Letter of Acceptance Demystified
This article demystifies letters of acceptance (LOAs). It helps you understand their importance in the decision maker’s assessment to secure a study permit for your clients.
1. Study permit refusal and the LOA The latest statistics and articles show the high levels of refusal for study permit applications in the last few years. This is especially the case for certain countries, for example, Nigeria:
All seminars I had attended about this subject had failed to mention the importance of the accuracy of LOAs and thus the problematic LOA was not seen as a primary reason for high refusal rates. It came as a shock when I realized that most of the clients that I represented for a study permit received LOAs from Canadian schools, Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs), that contained multiple errors, including incompleteness and missing vital information necessary for the officer’s evaluation to lead to an approval.
What came as an even bigger realization was that:
• The DLIs I contacted refused to make the amendments and appeared to be utterly unaware of the importance of having a complete LOA following the IRCC guidelines.
• The DLI appeared uninformed of the existence of these IRCC guidelines and unaware of the importance of these guidelines in the eyes of the Immigration Officer making the decision on the study permit.
• Most clients and RCICs did not take the time to review the LOA to ensure it met the IRCC guidelines and contains no errors.
2. The important details of LOA
What does a LOA that meets the requirements of IRCC look like and what specific details are most important in the assessment of the Immigration Officer? The answer will help ensure this information is always included and accurately written by the DLIs.
Every consultant or lawyer in this industry knows that international students need a Letter of Acceptance from the DLI they intend to attend before applying for a Canadian Study Permit. This acceptance letter is essential in their application for a Canadian study permit as per:
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, s. 219(1)
• R219 (1) A study permit shall not be issued to a foreign national unless they have written documentation from the designated learning institution where they intend to study that states that they have been accepted to study there.
Based on that, IRCC developed and posted on its website detailed instructions to guide DLIs, applicants, and consultants for study permit applications .
3. How crucial is the LOA to securing the study permit and why?
The answer is: it is one of the most crucial documentary evidence that is provided with the study permit application. Thus, a thorough examination of the LOA should be done by the RCIC before submission. When talking to some fellow RCICs, I asked them to look at past LOAs for their clients and they all admitted to not even taking the time to read it. They also assumed that the DLIs should know what they are doing. When asked to look at past LOAs for their clients, they declared finding multiple errors that they had not noticed.
4. Results of research on LOAs
I conducted short research in my own caseload of study permit clients and the results of the research showed that 90% of the LOAs I received for my clients contained major errors from the school. In addition, about 70% of the schools refused to correct their LOAs. Their response was categoric and showed their unwillingness to accommodate the student’s legitimate request. One example of the errors is the level of study, which simply stating, ‘university certificate’. This provides absolutely no indication of the level of studies such as bachelor’s degree, post graduate certificate, Master, PhD as required. Without this, the officer is unable to assess and unable to satisfy himself or herself of the natural progression of studies regarding the study permit applicant.
When asked to correct the letters, almost all schools responded that they did not provide correction. In addition, when asked why the school refused to complete the level of studies field on the LOA, they explained that they did not need to do so. Once I forwarded the IRCC guidelines, most schools made it clear that they had never even been aware that such a helpful document existed.
On the other hand, a small percentage of DLIs contacted me and expressed their interest in correcting the LOA and in learning more about improving their LOAs to facilitate the study permit approval of their future international students.
5. Common misconceptions made by RCIC, DLI and Immigration Officers about LOAs.
Firstly, some consultants and their clients assumed that the DLIs were reliable institutions, well-educated and committed to providing credible official documentary evidence confirming the admission with all the necessary details as required by IRCC.
Secondly, some schools assumed that the obligation to provide an accurate and complete LOA was unimportant and that it didn’t have significant impact on the Immigration Officers’ decisions. The schools also assumed incorrectly that the officers had time, resources or even instructions by the department (IRCC) to perform additional investigations on each study permit application.
Thirdly, the Immigration Officer incorrectly assumed that the DLIs were properly trained and understood the relevance and importance of issuing an accurate and complete letter of admission. The reason for this is that it is one of the most relevant pieces of evidence on which the officer primarily relies to make his decision in a study permit application.
6. The importance of advising DLIs and RCICs on this subject
As it is often the case, because the governmental administrative decision makers are much more difficult to reach and advise , the recommendation obviously lays in the importance of better advising the DLIs and educating some consultants on the importance of taking the time to verify and issue a complete and accurate letter of admission when submitting a study permit application.
Consequently, my recommendation is twofold:
First, the importance in advocating to IRCC that money and resources should be dedicated to the proper and formal education of DLIs so they can better understand what an official and complete LOA that meets the requirements of the ministry is. Second, the need for consultants to begin making legitimate demands and respectfully requesting that the DLIs amend their LOAs when they are incomplete or inaccurate. With each consultant writing or contacting the schools to request an amendment of the letter of admission, it will become obvious that something is amiss. Consultants should also state the importance of this document for better chances of approval of a study permit.
7. Recommendations for increasing study permit approval rates in the future.
Any respectable DLI that has a genuine desire to have most of its foreign students attend their programs, should have no issues amending and correcting the LOAs. Even more so since these corrections may take no more than a few seconds.
If the school refuses to do so, it significantly reduces the chances of the prospective student receiving his/her study permit, which is counterproductive. Should this occur, it may be wise to advise the student that the DLI and program of study may need to be reconsidered to increase his or her chances of securing a study permit. It may mean a delay in the start date, unfortunately, but it is better than never being able to secure a Canadian study permit.
Doing this is not only in line with the duty of competency of consultants but is linked to pursuing the best interests of our clients. It will also ensure that the Canadian study permit program does not become unfairly tainted by unfounded rumors of discrimination and inequitable treatment in certain parts of the world.
Sources and articles relating to study permit refusal rates:
- Anju AGNIHOTRI CHABA, « After two years of high rejections, Canada student visa success rate improves », The Indian Express (Oct 24, 2022), online :<https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/jalandhar/after-two-years-of-high-rejections-canada-student-visa-success-rate-improves-8227232/?fbclid=IwAR1feGUZe9eiAEi7rxxb-UUEdn6_AiZV6Uini-wWQQwhrsSdVxlNfB4Slzg>.
- Rynnaas AZLAN, « Education consultants report ‘unprecedentedly high’ Canadian student visa rejection rates », Study International (Aug 1, 2022), online: <https://www.studyinternational.com/news/canada-student-visa-rejection/>.
- Jean-François VENNE, « Access denied: High refusal rates of study permits an issue at francophone universities », University Affairs (Aug 24, 2022), online : <https://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/access-denied-high-refusal-rates-of-study-permits-an-issue-at-francophone-universities/>.
- Wachira KIGOTHO, « Authorities tackle visa refusal rate for students from Africa », University World News (Aug 11, 2022), online : <https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20220810203406447>.
- « Number of Study Permits Applications (excluding Extensions) Processed and Approval rate by IRCC between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2021 Broken down by year and Country of Residence (in person) », Government of Canada, online : <https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/transparency/committees/cimm-feb-15-17-2022/student-approval-rates.html>.