employed as a Financial Officer and a Financial Manager. In 2012, the Applicant became the Financial Director at Tropical Spectrum BDC Ltd., a family owned business by the Applicant himself, in which he owns the majority of the shares of the company. The business is currently still running, recognizing that it is the Applicant’s wife, as stated in her sworn affidavit of financial support that she will take care of the company during the absence of her husband. In light of all the evidence, it was thus unreasonable for the Officer to raise concerns with respect to the Applicant’s intentions to obtain a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies in Canada, although the Applicant has spent over ten years in the business employment. The Applicant’s desire, as per his evidence, does not point in the direction of reasonableness of the Officer’s decision. Therefore, the decision is unreasonable.

Similarly, in Raymundo v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), Justice LeBlanc stated:

…the Officer’s conclusion that he was not satisfied that the Applicant’s proposed studies in Canada made sense and followed a logical and consistent study path given the limited information on how these studies would improve the Applicant’s career prospects to a degree that would offset the costs of studying abroad instead of pursuing programs available locally for a fraction of the cost.

This statement is simply not supported by the evidence that was before the Officer and the Officer offers no reasonable explanation as to why the proposed program does not make sense. On the contrary, the Applicant details, in the personal study plan he submitted in support of his visa application, how the proposed program would contribute to his career plan as well as the research he conducted to attempt to find a similar program in the Philippines that teaches the international business skills he seeks to acquire. In this regard, the Officer’s decision lacks intelligibility, transparency and justification.

As such, it is important that study permit applicants demonstrate why they are taking a proposed program of study.  If a program offers a unique hands-on approach, this should be stated. As well, as the Federal Court noted in Mahida v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), if an applicant can show that job postings for a career that she is interested in required a specific education, that can be helpful to demonstrating the reasonableness of a proposed program of study.

However, as the Federal Court noted in Omijie v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), while the onus rests on applicants to provide evidence that satisfies visa officers, there is no particular standard of expression or persuasion. While applicants should be detailed, they should take comfort in knowing that the documentation and explanations that they put forward does not have to be flawless, so long as they convey why the applicants wish to study in their chosen programs.

Finally, as Justice Norris noted in Yuzer v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 781, and Justice Gascon noted in Aghaalikhani v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 1080, while it is permissable for visa officers to consider whether there are more affordable programs closer to an applicant’s home country, a bald statement that “[s]imilar programs [and] courses are readily available in the region and for much lower costs” may be unreasonable without an explanation as to how the officer came to that determination. This principle was again reiterated in Motala v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2020 FC 726.