Getting a Canadian study permit should take 13 weeks. So why are these Iranians waiting as long as two years?

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Few graduate students have the experience and knowledge in radiation and computer engineering that University of Saskatchewan professor Li Chen needs for his research.

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In January 2020, through a network of academics in his field, he recruited Piman Por Momen, who had a master’s degree and was a perfect fit.

Momen was in Iran.

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Now, nearly two years after Chen was offered a position on his team, the potential PhD student is still waiting for a study permit to come to Canada.

And, after three deferments for admission, the university has withdrawn its offer.

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“I am devastated,” says Momen, 31, who earned a master’s degree in computer engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran.

“I’ve wasted 18 months of my life and still there is no end to this nightmare.”

Canada’s immigration department said on its website that it still takes an average of 13 weeks to process study permits amid the pandemic. Some Iranian students say that they have been waiting for more than two years, and with delay they are getting career opportunities.

“We want the Canadian authorities to expedite this process and stop discrimination against Iranian students,” Momen said. “We are losing our funded positions and universities may stop taking us for future projects because our study permits may not be issued on time.”

Chen, an electrical and computer engineering professor, says Momen “will be a great asset to my research project.”

“He has a strong CV and experience,” said Chen, whose research focuses on radiation effects in microelectronics and radiation-tolerant digital and analog circuits and systems.

“We have received funding ($350,000) for this project. Having strong students like him is the key to our research.”

Due to the global pandemic, the number of study permit applications from Iran to Canada is on the rise – from 7,336 in 2017 to 19,594 in 2019, falling to 15,817 last year. In the first seven months of this year, the immigration department received 12,843 Iranian applications.

Most applicants planned to attend post-secondary education programs. Last year, for example, about 83 percent of 15,817 applicants were accepted by a college or university, including 5,356 in master’s degrees and 2,106 in doctoral programs at universities.

There were about 3,200 Iranian study permit applications pending in the system as of the end of September, and more than half of those applications were for the postgraduate programme.

It’s Not Just Long Processing Time Frustrating Iranian applicants, but also the increasing denial rate.

The latest immigration data shows that the rejection rate of study permit applications from Iran has doubled from 22 percent in 2017 to 46 percent so far this year.

So far in 2021, 53 percent of applicants accepted for master’s programs at the university were declined, up from 10 percent four years ago.

Ariane Soltani, who has a master’s degree in software engineering in Iran, was accepted by the Université de Sherbrooke in May 2019 and was to begin in the fall of 2020.

He says he thought 16 months would be enough time to obtain a study permit; Today his application is still pending for “a routine background check,” the Immigration Department told the Star.

“Who, in their right mind, would believe that a simple study permit application could take more than two years?” asked the 29-year-old, who last year decided to start remotely, to hopefully get her study permit eventually.

Soltani said it is difficult to concentrate on his PhD studies and research, as his mind is busy with his study permit status and financial struggles to make ends meet.

“Since I live outside Canada, I have no access to my (research) funding. So I made an agreement with my supervisor that I will live on my savings until I get the visa,” They said.

“Those savings are long overdue and now I’m basically living off a mortgage.”

The immigration department said there are several reasons for the delay in processing, including security checks, the “complexity” of the case, missing documents and problems establishing identities – and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Department spokesman Rémi Larivire said, “It is frustrating for anyone hoping to begin their studies in Canada when their application takes longer than expected, which is the case for many in the Iranian community. Is.”

“Every application is handled on a case-by-case basis, and there is no easy explanation for how long it takes.”

He suggested that in some countries, such as Iran, it may be more challenging for immigration officials and the applicant to obtain documents, leading to longer-than-average processing times.

Mariam Sattari, who applied for her study permit in September 2019 and is still waiting, said she religiously checks her application on the Immigration Department website and from day one she has no files on her file. The update has not come, except that his application other than the confirmation of receipt of the confirmation.

“My profile still shows that the application is under background check,” said the 31-year-old, who holds a master’s degree in photonics and started a PhD program in the science energy and materials at the National Institute of Scientific Research. Quebec last year.

“Unfortunately, they have not been able to determine when my application will be finalised.”

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter who covers immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung



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