Diplomatic strain raises visa worries

Diplomatic strain raises visa worries

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  • September 20, 2023
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MUMBAI : Deteriorating diplomatic ties between Canada and India have sparked concerns about the visa prospects for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, students and workers heading to the North American country every year.

Companies with tie-ups with universities and offices in Canada are worried that scrutiny of applications from states such as Punjab and Haryana will increase and immigrant visas will be harder to come by.

“This will show up in the visa approvals in the long term. The success ratio of student visas for Canada is just 60% and may come down further. Students focusing on just Canada need to keep other options,” said Ankur Dhawan, president of upGrad Abroad, a unit of edtech statup upGrad.

The concerns arose after Canada and India expelled each other’s diplomats on Tuesday. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that agents linked to the Indian government may have played a role in the murder of Khalistan Tiger Force chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.

Canada’s intelligence agencies are pursuing the matter, leading to a diplomatic spat between the two countries. Tensions between the two have already hurt the economic relationship, with Canada calling for a pause in talks with India for a free trade agreement.

“Immigration visas will be a larger concern than student visas. Canadian authorities increased their scrutiny over the last year on applicants’ documents, and now that will increase,” said Ankit Mehra, co-founder and chief executive of GyanDhan, a non-banking financial company (NBFC).

GyanDhan has seen a threefold increase in loan applications from those heading abroad between 2021 and 2023. Remarkably, Punjab surpassed this trend with a fivefold surge in loan applications since 2021.

Canada is the second most popular destination for Indian students and immigrants, notably from Punjab and Haryana.

The majority of candidates applying for work explore entry- and mid-level positions across sectors such as retail, business services and manufacturing. Popular fields of study include science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as medical courses.

However, the post-pandemic influx from India prompted Canada and Australia to tighten their visa policies. The recent diplomatic escalation will worsen the tensions.

“Immigration visas may get restricted since the Canadian government over the last few years has stressed that they prefer students to come in, acclimatize into the ecosystem and then settle down. Some of the Indian states will see more scrutiny now,” said Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and chief executive of Leverage Edu. The company ties up with banks and NBFCs to help students headed abroad.

Consultants said they don’t expect a sudden halt in student flow to Canada, given their substantial economic contribution to the country. More than 700,000 students went abroad to study last year, including Canada, according to the Indian government data.

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Updated: 20 Sep 2023, 12:38 AM IST

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