Study permit and gap in studies - how to appeal refusal

Getting accepted into a Canadian university is a dream come true for many international students. However, getting the sought-after acceptance letter is only the first step in the lengthy and complicated process that is filing for a Canadian study permit. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), only 70 percent of all study permit applications are successfully accepted by the immigration authorities.

Don’t let that deter you: there are several steps you can take to secure a Canadian visa even after refusal. Reapplying after a rejection is actually a valid option, even if your visa had been refused due to the so-called “study gap.”

How to explain a study gap on your student visa application

When filing for a student visa, you have to give genuine reasons for the gaps in your education career. The only requirement is to provide an honest and factual account of your activities during the months and years between your previous studies and the education you plan to pursue in Canada. The most popular reasons for a study gap listed on student visa applications include the following:

  • preparing for exams;
  • pursuing a job, working freelance, or starting a business;
  • family emergencies or medical issues;
  • taking time off to travel; etc.

If you were denied a study permit on the basis of taking a study gap, that reason alone cannot be solid grounds on which the IRCC can reject your application. It is your responsibility to explain any gaps in your studies on your visa application, but that is all that is requested of you.

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Rejection of canadian student visa due to a gap in studies

A gap in studies is commonly used to refuse applicants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other South Asian countries. In these cases, IRCC officers handling your application will try to compare your educational journey to what is traditional in your country of origin. In most cases, if this sort of logic leads to a negative outcome on your application, it can be successfully appealed.

If this is the only reason stated in your rejection letter or case notes — i.e., if the rejection has nothing to do with your ties to your country of origin, the funds you declare on your application, etc. — then it is solid grounds for filing an appeal with the Federal Court of Canada.

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Example of successful appeal of study permit rejection

The Federal Court has shown to take the applicant’s side when reviewing applications refused due to a gap in studies. The 2016 case of Ms.Minhaj Begum Raj Gaffur v. the Minister of the IRCC serves as an excellent example of this notion.

Ms.Gaffur applied for a Canadian study visa in order to pursue a course in Hotel and Restaurant Management at Fleming College in Ontario in 2016. The applicant had already obtained a Bachelor's Degree in English literature in 2005 and a Bachelor's Degree in Education in 2012. At the time of her application, Ms.Gaffur had been working as an assistant restaurant manager in India.

Her application had been refused by the IRCC in 2015 with the officer specifically stating that "her proposed studies are not reasonable in the light of her qualifications, previous studies, a gap in studies, employment, or her future plans and prospects." Ms.Gaffur's case notes list this fact as the only basis for the refusal of her student visa application.

The judge ruled that the IRCC officer's decision could not be considered reasonable or justified and sent Ms.Gaffur's application back to the IRCC for another immigration officer to review.

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