Hate crimes, denial of visa worry students, parents as row flares
The rising face-off between the two countries has caused particular consternation in Punjab, a state where Canada remains a popular destination
Jalandhar: With India suspending visa services to Canadian citizens on Thursday, the escalating diplomatic standoff has left Indian students in the North American country and those that have applied for study visas, concerned that their immediate futures could be affected by the tensions. To be sure, the suspension does not, as it stands, affect those who have already been granted visas to Canada or Indian citizens who have applied for Canadian visas.
Data from the Canadian government department Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) made public in 2022 showed that of the roughly 551,000 new international students who entered their country that year, the largest cohort was of Indians, with 226,450 students. As many as 319,000 Indian students already lived in Canada as on December 31, 2022, the data said.
The rising face-off between the two countries has caused particular consternation in Punjab, a state where Canada remains a popular destination. 22- year-old Simranpreet Kaur of Mand village in Jalandhar for instance said that she had recently applied for a visa to study in a college in Brampton, and was worried that the diplomatic row would hamper her visa prospects. “I have already contacted an immigration consultant to gather more information on any changes that could be coming in the process of granting visas.”
Narinder Singh, whose son Jashanjot left earlier this year for Canada, said that they were concerned that the situation would affect the chances of being granted a work visa at the end of the student programme. “We have been checking on him several times a day. We spent a lot of money to send him to Canada and our concern is that Canadian authorities may impose restrictions on work permits, and complicate the process of acquiring permanent resident (PR) status.”
Jalandhar resident Ranjit Singh, who is in Canada to visit his son Raunak, said that most parents he spoke to were also worried about the security of their children. “The only issue is security, because there is an apprehension that there could be incidents of hate crime,” he said.
Typically, universities in Canada invite applications for three semesters; the “fall” that begins in September, “winter” that begins in January, and “summer” in May.
An official of an educational consultancy based in Kochi said that over the past two days, they fielded hundreds of phone calls from students who were preparing to leave for the session that begins in January. “At this point, there is a great deal of uncertainty. Admissions have closed for the January intake and some have already started the visa process. We can only wait and see how this pans out,” the official said.
Sakshi Mittal, founder of career counselling agency University Leap, however, said there was no reason to panic. “Most students who were going for the September intake have already flown out. The ones going for January 2024 are in the process of filing their visa and as of now there is no impact that we have noticed. We have contacted students living in Canada and everything seems to be okay. It is inevitable however that if the unrest continues, there will be concern among students and parents on issues of safety,” she said.
(With inputs from Vishnu Varma)