October 18, 2023

SDS Versus Non-SDS: Choosing the Right Permit to Study in Canada

Canada is one of the most educated countries in the world, is home to several top-ranked universities, offers relatively lower tuition fees, and provides immigration benefits. These are a few of the many reasons why international students prefer to study in Canada.

The process to apply to study in Canada is straightforward but does entail a lot of submissions and applications. When you start the application process online as an international student from outside of Canada, you will come across several requirements. Firstly, you will have to get your documents ready, from the letter of acceptance to supporting documents for your complete application, letter of explanation, and so on.

Once you get your documents ready, you will have to apply through the SDS or Non-SDS stream, which is what we’re going to explore in this blog.

What is SDS and Non-SDS?

Student Direct Stream (SDS) is available to international students who wish to enrol in a  post-secondary designated learning institution (DLI), and are legal residents of 14 designated countries. SDS is an accelerated study permit processing program where the IRCC processes most SDS applications within 20 calendar days if the eligibility requirements are met.

Now, if the students are not from the designated 14 countries, they will have to follow the regular study permit processing and will not be given any preference in the processing time. This is called the Non-SDS Study Permit.

Applying for SDS

The SDS or Student Direct Stream is a process created to help international students obtain their study visa through the Canada Study Permit Application. You may get your study permit faster through SDS if you are from the designated countries shown below.

This study permit is for foreign national students applying to study at a post-secondary DLI or Designated Learning Institute, in Canada. Furthermore, this permit is available for application for international students from:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • India
  • Morocco
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Senegal
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Vietnam

After you submit your application for SDS, the application typically takes 20 calendar days to process. This is if all the requirements and eligibility criteria are met, including the biometrics information submitted. 

Eligibility criteria for SDS

  • Proof of identity of the international student (applicant).
  • A photocopy of the information and biographical data page of the applicant’s passport.
  • Submit proof of a valid language test result: The test result must not be more than two years old since it was received. The language test must be taken in the in-person format for it to be accepted for SDS application. The results must have all four language abilities tested for listening, speaking, reading, and writing. This also means that remote proctored tests taken online will not be accepted.

Secondly, the IRCC will accept valid IELTS TEF and PTE test results. The IELTS score should be 6.0 or higher in the segments of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. On the other hand, the TEF score should be equivalent to a Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) / Niveaux de Compétence Linguistique Canadiens (NCLC) score of a minimum of 7 for each ability.

  • Submit proof of GIC of CAD 10,000 or more: You can obtain the GIC or Guaranteed Investment Certificate from any bank insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) or a bank listed on the IRCC SDS website.

The GIC you obtain must fulfil the following criteria:

  • The bank provides certain documentation to the applicant after the GIC is purchased. These documents include the GIC certificate, a letter of attestation, the investment directions confirmation, or the investment balance confirmation.
  • The bank must hold the funds in a student account or investment account that should only be released until the student arrives in Canada. Until the account should be inaccessible to the applicant. Once the student enters Canada, the bank has to validate the student’s identity, and then permit the release of funds.
  • At this point, the student will receive an initial disbursement upon bank verification of the student’s identity. Thereafter, it is recommended that the remaining funds be released monthly or bimonthly over a duration of 10 months to a year.
  • Submit proof of complete tuition fee payment for the first year of study. You can prove this by submitting a receipt from the DLI, an official letter from the DLI confirming the payment, a bank receipt of the tuition fee paid, or the transfer fee amount made into the repository account at the DLI, which is to be later added to the tuition fee.
  • Submit a Letter of Acceptance from a post-secondary DLI.
  • Submit the latest secondary or post-secondary educational transcript.
  • You also have the option to submit the proof of completion of an upfront medical examination report from a panel physician for foreign national applicants who have:
    • Lived or travelled in designated countries or territories for six months during the year before arriving in Canada
    • Pursued a field of study that demands upfront medical examination results.

Also, if the student has taken an upfront medical examination, they must include a copy of the IMM 1017B Upfront Medical Report form. This form is given by the doctor after the examination is complete. Furthermore, doctors using the eMedical system can provide the applicant with an information sheet printout.

Note: GIC amount can vary with the number of dependents

You must submit any other necessary documents specified by the visa office based on the student’s country of origin.

Additional documents required to process the SDS application:

  • Application for Study Permit Made Outside Canada form (PDF, 566 KB) (overseas)
  • Family Information form (PDF, 1.56 MB) (if applicable)
  • Schedule 1 – Application for a Temporary Resident Visa form (PDF, 533 KB) (if applicable)
  • A marriage licence or certificate or Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union form (PDF, 637 KB) (if applicable)
  • Use of a Representative form (PDF, 648 KB) (if applicable)
  • Attestation of issuance of your the Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ – Québec Acceptance Certificate) for studies from the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) for applicants destined for Quebec.
  • An application processing fee payment and biometric processing fee payment (if applicable)

Grounds on which the SDS application is refused:

  • If officers receive submissions with incomplete documentation.
  • If the application processing fee is not included or is incorrect.
  • If the biometric results requested are missing in the submission.
  • If additional documents requested were not submitted.
  • If the applicant is not a bona fide student.
  • If the officers find that the applicant is not likely to leave Canada by the end of the duration authorised for the stay.

SDS applications for family members

Family members of principal applicants who are applying under the SDS are eligible for concurrent processing if they apply at the same time as the primary applicant.

Temporary residence applications (work permit, study permit, and temporary resident visa applications) of the accompanying family members must be submitted online as part of a family grouping.

Prerequisite courses and bridging programs of study

Applicants who are taking a prerequisite course or bridging program of study at a DLI before starting their main program may be eligible to apply under the SDS, provided they meet all the program eligibility criteria.

For example

Applicants still need to submit an e-application from overseas. However, the prerequisite course or bridging program of study must be clearly identified as such in the applicant’s letter of acceptance, and the applicant’s main program of study must lead to a degree, diploma, or certificate.

Applying for Non-SDS

A non-SDS study permit is an option made available for international students who do not qualify for the SDS program. The processing time for this permit can take 90 days or longer depending on the application submitted by the international student. Non-SDS is designed to permit international students to study in Canada for a duration of up to four years.

Eligibility criteria for non-SDS:

  • Submit proof of acceptance from a Canadian DLI.
  • Show proof of sufficient funds to cover living expenses in Canada, the tuition fees, and the return transportation cost to your country.
  • You should meet the health and security requirements.
  • Submit proof of language proficiency in French or English.

To summarise:

SDS Permit
Non-SDS Permit
The processing time is approximately 20 calendar days. The processing time is up to 90 days or longer.
The SDS permit is only limited to a few countries. The non-SDS permit is open for application to students worldwide.
The applicant must submit a GIC of CAD 10,000 or more. A particular amount is not specified but the applicant must show proof of sufficient funds to cover relevant costs, from tuition fees to living expenses, and return travel costs.

In conclusion, both these permits, be it SDS or non-SDS have their conditions of eligibility and requirements. They differ in their own ways, which is why international students can get expert counselling before they choose to pursue either of the permits to study in Canada.

  • Is it beneficial for international students from the designated countries to choose SDS over non-SDS?

Usually, SDS is a preferred option. However, non-SDS is a means to not completely stop other deserving applicants from the designated countries who wish to study in Canada. For instance, for students who cannot show proof of GIC of CAD 10,000, their dream to study in Canada does not end there. They can most certainly apply for non-SDS where they can at least show proof of sufficient funds.

  • What happens after I apply for either permit?

You have to wait for your application to process. Also, while doing so, you must book your biometrics collection appointment. Keep checking whether you’ve received a request to submit any additional documents. 

  • What if I missed sending some relevant documents?

The Canadian Government website offers you a chance to submit all missing documents on your online IRCC secure account or their IRCC web form.

  • Is it easier and faster to acquire an SDS permit or a non-SDS permit?

In terms of ease of acquiring, this depends on the condition that you’ve met all the eligibility requirements and submitted the necessary documents. When it comes to speed, the SDS is faster as it takes 20 calendar days to process, while the non-SDS permit takes three months.