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Your guide to Student Direct Stream (SDS)

Indian students can get their visa faster via the SDS program

Indian students applying to universities and colleges in Canada can now expect faster visa processing through the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program launched by the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada. Unlike the usual visa processing that may take up to 2-3 months, SDS allows students from India to avail their Canadian student visa in 4-6 weeks. When a student who meets the eligibility criteria applies via SDS, most applications are processed within 20 calendar days. 

A replacement to the erstwhile SPP program, Student Direct Stream (SDS) has more stringent rules and regulations to fulfill. However, it can be extremely beneficial for those who meet the criteria as it provides easy visa processing for SDS entitled DLI institutions and requires less financial documentation.

Before we move ahead, you’d need to understand a little about the Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) and Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)

What is a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)?

A designated learning institution or DLI is a university, school or college approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students. All public universities, colleges and major private universities and colleges in Canada are DLI. So, if you’re applying for a study permit, you are required to have a letter of acceptance letter from a DLI. 

You should know that international students can only be recruited by a DLI; a non-DLI is not permitted to admit international students. 

Note: DLI doesn’t entitle automatic eligibility for post-study work permit.

Find out if your institution is in the DLI list 

What is a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)?

A GIC is a Canadian investment that has a guaranteed rate of return for a fixed period of time.

In simple words, as an Indian student wanting to study in Canada, you’ll be required to open a Canadian bank account online with any one of the designated banks. Once your account is created, the bank holds your GIC in a student account or an investment account that you’ll be able to access only when you arrive in Canada. It releases your funds only upon the confirmation of your identity when arrive in the country. While you can take an initial lump sum amount on arrival, the remaining is distributed monthly or bi-monthly over a period of 10-12 months. 

Remember, the bank from which you purchase your GIC must provide you with any of the following:

  • a GIC certificate
  • a letter of attestation
  • an Investment Balance confirmation
  • an Investment Directions confirmation

The IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) verifies every GIC, eliminating the possibility of any kind of financial document related fraud. No other financial document is required under SDS to prove to the IRCC that the student has sufficient funds to support their tuition fee and living expenses.

Banks that offer GIC in India

  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
  • SBI Canada
  • Scotiabank
  • HSBC Bank of Canada

What is the eligibility criteria for SDS?

To be able to apply for a study permit via SDS, you’ll have to fulfill certain conditions, such as 

  • Acceptance from a post-secondary designated learning institution (DLI)
  • Tuition fee paid for your first year of study
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAD10,000
  • Minimum score of 6 in IELTS with no band less than 6 or a TEF (Test d’évaluation de français – French language proficiency test) score that is equal to a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score of at least 7 in each skill (reading, writing, speaking and listening)

If you meet the criteria, you’ll have to submit the following documents: 

  • Letter of acceptance from a DLI
  • Proof of payment of tuition fee for your first year of study
  • Proof of Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) payment (certificate/letter of attestation)
  • IELTS TRF or TEF scorecard
  • Copy of your medical examination from an authorised panel of doctors
  • Relevant academic background with complete academic documents
  • Additional requirement of CAQ for students intending to study in Quebec

All applications for SDS are submitted online.

Hope this helped you understand what SDS is all about. If not, there are rich resources provided by IRCC here If you have any queries, feel free to speak with your IDP counsellor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the SDS Replace IRCC’s Regular Study Permit Stream?
The SDS doesn’t replace IRCC’s regular study permit, but in simple terms, it’s just an expedited stream. In case a student applies for the SDS, but doesn’t qualify, their application will be processed under regular processing procedures.

Is anything new planned for the SDS?
The government has planned to expand the SDS over the next five years. This expansion will include a new application service that aims to provide a single and streamlined experience to international students. In short, you’ll be able to apply for a study permit, temporary resident visa, or work permit for a co-op term, together at one place.

Which of the English proficiency tests are accepted under SDS application?
Under the SDS program, you need to show proof of your IELTS Exam, as other English Language proficiency tests are not accepted under the new SDS category.

Updated on June 17, 2020

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