CAAS Launches Report on Visa Refusals

3 June 2019

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CAAS has documented a pattern of continuing, discriminatory, and inconsistent treatment of visa applications made by academics from African countries wishing to visit Canada to share and develop their expertise at conferences and programs of study. Visa refusals represent significant missed opportunities for Canadian scholarship. Canada lags behind other countries in terms of ease of applying and fairness of its treatment of African nationals. CAAS has identified five key issues for Canadian authorities to investigate and address. First, African scholars face unjustified and discriminatory refusals, particularly the belief that they will not return home despite steady employment, family members, and/or high quality of life in their countries, even in cases where participants’ travel is fully sponsored. Participants who have been granted visas for other countries in Europe and North America, sometimes multiple visas, are being denied entry to Canada. Second, unrealistic expectations mean that visa requirements, particularly proof of financial assets and property, are unattainably high for African scholars whose institutions cannot afford high salaries. Third, visa refusals carry high financial costs, particularly compared to other countries. Consequently, the Canadian visa application process, including the non-refundable cost of refusals, drains resources from academics from the African continent, who can ill afford these costs. Fourth, compared to other countries, Canada rates poorly on the speed of processing visa applications. Long time frames mean some scholars have received their visas too late to attend the event. Finally, procedural bottlenecks have made the visa application process burdensome and confusing. These include applicants having to travel long distances to visa centers; unreliable contact information; unhelpful private visa processing companies; and extensive information requirements that are difficult to meet in a short time.


CAAS urges Canadian policymakers, particularly the Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) and the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of International Development, to give these issues serious consideration.

We encourage Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to:

·      Engage in a process of consultation and further identification of operational deficiencies by convening a working group bringing together Canadian academic and non-profit organisations that regularly invite guests from Africa and other parts of the world. The working group should include one or more IRCC representatives with decision-making capacity; the African Union Region 6 (the African diaspora); Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies; and the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research & Education Centre in addition to the other organisations mentioned in this report.

·      Ensure that the visa granting process is transparent, efficient, fair, and nondiscriminatory.

·      Verify that the application of criteria across different embassies and consulates is standardised.

For more information please contact:

Sarah Katz-Lavigne

CAAS Communications and Advocacy Officer