A Guide to SDS and Non-SDS Canada Visa Application: Top 5 Universities & Documents

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Are you dreaming of studying in Canada and feeling torn between SDS and non-SDS Canada options? Worry not! We’re here to clear the confusion surrounding SDS and non-SDS visa applications in Canada, making your journey smoother.

We all know that getting a student visa to study abroad can take a long time. It’s best to apply when you get an offer letter from a university because the process can last several months. The Canadian government created the Student Direct Stream, or SDS, to make things easier and faster.

Here’s the cool part: Since the launch of SDS, the visa process for international students has become much quicker and smoother. With SDS, you can get your visa processed faster than before, so you can start studying in Canada sooner!

The Student Direct Stream (SDS) visa program has a higher success rate than other visa options, making it a fantastic choice for international students pursuing their education in Canada.

Did you Know?
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently announced that starting from August 10, 2023, they’ll accept additional English language tests for the SDS visa program. But here’s the catch—if you’re taking the IELTS test, the required band score of 6 remains the same. So, there’s no need to worry about meeting new requirements!
A Guide to SDS and Non-SDS Canada Visa Application: Top 5 Universities & Documents
SDS & Non-SDS Canada
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What Is an SDS Visa?

If you plan to study in Canada, you might have heard about the Student Direct Stream (SDS) visa. The Canadian government created this program to make the visa process easier and quicker for eligible students from certain countries. 

To apply for the SDS visa, you must meet the requirements of Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada and submit your application online. 

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

The best thing about the SDS visa program is that it provides faster processing times for study permit applications than regular visa applications. 

The SDS visa rate is 70%, meaning you can receive your study permit within 4-6 weeks, and if you’re eligible, your application can be completed within 20 days

However, remember that if you’re applying for the SDS visa, you’ll need health insurance coverage for your studies in Canada. This ensures you can access medical care and services while living and studying in Canada. 

The SDS visa program is an excellent option for eligible students who want to study in Canada and benefit from a faster and more efficient visa processing system.

What Is a Non-SDS Visa?

A non-SDS meaning is a conventional visa route for studying, working, and living in Canada that applies to all countries. International students often take a general process involving a traditional application method with longer processing times than streamlined programs like SDS. 

The non-SDS visa IELTS Requirements category and language proficiency requirements, such as IELTS scores, may vary depending on the educational institution and the province. 

The Non-SDS Visa requirements are to provide:

  • Proof of admission to a Canadian educational institution
  • Demonstrate financial capacity to cover tuition and living expenses
  • Obtain health insurance coverage
  • Language proficiency tests like IELTS. 

Additional requirements may include academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.

Non-SDS processing time can vary, often taking longer than streamlined programs like SDS due to the more traditional application process and the volume of applications received by immigration authorities. 

In summary, the non-SDS visa pathway offers international students an alternative route to study in Canada, albeit with longer processing times and potentially more documentation requirements. 

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A Guide to SDS and Non-SDS Canada Visa Application: Top 5 Universities & Documents

⚖️Difference Between SDS and Non-SDS Canada in 2024

When planning to study in Canada, you have two visa options: SDS and non-SDS. The SDS visa is great if you’re from certain countries and want your visa processed quickly in about 4-6 weeks. It also has a simpler application process that takes around 20 days.

On the other hand, the non-SDS visa is for students from other countries or those who are okay with a slower process. It can take longer and might need more paperwork.

Understanding the difference in processing times between SDS and non-SDS visas is crucial for managing your time well. If you have a specific start date in Canada, you should focus on the SDS program if you qualify.

This helps you plan your studies better, ensuring you don’t miss deadlines. It also lets you make smart decisions that match your goals and schedule.

Quick overview of the difference between SDS and Non-SDS Canada:

FeatureSDS VisaNon-SDS Visa
Processing TimeFaster (around 20 days)Slower (several months)
MediumOnline (only accepted online)Can be submitted offline
EligibilityLimited countriesOpen to all countries
Application ProcessStreamlined onlineMore complex (online or paper)
Application FeesSimilar to the SDS visa application fee. The biometric fee is CAD 85 or INR 5K. Similar to the SDS visa application fee. The biometric fee is $85 CAD or INR 5K. 
Language ProficiencySpecific language test scores required (e.g., IELTS)Similar language proficiency requirements, but may vary depending on institution and program
Success Rates70%30%
Financial RequirementsThe more traditional application processSimilar financial requirements, including proof of funds for tuition and living expenses
Application RequirementsSimplified application processMore traditional application process
Health InsuranceMandatory health insurance coverage requiredMandatory health insurance coverage required
Study Permit RenewalPotentially faster renewal processSimilar to the renewal process, but it may vary

Eligibility Requirement for SDS and Non-SDS Canada in 2024

According to recent updates, you must include a provincial attestation letter (PAL) from the province or territory where you plan to study with your study permit application.

This PAL is a crucial document that verifies your acceptance to a designated learning institution (DLI) in the specific province or territory. Without a PAL, your application will likely be rejected and returned to you with the fees.

🎓 Key Eligibility Criteria for the SDS Visa Program

CriteriaDetails
Legal ResidenceYou must be a legal resident of one of the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam
Provincial Attestation LetterObtain a provincial attestation letter from the province or territory you plan to study
Obtain a provincial attestation letter from the province or territory you plan to study.Secure an acceptance letter from a post-secondary designated learning institution
Residence Outside CanadaMust live outside of Canada when applying
Tuition Payment ProofIf studying outside Quebec, provide proof of payment for the first year’s tuition
Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)If studying outside Quebec, provide proof of payment for the first year’s tuition
Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) (if studying in Quebec)Maintain a required amount in a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) for the intended province or territory of study
Medical Exam (if required)Undergo a medical exam before application, if necessary
Police Certificate (if required)Obtain a police certificate, if necessar
Academic TranscriptsProvide the most recent secondary or post-secondary school transcripts
Language Proficiency TestAchieve the minimum required score in one of the qualifying language tests

SDS and Non-SDS applicants share common eligibility criteria, including acceptance letters, language proficiency, financial documentation, and academic transcripts. The more detailed eligibility criteria are listed below.

🌍 Key Criteria for Non-SDS Canada Visa Applicants

CriteriaDetails
Academic Credentials– Official transcripts from Class 12 exams. – Minimum aggregate: 55% for undergraduate programs
– 50% or above for postgraduate or advanced diploma courses.
Acceptance Letter from DLIIt is crucial to secure an acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institute (DLI).
English Language ProficiencySecuring an acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institute (DLI) is crucial.
Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)Investment of CAD 10,000 (INR 6L) in a Guaranteed Investment Certificate for financial security.
Tuition Fee PaymentDeposit tuition fees to the DLI for six months instead of an entire year.
Statement of Purpose (SOP)Write a compelling SOP detailing motivation, educational background, achievements, and study reasons.

📋Documents Required for Both SDS and Non-SDS Canada in 2024

The documents you need for SDS and non-SDS in Canada for 2024 are crucial. They prove your readiness for studying abroad and help streamline the application process. By showcasing your eligibility and preparation, these documents demonstrate financial stability, a valid passport, and acceptance from a reputable institution. 

This readiness ensures a smoother application process, primarily for SDS and non-SDS Canada, where faster processing times are essential. Complete documentation fosters transparency and credibility, building trust with immigration officials. 

Key highlights:

DocumentSDSNon-SDS
Valid PassportYesYes
Proof of AcceptanceYesYes
Proof of Financial Support (GIC minimum)CAD $10,000 (INR 6L)Varies
Medical ExamYesYes
Police CertificateMay be requiredMay be required
Educational DocumentsYesYes
Academic ResultsNot requiredRequired
Language Test ResultsPTE
TOEFL iBT
CAEL
Required (score may vary)
Proof of Work ExperienceNot requiredOptional
Application FeeCAD $150 (INR 9K)CAD $150 (INR 9K)

The more detailed commonly required documents for both SDS and Non-SDS in Canada are:

  1. Valid Passport: Ensure your passport has sufficient validity (usually 6 months beyond your intended stay in Canada).
  1. Proof of Acceptance: Both programs require a letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada.
  1. Proof of Financial Support: You’ll need to demonstrate you have sufficient funds to cover your living expenses in Canada. This can include documents like:
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAD $10,000 (specifically for SDS)
  • Bank statements
  • Proof of scholarship or financial aid (if applicable)
  1. Medical Examination: An upfront medical exam from a physician authorised by IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) might be required.
  1. Police Certificate: You may be requested to provide a police certificate from your home country (and any other country you’ve lived in for extended periods).
  1. Educational Documents: Transcripts and diplomas from your previous educational institutions are usually required.
  1. Academic Results: Meeting the specific academic requirements (minimum grades) set by your chosen DLI is crucial for Non-SDS applications.
  1. Proof of Work Experience (Optional): A record of relevant work experience can strengthen your non-SDS application (not required for SDS).
  1. Application Fee: The visa application fee of $150 CAD (9K) applies to both programs.
  1. Language Test Results: While both programs require language proficiency tests, the minimum score requirement for non-SDS programs might vary, depending on the program and institution. You should also note that online test scores won’t be accepted, and tests must be taken in person.
Language TestMinimum Score Required
IELTS 6.0
CAEL60
TOEFL iBT83
PTE60

Overall, the documents you require are not just bureaucratic hurdles but essential steps to ensure a well-prepared and successful application for your Canadian study visa adventure!

🎓Top 5 Universities for SDS and Non-SDS Canada in 2024

Students pursuing higher education in Canada can enrol in SDS and non-SDS colleges. In addition to non-SDS colleges, SDS colleges in Canada are also popular among international students.

Many non-SDS colleges in Canada offer undergraduate, postgraduate, certificate, diploma, and doctoral programs in multiple subject areas.

🧑‍🏫Here are the top 5 universities for SDS in Canada in 2024, along with their average annual tuition fees for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) programs:

Name of the UniversityAverage Annual Tuition Fee in INR
(Undergraduate)
Average Annual Tuition Fee in INR
(Post-Graduate)
McGill University (Montreal, Quebec)26L – 40L29L – 41L
University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario)37L – 50L33L – 54L
University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia)31L – 45L33L – 48L
McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario)29L – 41L31L – 45L
University of Alberta (Edmonton, Alberta)25L – 37L29L – 41L

👩‍🏫Here are the top 5 universities for NON-SDS in Canada in 2024, along with their average annual tuition fees for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) programs:

Name of the UniversityAverage Annual Tuition Fee in INR
(Undergraduate)
Average Annual Tuition Fee in INR
(Post-Graduate)
University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario)30L – 43L33L – 48L
University of Montreal (Montreal, Quebec)18L – 31L25L – 37L
University of Calgary (Calgary, Alberta)26L – 40L31L – 45L
Western University (London, Ontario)29L – 41L33L – 48L
Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario)31L – 44L35L – 50L

Call an Expert to apply to Top Universities in Canada today!

Guide to SDS and Non-SDS Canada Application Process

When considering studying in Canada, it’s vital to understand the Student Direct Stream (SDS) and non-SDS visa application processes. 

This guide makes navigating the visa process smoother, reducing complications and ensuring compliance with Canadian government requirements. It fosters a clearer understanding of expectations, aiding in better application preparation.

Step-By-Step Guide For Students Looking To Enrol in an SDS Visa in Canada: 

Step 1: Determine Eligibility

  • Check your eligibility for the SDS program based on your country of residence. Currently, SDS is available for select countries.
  • Ensure you meet the eligibility criteria, including language proficiency requirements, financial stability, and acceptance at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada.

Step 2: Language Proficiency

  • Take an approved language test (such as IELTS, CELPIP, or TEF) and achieve the required scores in all four language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
  • Ensure your test scores are valid and meet the minimum requirements specified by the SDS program.

Step 3: Financial Preparation

  • As the SDS program requires, you must obtain a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) from a participating Canadian financial institution.
  • Arrange for payment of the first year’s tuition fees upfront to the DLI.

Step 4: Apply to Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs)

  • Apply to one or more DLIs in Canada and obtain acceptance letters for your chosen academic programs.

Step 5: Gather Required Documents

  • Passport
  • Letter of Acceptance from a DLI
  • Language test results
  • Proof of financial support
  • other supporting documents are also required

Step 6: Online Application

  • Create an account on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.
  • Complete the online visa application form for the SDS program, ensuring accuracy and completeness.
  • Upload scanned copies of all required documents.

Step 7: Biometrics (if applicable)

  • Schedule an appointment to provide biometrics (fingerprints and photographs) at a designated biometrics collection centre.

Step 8: Visa Processing

  • Wait for your SDS visa application to be processed. SDS applications typically have faster processing times compared to regular visa applications.
  • Monitor the status of your application online and respond promptly to requests for additional information or documentation.

Step 9: Visa Decision

  • Once your SDS visa application is processed, you will receive a decision on your application.
  • If approved, follow any additional instructions provided, such as obtaining a study permit and preparing for your journey to Canada.
  • If denied, review the reasons for refusal and consider options for appeal or reapplication.

By following these steps and carefully preparing your application, you can navigate the SDS application process effectively and increase your chances of success in studying in Canada.

Step-by-Step Guide For Students Looking To Enrol in a Non-SDS Visa in Canada:

Step 1: Create an Account

  • You can start by visiting the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website and creating an online account.
  • Provide the necessary information and accept the terms and conditions to obtain your user ID and password.

Step 2: Validate Identification

  • Fill out the identification validation section after creating the account. This helps ensure the security of your application.

Step 3: Personal Reference Code

  • Enter the personal reference code provided if you have one. If not, answer basic questions to determine your eligibility. Save the application and exit the questionnaire.

Step 4: Eligibility Check

  • After answering the required questions, the page will indicate if you can apply. If eligible, you can proceed to the next steps.

Step 5: Review Answers

  • Carefully review all the answers provided in the application to ensure accuracy and completeness.

Step 6: Document Checklist

  • Check the list of required documents provided. If any documents are missing, you can add them at this stage to complete your application.

Step 7: Apply

  • Once all information is reviewed and documents are ready, submit your application for non-SDS colleges in Canada.

Step 8: Application Submission

  • Submit your application online through the IRCC website. Before finalising the submission, ensure all information is accurate and complete.

Step 9: Application Processing

  • Wait for your application to be processed by the Canadian immigration authorities. Processing times may vary, so be patient.

Step 10: Follow-Up

  • Monitor the status of your application online and respond promptly to requests for additional information or documentation.

Step 11: Decision

  • Once your application is processed, you will receive a decision. If approved, follow any additional instructions provided.

By following these steps and ensuring all required information and documents are provided accurately, you can successfully apply for enrollment in non-SDS colleges in Canada.

Summing Up

Canada has become a magnet for travellers, students, and professionals alike. Canada introduced the Student Direct Stream (SDS) visa for select countries to streamline the process for international students, making the journey to study here faster and smoother.

Gone are the days of long and complicated visa applications. Thanks to SDS, students can now apply for study permits with ease and confidence, paving their way to some of the best universities in the world.

Reasons to Choose SDS:

⏱️ Faster Processing Times: SDS aims to process study permit applications in just four weeks, compared to several months for Non-SDS applicants.

🌍 Specific Eligibility: Students from countries like India, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Senegal are eligible for SDS.

🛤️ Streamlined Process: SDS provides a simplified and efficient application process, ensuring a smoother journey to Canada.

💻 Online Convenience: SDS applications are exclusively online, offering ease and accessibility.

However, preparing for an SDS Canada visa can be daunting. That’s where our dedicated team of tutors and student visa experts comes in. Whether you dream of pursuing higher studies or exploring new horizons in Canada, we provide the guidance and support you need to turn your dreams into reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q. Which is better, SDS or non-SDS Canada?

    A. SDS (Study Direct Stream) offers faster processing times for study permit applications in Canada but has specific eligibility criteria, including language proficiency and financial documentation. Non-SDS applications may provide more flexibility in institution and program choice, but processing times could be longer. The choice between SDS and non-SDS depends on individual circumstances such as country of origin, language proficiency, and financial readiness.

  • Q. What are the implications of international students switching from non-SDS to SDS visa applications or vice versa while studying in Canada?

    A. Switching from non-SDS to SDS visa applications or vice versa while studying in Canada can be a complicated process with potential implications. It’s important to note that SDS visas have specific eligibility requirements, and students must meet those requirements to be eligible for the program. If students switch from non-SDS to SDS, they may need to provide additional documentation and meet new eligibility requirements. Similarly, if students switch from SDS to non-SDS, they may face longer processing times for their visa application.

  • Q. What are the Non-SDS visa requirements?

    A. To apply for a Non-SDS visa to study in Canada, students must show proof of admission to a Canadian institution and demonstrate financial capability to cover expenses. They may need health insurance and could be required to take language proficiency tests like IELTS. Additional documents like transcripts and letters of recommendation may also be necessary. Non-SDS visa processing times are longer due to the traditional application process.

  • Q. What is the Non-SDS processing time?

    A. The processing time for non-SDS visa applications in Canada varies but generally takes longer than that for SDS visas. It can range from several weeks to several months, depending on factors such as the volume of applications and individual circumstances. The traditional application process and the need for additional documentation contribute to the longer processing times. Applicants should anticipate potential delays and plan accordingly.

  • Q. What is the meaning of a non-SDS visa?

    A. The Non-SDS visa, or Non-Student Direct Stream visa, is a conventional route for international students to apply for study permits in Canada. Unlike the SDS visa, which offers faster processing times for select countries, the Non-SDS visa applies to all countries. Applicants must meet general visa requirements, including proof of admission to a Canadian educational institution and financial capacity to cover tuition and living expenses. The processing time for Non-SDS visas can be longer due to the traditional application process and additional documentation requirements.

  • Q. What are the Non-SDS IELTS requirements?

    A. The Non-SDS IELTS requirements vary depending on the educational institution and province. Generally, applicants may need the following:
    1. To achieve a minimum score in the IELTS exam to demonstrate English language proficiency.
    2. The required score can differ based on the program and institution’s language standards.
    3. Other language proficiency tests like TOEFL or PTE may also be accepted, depending on the institution’s policy.
    4. Applicants should check the specific language requirements of their chosen institution or program.

  • Q. What are the differences between SDS and non-SDS Canada visa categories for international students?

    A. The main differences between SDS and non-SDS Canada visa categories lie in the processing times, eligibility criteria, and application process. SDS offers faster processing times, typically around 4-6 weeks, compared to non-SDS visas, which can take several months. SDS has specific eligibility criteria for residents of select countries, while non-SDS visas are open to applicants from all countries. Additionally, the application process for SDS is more streamlined, focusing on efficiency, while non-SDS applications may require more extensive documentation and processing.

  • Q. What are the eligibility criteria for an SDS Canada visa application?

    A. Applicants must be legal residents of select countries, including India, China, and the Philippines, to be eligible for an SDS Canada visa. They need to obtain a provincial attestation letter from the province or territory where they plan to study and secure an acceptance letter from a post-secondary designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada. Applicants must also live outside of Canada when applying, demonstrate proof of tuition payment for the first year of study, and maintain a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) in the required amount. Additionally, they may need to undergo a medical exam and obtain a police certificate if necessary.

  • Q. Can you explain the eligibility criteria for a non-SDS Canada visa application?

    A. For a non-SDS Canada visa application, applicants must demonstrate proof of admission to a Canadian educational institution and show evidence of financial capacity to cover tuition and living expenses. Additionally, depending on the institution and province, they may need to obtain health insurance coverage and undergo language proficiency tests like IELTS. Other requirements may include providing academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. It’s essential to note that processing times for non-SDS visas may be longer due to the traditional application process and high volume of applications.

  • Q. Which Canadian universities offer SDS and non-SDS options?

    A. Several Canadian universities offer both SDS and non-SDS options for international students. Examples include McGill University, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, McMaster University, and the University of Alberta. These institutions provide various undergraduate and postgraduate programs and accommodate students applying through both visa categories, facilitating diverse educational opportunities for international students.

  • Q. What is the success rate of SDS and non-SDS Canada visa applications for international students, and which is recommended for faster processing times?

    A. The success rate of SDS visa applications is generally higher than that of non-SDS visa applications, making it a recommended choice for faster processing times. SDS visas aim to process study permit applications within four weeks, while non-SDS applications may take several months due to the traditional application process. Therefore, the SDS option is often preferable for international students seeking quicker visa processing and higher success rates.


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