Why Applicants from Certain Countries Are Most Likely to Be Refused a Canadian Student Visa

A student thinking, an immigration official filling in a Canadian student visa application, a Canadian flag.

Why are Canadian student visas1 refused? Thanks to data released last year by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and analyzed here at ApplyInsights, we have a pretty good idea. But one topic that went unexplored in our previous analysis was the relationship between study permit refusal reasons and an applicant’s country of citizenship. Anecdotal evidence suggested that African students, for example, face high rates of refusal for financial reasons. But we lacked the data to test that claim.

Fortunately, we’re now able to answer that question, and many more, using updated visa refusal data which includes a breakdown of refusal reasons by country of citizenship. We’ll also turn to Antonio Aragón, one of ApplyBoard’s senior leaders and a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC), for advice on how applicants can increase their chances of getting approved for a study permit.

Read on to learn which refusal reasons are cited for which nationalities at the highest rates—and how you can avoid common application pitfalls.

Key Insights at a Glance

  • From 2021 to 2022, IRCC approved 58% of Canadian study permits.
  • In 94% of study permit refusals for Indian nationals from 2021 to 2022, IRCC was not satisfied that the applicant would leave Canada at the end of their stay based on the purpose of their visit.
  • Turkish applicants were frequently refused a student visa due to family ties in Canada (75%) and a lack of employment possibilities in their country of residence (64%).
  • Insufficient finances accounted for more than 80% of refusals for Kenyan, Rwandan, and Haitian applicants.

One important note before we begin: Canadian immigration officials may cite any number of reasons for refusing a study permit, and frequently cite more than one reason for a given application.2

Most Common Reasons Canadian Student Visas Are Refused

Canada continues to break records for the number of international students it welcomes each year. But with fewer than three in five students getting approved for their study permit, the country is turning away more students each year as well.3 Nearly 320,000 study permit applications were refused in 2022 alone.

Our previous analysis revealed that by far the most common reasons for Canadian study permit refusal were insufficient financial resources and a failure to convince IRCC that the applicant will leave Canada at the end of their stay. An examination of the new data shows that there is considerable alignment between applicant nationality and these reasons for study permit rejection, which we explore below.

IRCC Not Satisfied That the Applicant Will Return to Their Home Country at the End of Their Stay

We’ll start with the most common category of refusal: The immigration officer doesn’t believe the applicant will return to their home country after they complete their studies. The top three reasons applicants are disqualified on this basis include the following:

  1. The purpose of the applicant’s visit.
  2. The applicant’s family ties in Canada.
  3. Limited employment possibilities in the applicant’s country of residence.

Let’s examine each of these in turn.

Purpose of Visit

The single most common reason an applicant’s study permit application was refused in 2021 or 2022 was a failure to convince the Canadian government that the applicant would leave Canada at the end of their stay based on the purpose of their visit.

77% of Canadian study permit refusals from 2021 to 2022 cited a failure to convince IRCC that the purpose of the applicant’s visit was to study.

This refusal reason is particularly common among Asian applicants, as the following table shows:4

94% of Indian applicants refused a study permit in 2021 or 2022 were refused at least in part due to the purpose of their visit, as were 92% of Iranian applicants. Applicants from Bangladesh, the Philippines, Algeria, Pakistan, and China saw higher-than-average rates of refusal on this basis as well. Citizens of these countries looking to study in Canada should be particularly mindful to construct a strong statement of purpose for their study permit application.

Are you a student looking to study abroad in Canada? Check out ApplyBoard’s guide to writing a statement of purpose for a Canadian student visa.

Family Ties in Canada

A much smaller, yet still noteworthy, number of applications are refused on the basis that the applicant has significant family ties in Canada—enough that the immigration officer doubts the applicant’s plan to return home after completing their studies. 12% of applications in 2021 and 2022 were refused at least in part due to the applicant’s family ties in Canada.

As the table below indicates, significant numbers of Middle Eastern students have been disqualified on this basis in recent years:4

With this in mind, RCIC Antonio Aragón recommends that applicants from Iran, Jordan, and particularly Turkey take extra effort to show in their study permit applications that they and their family are established in their country of residence and have substantial reasons to go back. Ties to one’s home country can range from family to social to professional to financial.

Limited Employment Possibilities in Country of Residence

Nearly as common as family ties-related refusals are refusals on the basis that the applicant has limited employment possibilities in their country of residence. Limited employment possibilities were cited as a reason for 10% of Canadian student visa refusals in 2021 and 2022.

The table below breaks down the frequency with which this reason was cited across source markets:4

Applicants from a handful of Middle Eastern and African countries are the most likely to be refused a study permit on this basis. Turkey once again tops the list, at just under 64%, followed by Jordan, Algeria, and Senegal.

This refusal reason can be particularly hard to work around, given that economic and employment conditions in an applicant’s country are outside their control. In cases where job opportunities in an applicant’s home country are limited, Antonio Aragón recommends that these applicants make the case as to why their chosen field is an exception to prevailing trends. Citing hard evidence such as industry growth and job vacancy rates may help.

IRCC Not Satisfied That the Applicant Has Sufficient Financial Resources

Next to a failure to convince the Canadian government that an applicant will return home after their studies, the second most frequent category for Canadian student visa refusal is financial. Immigration officers can cite a number of reasons for refusing a study permit application on the basis of finances, but one reason is by far the most common:

In 24% of refusal cases in 2021 and 2022, IRCC was not satisfied that the applicant’s assets and financial situation were sufficient to support their stated purpose of travel.

Applicants from Africa and the Caribbean are particularly likely to be refused a student visa on the basis of finances, as the table below shows:4

African and Caribbean nations accounted for the seven highest rates of refusal on the basis of finances over the past two years, and insufficient finances accounted for more than four in five refusals for Kenyan, Rwandan, and Haitian applicants.

Proof of Financial Support Is Critical

It’s vital that applicants from these countries supply adequate proof of funds in order to secure their Canadian study permit. Antonio recommends that the applicant provide a minimum of six months of bank statements showing their withdrawal and deposit history. He also stresses that steady increments of funds from a clear source are more relevant than a single large deposit. Property, jewelry and other investments are not considered proof of funds, though they can be used to prove an applicant’s establishment in their home country or as proof of assets.

While there are several types of documents you can use to show proof of financial support, one of the most trusted is a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) purchased from a CDIC-insured financial institution. A GIC can prove to IRCC that you have the financial means to support yourself while you study in Canada.

ApplyBoard and ApplyProof can help students provide strong proof of financial support with their study permit application. We’ve teamed up with RBC, one of Canada’s largest banks, to offer the first digitally verifiable Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs). Our GICs include an ApplyProof code that immigration officials and students can use to verify the submitted GIC.

Verifiable GICs can help you build a stronger study permit application and can improve the chance that your application is accepted. Students applying through Canada’s Student Direct Stream (SDS) are required to provide proof of a GIC as part of their study permit application, and the evidence suggests that students applying through SDS are less likely to be refused a study permit for financial reasons than those who apply through the regular stream.

With this in mind, Antonio advises that students living in SDS countries do everything they can to meet the criteria in order to apply through SDS. If your country isn’t eligible for SDS, he recommends using the SDS criteria as a guideline for a regular stream entry, including purchase of a qualified GIC.

Key Takeaways

The most common reason for Canadian student visa refusal is a failure to convince IRCC that the purpose of your visit is, in fact, to study. Asian countries such as India, Iran, Bangladesh, and the Philippines have particularly high rates of refusal on this basis, and applicants from those countries should pay special attention to their statement of purpose when preparing their application.

While many African and Caribbean countries have high rates of refusal on this basis as well, they also face significant financial barriers. These applicants should be particularly mindful of showing strong proof of funds, such as through a verifiable GIC.

Students living in SDS-eligible countries should apply through that stream in order to minimize their chances of being refused a study permit for financial reasons. Students who are not eligible for SDS should aim to meet as many of the SDS criteria as possible even when applying through the regular stream.


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About the ApplyInsights Team

Led by ApplyBoard Co-Founder and CEO Meti Basiri, the ApplyInsights Team analyzes the latest government, third-party, and ApplyBoard internal data to provide a complete picture of trends in the international education industry. They also work with industry experts and ApplyBoard team members to gather local insights across key source and destination countries, where ApplyBoard has helped more than 600,000 students around the world.



1. The terms student visa and study permit are generally used interchangeably for Canadian international students. Rather than student visas, Canada provides accepted international students with study permits, which allow those students to enroll in classes at Canadian institutions. When a student is accepted for a study permit, they are also usually provided with a visitor visa, which allows that student to enter Canada for their studies.

2. Immigration officials cited an average of 2.1 reasons per refusal in 2021 and 2022.

3. All statistics for new study permits only. Data courtesy of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

4. Source markets listed had a minimum of 2,000 study permit refusals across 2021 and 2022.


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