“Visa Chaos: Mexican Students’ Canadian Dreams at Risk”

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Education, Visa Regulations, Student Mobility, Canada, Mexico, Language Studies

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In a sudden turn of events, the dreams of numerous Mexican students to study English or French in Canada have been thrown into disarray due to new visa requirements. The recent changes, implemented swiftly on February 29, have left students, educators, and institutions scrambling to adapt to the new regulations.

According to reports from Languages Canada, Mexico stands as the association’s third-largest sending country, with approximately 12% of students studying languages in Canadian institutions originating from Mexico. However, the landscape shifted drastically with the announcement that Mexican students now require visitor visas, barring those who hold US visas or Canadian visas from the past decade. This abrupt alteration took effect within a mere 24 hours, catching many off guard.

Gonzalo Peralta, the executive director of Languages Canada, expressed grave concerns about the potential repercussions of this policy shift. He fears a significant drop in the number of Mexican students choosing Canada as their study destination, citing the disruption caused by the sudden imposition of visa requirements.

Ismel Gonzalez, director of the English Language Centre at Lakehead University, echoed these concerns, emphasizing the financial strain on Mexican institutions sponsoring students. The added visa fees and travel expenses for biometric data submission pose significant challenges, potentially dissuading institutions from sponsoring students to study in Canada.

While some, like Gary Gervais, founder of Heartland International English School, adopt a wait-and-see approach, acknowledging the need for improved communication with education agents in Mexico, others, such as Lupita del Toro of Destinos Educativos, express frustration over the chaos engulfing students’ travel plans and aspirations.

Despite recognizing the necessity of measures to curb asylum claims, stakeholders unanimously call for better communication, planning, and improvements in visa application processes. They emphasize the importance of preserving opportunities for student mobility and fostering international education exchange.

As the dust settles from these sudden changes, the education sector in both Canada and Mexico faces a pivotal moment. Dialogue and collaboration between stakeholders, coupled with timely improvements in visa procedures, are imperative to ensure that the aspirations of Mexican students to study in Canada remain within reach.

In the midst of uncertainty, one thing remains clear: the shared goal of facilitating educational opportunities and cultural exchange must guide efforts to navigate these turbulent waters. Only through concerted action can we ensure that the doors to Canadian education remain open to all deserving students, regardless of their country of origin.

AGAIN SOME FACTS

Languages Canada reports that 12% of students currently studying English or French at their member institutions are from Mexico, making it the association’s third-largest sending country.

Close to 12,000 Mexican students studied English or French in Canada in 2022.

The majority of these students complete short programs and therefore were visa exempt.

However under new rules announced onFebruary 29, Mexican students require visitor visas, unless they hold a US visa or have held a Canadian visa in the last 10 years. The change took effect less than 24 hours after it was announced.

Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of Languages Canada, classified the change as “disruptive” and worries it could have a “real impact on the number of Mexicans who come to Canada” to study.

Approximately 80% of the students at the English Language Centre at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay are from Mexico, according to Ismel Gonzalez, director.

The Centre receives groups of students sponsored by governments or universities to study English or undergo language teacher training.

These are “amazing initiatives”, Gonzalez said, an “opportunity [for] students who do not have the financial resources to do it on their own”.

Gonzalez worries the decision won’t just affect Canadian institutions.

He predicts fewer students will be sponsored to study in Canada, as Mexican institutional funds will now have to be stretched to cover visa fees and the cost for students living outside Mexico City to travel to the capital to give the biometric data required for the visa application.

“[IRCC doesn’t] foresee the consequences of a decision like this. It’s stopping genuine students from accessing education.” he told The PIE.

With these added costs and longer lead time, Gonzalez fears institutions will choose other countries for their study programs.

Founder and President of Heartland International English School in Winnipeg and Mississauga, Gary Gervais, thinks it’s “too early to know for sure” what the effect of this change will be.

“It’s kind of going back to the way it used to be,” he shared, referring to the period between 2009 and 2016 when visas had previously been required.

“It doesn’t seem like a crisis,” he added.

Gervais acknowledged that there was “more work to do with [education] agents and our messaging in Mexico”.

“There’s a new process in place, and it’s not as convenient as before, but it’s not like the doors are closed to students,” he detailed.

For 20 years, Lupita del Toro has “proudly” been sending students from Guadalajara, Mexico, to study languages in Canada via Destinos Educativos, the education agency that she founded and manages.

While Canada has always been the top study destination for her students due to location, educational quality and the warm and “respectful” reception Mexicans receive, she described the situation since the announcement as “chaotic”.

With the Easter study travel period a few weeks away, students have suddenly had to change or cancel plans. She reported that those students with the means to travel to Mexico City to give biometrics are faced with two-month wait times for an appointment.

“They’re very disappointed”

The “hardest part” is that young people with a dream to go to another place, and their parents finally have the money to send them, are unable to obtain visa, she said.

“They’re very disappointed.”

Peralta, Gonzalez, Gervais and Del Toro were all adamant that measures were necessary to curb the number of asylum claims by Mexicans in Canada. However, they all see room for improvement in IRCC’s processes.

“It’s not the what, it’s the how,” stated Peralta, noting that the short notice caught institutions and students off guard.

He urged dialogue and for IRCC to establish “trusted and reliable relationships” and to “work with stakeholders to work out better solutions”.

Gonzalez agreed, saying, “Planning time is needed by all parties involved.”

Gervais underlines the need for continued advocacy, “telling the story of language [education] and [its] importance to success in Canada”.

According to Del Toro, “giving [young people] a language skill and all the experience that they have abroad [gives] so much to our culture”. She hopes for improvements to visa application processes and resources.

“As soon as they can fix this part, things can get better, sooner.”



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