SDS Study Permit for Canada in 2024 – SDS IELTS Requirement Update!

7 min read

As per the latest update, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced that they have started accepting additional English language tests for the Student Direct Stream (SDS) visa program from August 10, 2023. 

IELTS has been accepted in the study permit program from the beginning, and the good news for you is that the SDS category band requirement

has not changed, and the required band score is 6.

What is SDS?

The Study Direct Stream (SDS) program, introduced by Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), offers an expedited visa processing option for Indian students applying to universities and colleges in Canada.

SDS Visa Processing

In contrast to the typical 2-3 month visa processing time, SDS streamlines the process for Indian students, allowing them to obtain their visas in 4-6 weeks. Applicants meeting the eligibility criteria can anticipate most applications being processed within 20 calendar days.

SDS imposes more rigorous rules and regulations as a successor to the previous SPP program. However, for those meeting the criteria, it proves advantageous by facilitating simplified visa processing for SDS-eligible Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) and requiring reduced financial documentation.

Before initiating the application process, it is essential to grasp the concepts of Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) and Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs).

SDS IELTS Requirement

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What is a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)?

To apply for a study permit, it’s essential to have an acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI), a school approved by a provincial or territorial government to enrol students. Almost all primary and secondary schools in Canada are DLIs, with only a few exceptions.

Ensure the post-secondary school you plan to attend is on the list of DLIs. If your current school loses its DLI status while studying, you can continue until your permit expires. However, you might need to apply to a new DLI in other situations.

What is a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)?

For those applying for a study permit through the SDS program, obtaining a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) is mandatory. The GIC should be valued at CAD 10,000 (approximately 6 Lacs) or the amount specified by Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for the designated arrival province. 

For students applying for a study permit outside the SDS (e.g., for university programs), a GIC can also serve as proof of funds to cover living expenses for the first year in Canada.

A GIC is a secure investment, similar to a fixed or term deposit, ensuring the full return of the original investment and earned interest within a predetermined and fixed timeframe.

Banks in India that offer GICs:

  • ICICI – Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
  • SBI Canada – Scotiabank
  • HSBC Bank of Canada
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SDS Canada Visa Eligibility

To be eligible for the Study Direct Stream (SDS) in Canada, you must:

  • Be a resident of India.
  • Possess an acceptance letter from a post-secondary designated learning institution.
  • Reside outside of Canada when submitting your application.
  • Provide evidence of having paid your tuition for the first year of study.
  • Hold a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAD 10,000 (approximately 6 Lacs).
  • Obtain an attestation of issuance of your Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) from the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, specifically if you plan to study in Quebec.
  • Undergo a medical exam before applying, if required.
  • Obtain a police certificate before applying, if necessary.
  • Submit your most recent secondary or post-secondary school transcript(s).
  • Achieve the minimum score required for one of the qualifying language tests.

Additionally, you might need to furnish other documents depending on your application location. Ensure you include all the documents specified by the visa office processing your application.

You might be required to undergo a medical examination if:

  • You have lived or travelled in specific countries or territories for 6 months or more in the year preceding your arrival in Canada.
  • You intend to pursue studies or employment in the following areas:
    • The health field
    • Primary or secondary education
    • Child or elder care

To complete a medical exam, it is necessary to consult with a doctor approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Accepted SDS IELTS requirement

In the latest update, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced the inclusion of additional English language tests for the Student Direct Stream (SDS) visa program, effective from August 10, 2023. IELTS has been a recognised test in the study permit program from the program’s inception, and the good news for IELTS test-takers is that there is no alteration to the required band score of 6.

For those opting for the IELTS Academic, the minimum SDS IELTS Requirement overall band score remains at 6.0. Meanwhile, applicants undertaking the IELTS General Training test must achieve a minimum band score of 6.0 in each skill, encompassing Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

The IRCC has established the following overall SDS IELTS requirement for academic tests:

SDS IELTS Requirement

SDS Visa Application

The majority of SDS applications undergo processing by the IRCC within 20 calendar days. It’s important to note that only those who have submitted their SDS application online are eligible for this expedited processing, while paper applications are processed through the regular channel.

To ensure faster visa processing, it’s crucial to

  • Provide your biometrics promptly.
  • Fulfill all eligibility requirements.

Final Thoughts

The recent update from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) regarding the Student Direct Stream (SDS) visa program brings positive news for aspiring students.

The inclusion of additional English language tests, effective from August 10, 2023, expands the options for applicants, while the longstanding acceptance of IELTS in the study permit program remains unchanged, maintaining the required band score of 6.

SDS’s success rate is notably higher than that of non-SDS applications, mainly because SDS involves submitting fewer documents.

If you need further assistance, IRCC offers comprehensive resources here. Feel free to contact your Leap Scholar counsellor for any additional queries about the SDS IELTS Requirement.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q. Does the SDS Replace IRCC’s Regular Study Permit Stream?

    A. The SDS operates as an accelerated processing stream but does not replace the regular study permit stream offered by IRCC. If you opt for the SDS and do not meet the eligibility criteria, your application will be seamlessly transitioned to the standard processing procedures for a study permit.

  • Q. Which English Proficiency Tests Are Accepted Under the SDS Application?

    A. If you’re applying for the SDS program, you need to prove your English skills. The test accepted for this is the IELTS Exam. 
    The SDS program wants to make sure students can understand and communicate well in English. That’s why they stick to using IELTS as the standard test. It’s like a common language measure that everyone agrees on.

  • Q. Why Should You Choose SDS Over Non-SDS?

    A. Opting for the SDS provides a significantly quicker processing time compared to non-SDS student visa applications. SDS applications receive priority processing, ensuring that applicants receive their visa decisions promptly and can commence their studies in Canada at an accelerated pace.

  • Q. Is GIC Needed for Non-SDS?

    A. No, a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) is not a requirement for non-Student Direct Stream (non-SDS) applicants. The GIC is specifically mandated for students applying through the Student Direct Stream program.

  • Q. Is SOP Required for the SDS Category?

    A. Yes, a Statement of Purpose (SOP) is typically mandatory for students applying for a student visa through the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program. It provides insight into the student’s academic and career aspirations.

  • Q. What is the Minimum SDS IELTS Requirement for Canada?

    A. To qualify for SDS in Canada, an applicant needs a minimum SDS IELTS requirement of 6, with each ability (Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking) attaining a Canadian Language benchmark score of 7 or higher. Additionally, a minimum PTE Academic overall score of 60 is required.

  • Q. Can SDS Applications Be Rejected?

    A. Yes, SDS applications can be rejected if students fail to meet the specified criteria, such as achieving the required scores in entrance exams like IELTS. Meeting these criteria is crucial for a successful student visa application.

  • Q. Does SDS Accept General IELTS?

    A. Yes, both IELTS Academic and General Training are accepted by IRCC for the SDS Study Permit Program. The requirement is a minimum band score of 6.0 in each component (Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking) for IELTS General Training.

  • Q. Do We Need to Show Proof of Funds for an SDS Visa?

    A. Yes, for SDS applicants, a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) is required, along with proof of funds totalling at least 10,000 Canadian dollars. This amount should cover living expenses and the payment of the first-year tuition fees.

  • Q. What is the Success Rate for an SDS Visa?

    A. In the previous year, the approval rate for non-SDS university applicants was 38%, dropping to 14% at the beginning of 2023. In contrast, SDS applicants experienced approval rates of 67% and 73% over the same periods, highlighting a significant advantage in approval rates.

  • Q. Can I Apply for SDS Without IELTS?

    A. No, IELTS is not mandatory for a Canada student visa; IELTS or other language proficiency tests are mandatory for international students applying for a student visa in Canada. This means that your ability to demonstrate proficiency in English, as assessed by the IELTS exam, is a crucial determinant for your eligibility to apply through the Student Direct Stream.

  • Q. Do Canada Visa Officers Verify Bank Statements?

    A. Yes, visa officers meticulously verify the authenticity of bank statements. They ensure that statements are issued by recognised financial institutions, checking for consistency, signs of tampering, or any indications of fraudulent activity. Authenticity and accuracy in financial documentation are crucial for a successful visa application.


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Saket Kohli

An International Higher Ed professional with 7+ years of experience studying, working, and living across three geographies, currently on a mission to share his journey as an International Student.

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