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The Student Direct Stream (SDS) Vs The Regular Study Stream

The History of the Student Direct Stream (SDS)

The Student Direct Stream (SDS) was launched by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in June 2018. This program was developed to aid in the study permit process as studying in Canada had become more attractive to key Asian and African applicants. This program had the goal of more efficient and effective processing times for international students so they could quickly pursue higher education in Canada.

IRCC and the Canadian government planned to expand the SDS in the future. The goal of the expansion was to provide a new application service that was one process for all applications. This meant that students would be able to apply for the SDS and a study permit, temporary resident visa, or work permit at the same time in one simple application.

What is the Student Direct Stream?

If you are looking to study at a post-secondary institution in Canada, you may be able to get your study permit quickly through the SDS. IRCC is dedicated to making the application process for international students as efficient as possible. The SDS was introduced by the IRCC to help students residing in particular countries, with financial resources and language skills, to benefit from a faster application process.

The SDS process can take as little as 20 calendar days. To ensure a quick process, you must give your biometrics as soon as possible and meet all the eligibility requirements. Only applicants submitted electronically are eligible for this processing – paper processing is processed through the regular study permit process. Online processing ensures applications can be processed as quickly as possible.

It is important to note and unfortunately a common misconception that a study permit is guaranteed just because you apply through the SDS. This process is to get your study permit faster, not grant automatic permits. You must meet all eligibility requirements for a regular study permit. The SDS does not replace a regular study permit, it is simply an expedited stream. If you do not qualify under the SDS, your application can still be processed under a regular study permit. Although the regulations around SDS are strict, this process is very beneficial for students looking to start their higher education in Canada as soon as possible.

What Countries are Eligible for SDS?

Only specific countries qualify for the SDS. To qualify for this stream, you must be a legal resident of one of the following countries:

  • China
  • India
  • Morocco
  • Pakistan
  • The Philippines
  • Senegal
  • Vietnam

This eligibility requirement is based on residency. If you reside in a country other than the eligible countries above, even if you are a citizen of one of the countries above, you do not qualify for SDS and must apply through the regular study permit process.

What are the Other Eligibility Requirements for SDS?

SDS has an extensive list of requirements that must be met to qualify for SDS. In addition to being a legal resident to the listed countries, the applicant must also:

  • Have an acceptance letter from a post-secondary designated learning institution (DLI)
  • Live outside of Canada when you apply
  • Have proof you have paid your tuition for your first year of study
  • Have a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of $10,000 CAD
  • If studying in Quebec, have a Certificat d’acceptation du Quebec
  • Get a medical exam before you apply
  • Get a police certificate before you apply
  • Have your most recent secondary or post-secondary school transcripts
  • Meet the language test requirements (IELTS score of 6 or higher; TEF score of 7 or higher)

Depending on where you apply from, other documents may be requested. Each country has its own set of guidelines and qualifications and may require further information.

What is a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)?

A designated learning institution (DLI) is a university, college, or other school approved by the government to host international students. To qualify for SDS, you need to provide an acceptance letter from a DLI. You have to ensure your institution of choice is on the DLI list, or you will not qualify for SDS or a study permit in general.

What is a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)?

A Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) is the preferred option of proof of funds during your study. A GIC is an investment from a Canadian financial institution that has a rate of return for a fixed amount of time. To qualify for SDS, you must prove you have a GIC of $10,000 CAD to cover your first year of tuition and living costs during your study. You can see the available financial institutions that offer GICs at the link here.

What Documents Need to Be Submitted?

In addition to meeting the above qualifications, the following documents must be included in electronic applications to satisfy SDS processing requirements:

  • Application for Study Permit Made Outside Canada form [IMM 1294]
  • Family Information form [IMM 5645], if applicable
  • Schedule 1 – Application for a Temporary Resident Visa form [IMM 5257], if applicable
  • Marriage License or Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union form [IMM 5409], if applicable
  • Use of a Representative form [IMM 5476], if applicable
  • Certificat d’acceptation du Quebec, if studying in Quebec
  • Application processing fee payment and biometric processing fee payment, if applicable
  • Proof of identity
  • Photocopy of information and biographic data page of the applicant’s passport
  • Any additional documents specified by the visa office instructions for the applicant’s region

All required documents and qualifications must be included at the time of your application. An incomplete application will be refused.

Why Does the SDS Have a Language Requirement?

You might have noticed that to be eligible for the SDS you need to have proof of a valid language test result. You will need to have completed, within two years of submitting the SDS application, either the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test d’Evaluation de Francais (TEF). Additionally, you will need to have scored a minimum of 6.0 on the IELTS in each language skill: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Your minimum score on the TEF should be 310 for speaking, 249 for listening, 207 for reading, and 310 for writing.

On the other hand, there is no language requirement to be eligible for a regular study permit. While the SDS eligibility requirements are more stringent, the reason is to expedite the application process and create a more standardized second stream for high-quality applicants. However, students who do not have strong enough language skills to apply through the SDS are still able to apply for a regular study permit application.

It is highly recommended that if you are looking to apply through the SDS that you study for your language test! Study materials can be found online at the IELTS website or the TEF website.

Benefits to the SDS

In addition to your study permit being processed quickly, there are further benefits to this program. If you are bringing your spouse or partner and children with you to Canada on your study permit, they may also be able to get faster processing on their visitor visa, work permit, or study permit. You must complete their applications at the same time as your application to ensure the same processing times. A key benefit of this is that it allows you to study in Canada while your spouse or partner works to support you. Not only is this financially beneficial to you, but it will also allow your partner to gain Canadian work experience, which will strengthen both of your permanent residence applications if that is something that you are interested in.

Another benefit of the SDS or specifically a study permit is that it provides another pathway to permanent residency in Canada. Canada sees international students as valuable potential permanent residents due to their age, educational credentials, language ability, and life experience in the country. Canada has made it easier for students to get permanent resident status through a number of key programs that you may be eligible for following the completion of your studies. For example, the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program allows international students to remain in Canada and work for up to three years after their studies. This Canadian work experience gained will help strengthen your permanent residence application.

A Final Word

The SDS is a streamlined process for getting a study permit. You may be eligible to apply through the SDS if you are a resident from China, India, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal, or Vietnam. While the requirements for the SDS are more stringent than for a regular study permit, your application will be processed in as little as 20 calendar days, and there is a high approval rate for students who meet the language and financial requirements.

The SDS is a great pathway for you to study and experience life in Canada. Should you have any questions about qualifying for the SDS, or are ready to dive into getting a Second passport to Canada, feel free to reach out to us and we will surely get you started to understand the options that are available to you!


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