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Difference Between SDS and Non-SDS Visa Applications in 2024

Updated on 31 January, 2024

Students looking forward to pursuing their higher education in Canada might get confused with terms like SDS and non-SDS while applying for visas. Let us first understand both these concepts and then their differences.

Student Direct Stream (SDS), earlier known as the Students Partner Program (SPP), is an initiative by Canadian Immigration Authorities that enables students to apply for visa applications under the SDS category. At the same time, the Non-SDS is often called the General Category. It is yet another method of applying for study in Canada. Non-SDS is a general visa application process that helps those candidates who cannot meet the visa requirements to study and work temporarily in Canada. Now that we have some idea of the SDS vs Non-SDS for Canada visa applications concept let us delve deeper and find out more about them.

What is SDS?

The SDS or Student Direct Stream is specially designed to make the process of students receiving their study visa more efficiently through the Canada Study Permit Application. For SDS, only students from India and Brazil are eligible. However, the candidates would be required to fulfill certain requirements under this program set by the Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada to study in Canada.

SDS Visa Requirements

As far as the SDS visa requirements are concerned, there are certain documents applicants need to provide to be eligible under the category.

1. Language Proficiency Test Results

  1. Applicants need to qualify for an English Proficiency Test, completed within two years from when the SDS application was received.
  2. Candidates can appear either for IELTS Academic or IELTS General.
  3. In each section, they would need to score a minimum of 6.0 bands or higher in each section – Reading, Speaking, Writing, and Listening.

Important Resources 

Why Do Student Visas Get Rejected | How to Check Visa Status

2. Passport

Students willing to apply for a student visa in Canada must have a valid passport. If the date of the passport expires, the study permit, temporary resident visa (TRV), and any other document will not be issued by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

3. Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)

Students must deposit CAD 10000 or more as a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC). This money helps ensure that they are secured in Canada and even have additional resources to fund the extra expenses. The bank would hold the funds in an investment or student account, and the money would remain inaccessible until the applicant arrives in Canada. Some banks that offer GIC are insured by the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), including NOVA SCOTIA, ICICI, CIBC, and SBI.

Students will receive a letter of attestation, the GIC certificate, the Investment Directions Confirmation, or the Investment Balance Confirmation upon purchasing a GIC certificate. Upon entry to Canada, before releasing the funds to the students, the bank must validate the client’s identity. Once the candidate arrives in Canada, upon identifying themselves, they will get around CAD 2,000 plus interest, which will be deposited in their student bank account. Every month you will receive around CAD 667 for the next 12 months.

Read More: Cost of Living in Canada for international student

4. Tuition Fee

Students have to make the full payment of the first-year tuition fee and provide proof of the same in the following form. 

  • A receipt from the Designated Learning Institution (DLI)
  • A confirmation of the payment by a DLI in the form of an official letter 
  • The bank’s receipt shows that tuition fees have been paid to the DLI
  • A proof of the transfer of the tuition fee amount into a repository account at the DLI 

5. Letter of Acceptance

The candidates receive a letter of acceptance from the Designated Learning Institute (DLI), where they apply for further education. Some colleges and universities are authorized as DLIs by the Canadian provincial and territorial governments.

6. Educational Documents

Students must submit all the previous academic certificates that are genuine and complete. The documents may include the 10th certificate, 12th certificate, diploma, and graduation certificate (if any). Moreover, the most recent secondary or post-secondary educational transcript is also required.


7. Medical Examination

Students would also need to submit an upfront medical confirmation document that will serve as proof of a medical examination by a panel physician. The check-up will include a full-body examination.

8. Statement of Purpose

Statement of Purpose (SOP) plays an important role in a student visa. Applicants have to write an SOP, whether it is for SDS or non-SDS. It is more like an essay where they have to mention why they are choosing a particular course in a college in Canada. It works as a clarification to the visa officer about the profile and interests of the candidate.

The SOP for the Canadian High Commission is not the same as the SOP written for the universities or colleges in Canada. SOPs written for the universities focus more on the particular courses and background of the candidate and also portray the interest of the candidate in the particular course.

9. Digital Picture

Digital pictures of the candidate are yet another requirement. The picture must be 80% zoomed on white background, and the size should be 35X45.

Resources for Canadian Visa

List of SDS Colleges in Canada

There are a lot of SDS colleges in Canada that have a Designated Learning Number (DLN). The list of colleges is as follows:

  • Sheridan College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning
  • George Brown College
  • Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning
  • Red River College of Applied Arts, Science & Technology
  • Niagara College
  • Parkland College
  • Fleming College
  • Loyalist College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Canadore College
  • Vancouver Island University
  • Northern Lights College
  • Columbia International College 
  • Lakeland College 
  • Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
  • Lasalle College
  • Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Sault College
  • Northern College 
  • Mohawk College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Lawrence College
  • Dawson College
  • Alberta Bible College
  • Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Niagara College
  • Loyalist College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Lambton College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Georgian College of Arts & Technology
  • Fanshawe College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Durham College
  • Confederation College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Conestoga College
  • Clair College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Centennial College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Canadore College -North Bay, Ontario
  • Cambrian College of Applied Arts & Technology
  • Algonquin College
  • Camosun College
  • College of New Caledonia
  • College of the Rockies
  • Columbia International College
  • Douglas College
  • Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Langara College
  • North Island College
  • Northern Lights College
  • Okanagan College
  • Selkirk College
  • University of the Fraser Valley
  • Vancouver Community College
  • Vancouver Island University 
  • Bow Valley College, Calgary
  • Lakeland College
  • Medicine Hat College
  • Norquest College
  • Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
  • Assiniboine Community College
  • Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, Winnipeg 
  • Red River College of Applied Arts, Science & Technology
  • Parkland College
  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic
  • Lasalle College

Also Read : Student Visa for Canada

What is Non-SDS?

For students wishing to study abroad in a country like Canada, knowing about SDS vs Non-SDS for Canada visa applications is very vital. Since we have already discussed SDS, let us now talk about Non-SDS. Students unable to fulfil the SDS requirements can apply for a student visa to study in Canada under the Non-SDS category. It is a standard visa application process for students to get temporary residency in Canada. 

Non-SDS Visa Requirements 2024

The Non-SDS Canada requirements for 2024 are mentioned below:

1. Language Proficiency Test

As per the non-SDS Canada, candidates are required to clear a language proficiency test. They can appear for eligibility tests such as IELTS, PTE, or TOEFL to prove their language proficiency. 

2. Passport

As candidates intend to apply for a student visa in Canada, they need a valid passport. In case the passport has expired, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will not issue a temporary resident visa (TRV) or a study permit. They need to ensure that the permit has been extended before it expires, along with their study permit, and all the other applicable Canadian permits or visas.

3. Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)

As a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC), students would require depositing around $10000 (CAD) or more. The deposited money will further help them ensure they have extra sources to pay for the possible expenses in Canada. It is basically the amount they will get upon arriving in the country.

Some banks that offer GIC include NOVA SCOTIA, ICICI, CIBC, and SBI. As students arrive in Canada, they will get around 2,000 CAD plus any interest, which will be deposited into their account. For the next 12 months after arriving in the country, students will get approximately $667 CAD each month. However, a GIC is not mandatory and can be replaced with proof of liquid funds. 

4. Tuition Fee

Under non-SDS visa requirements, students must provide proof that they have deposited the tuition fees for six months for DLI. However, they need to make sure to portray financial stability and submit documents as proof of the same.

5. Medical Examination

Students have to submit a document of a full-body checkup as proof of medical examination.

6. Educational Documents

Students have to submit their genuine academic documents. The documents will include their previous education certificates such as 10th certificate, 12th certificate, graduation, or diploma certificates.

7. Digital Pictures

Students must submit their digital pictures with specifications like 35X45 and an 80% zoom-in white background.

8. Statement of Purpose

In either case of SDS or non-SDS, a Statement of Purpose (SOP) plays a vital role. It is more like an essay in which they have to mention the reason for choosing Canada as their education destination and the reason for choosing the specific course.

9. Financial Documents

Under non-SDS, students must submit financial documents that will help justify their financial stability. The documents include Proof of Income (Income Tax Returns, Form-16, J-Forms). Students can also add liquid assets in the form of GPF, Bank Statements, Fixed Deposits, and many more.

Read More: Accommodation in Canada for international students

Why Choose SDS over Non-SDS?

SDS is always considered better than non-SDS. Here are some of the reasons: 

1. Lesser documents

One of the advantages of the SDS program over non-SDS is that candidates do not have to submit a lot of documents to prove their financial eligibility, while under non-SDS, the numbers of documents that have to be submitted are way too many. Two of the most important pieces of documentation that are required for the SDS program include an International English Language Testing System or IELTS score of 6.0 or higher and a Guaranteed Investment Certificate of CAD 10,000 or more.

2. Fast processing

SDS program makes the entire process streamlined and simpler. The whole processing takes around 20 days. However, students are required to meet all the requirements specified in the program. This is especially beneficial for students who want to move to their college or university at the earliest.

Students serious about pursuing higher education in Canada can check the programs of upGrad Abroad that are offered in collaboration with some of the best Canadian educational institutions. upGrad Abroad has introduced BBA and BCA programs in collaboration with Fraser Valley and BBA in collaboration with Yorkshire University. Check out the website of upGrad Abroad to check out the details and find out more about how to apply for the SDS program.

Application Process for SDS and Non-SDS visa

The application process for SDS and Non-SDS visas is quite similar. Students have to choose whether they want to opt for SDS or non-SDS category while filling out the form and proceeding with their application. Here is a step-by-step guide to applying for SDS and Non-SDS visas:

  1. Visit the Immigration Refugee Citizenship (IRCC) website and create the GCKey account.
  2. Log in to the account and fill in all the necessary details for the SDS/Non-SDS visa as per eligibility.
  3. Upload scanned copies of the required documents.
  4. There are two types of fees: Application fees and Biometrics fees. The application fee is CAD 150 per person, while an additional biometrics fee of CAD 85 is also applicable.
  5. Students receive the link to a biometrics request letter after the payment of the fee. They need to provide biometrics (fingerprints and photo) information to fast forward the application process.
  6. As soon as the biometrics form is accepted, students may be asked to go through medical exams and background verification too.
  7. They receive a letter of introduction, a temporary resident visa to enter Canada as an international student, or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) upon approval of the visa. 
  8. Once the student arrives in Canada, the letter of introduction and temporary resident visa will be verified by the concerned authorities at the port of entry. 
  9. Once all the eligibility criteria are cleared at the entry port, the officer will issue their study permit.

Success rates of both SDS and Non-SDS category

The non-SDS visa success rate is comparatively lower than that of the SDS category. This is because the number of documents is less in SDS than in non-SDS. Per the IRCC, the SDS success rate in 2021 was 71%, whereas, for the non-SDS applicants, it was 40%. 

Family Members of Study Permit Applicants Under the SDS & Non-SDS Category

The family members of the principal study permit applicant can get concurrent processing provided they apply at the same time as the primary applicant. The family members must submit their applications for a temporary residence permits for work, study, or residence online as part of a family grouping.

Comparison between the Student Direct Stream (SDS) and Non-Student Direct Stream (Non-SDS) for Canada visa applications:

FeatureSDS (Student Direct Stream)Non-SDS (Non-Student Direct Stream)
Processing TimeTypically faster, with many applications processed within 20 calendar days.Longer processing times compared to SDS, varying significantly based on the country and individual circumstances.
Language Proficiency RequirementsHigher English or French language scores required; for English, an IELTS score of 6.0 in each ability (listening, reading, writing, and speaking) is mandatory.Language requirements are less stringent; the minimum score depends on the program of study but is generally lower than for SDS.
Proof of Financial SupportApplicants must provide proof of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAD 10,000, and payment of tuition fees for the first year of study.Proof of financial support is required, but the requirements are less specific; applicants must demonstrate they can support themselves financially during their studies.
Educational InstitutionMust have an acceptance letter from a post-secondary designated learning institution that is eligible for SDS.Can have an acceptance letter from any Designated Learning Institution (DLI), not limited to those eligible for SDS.
Application SubmissionApplications are primarily submitted online.Both online and paper applications are accepted, depending on the applicant's country of residence.
Geographic AvailabilityAvailable in specific countries, including India, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, Senegal, and Morocco.Available to applicants from all countries not eligible for SDS or who do not meet SDS requirements.
Medical ExamMust be completed before application submission.May be completed before or after application submission, depending on the country.
BiometricsRequired as part of the application process.Required as part of the application process.
Other RequirementsThere may be additional country-specific requirements.General requirements apply, but there could be variations based on the applicant's country.

This table highlights the key differences between the SDS and Non-SDS pathways for Canada visa applications, offering a clear comparison to help prospective students understand which stream might be more suitable for their situation.


In 2024, the choice between SDS (Student Direct Stream) and Non-SDS pathways for Canadian visa applications remains a critical consideration for international students planning their studies in Canada. The SDS option, with its faster processing times and specific financial and language requirements, offers a streamlined route for students from eligible countries looking for a quick start to their academic journey. On the other hand, the Non-SDS pathway provides flexibility for those who may not meet the stringent requirements of SDS or are from countries not covered by the SDS program. Each pathway has its advantages and is designed to cater to the diverse needs of international students, ensuring that Canada remains an accessible and attractive destination for higher education. As the landscape of international education continues to evolve, understanding these pathways and their requirements will be paramount for students aiming to make informed decisions about their study plans in Canada in 2024.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does SDS stand for?

The term SDS stands for Student Direct Scheme. SDS means a process of fastening the visa application for a student to study in Canada. It is an initiative by Canadian Immigration Authorities which enables the students to apply for visa applications under the SDS category.

How much time does the SDS visa take?

Normally it takes 4-5 weeks for students to receive the SDS visa. Most students’ visas get processed within 20 days if they fulfill all the eligibility criteria.

Can one apply in the SDS category with PTE score?

No, at present, students cannot apply with a PTE score. An IELTS score of 6 bands or higher in each section is necessary to apply for the SDS visa.

Which is better SDS or non-SDS?

SDS is always better than non-SDS because:

1. It needs lesser documents
2. Faster processing time
3. Has a high success rate if a student has all the required qualifications and documents

Do you need IELTS for non-SDS?

IELTS is the most popular English proficiency test in Canada, but they can prove their English language proficiency by other test scores like TOEFL, and PTE for non-SDS.

Does a Canadian student visa get rejected?

Yes, on an average 30% of the application for student visas are rejected every year. The main reason for this is failure to comply with the stringent regulations and documents required to meet the regulations like financial competency proof, IELTS score, SOP, etc.

How much time does a non-SDS visa take?

Generally, a non -SDS visa application takes two months to process even though the authorities state that all types of visa applications are processed within 180 days.

Why do most immigrants prefer non-SDS over SDS applications?

Non-SDS is preferred by most immigrants because:

1. They prefer PTE and TOEFL over the IELTS test, and they are also accepted in non-SDS
2. Cannot pay full years tuition fees at one go
3. Cannot open a GIC account of 10000 CAD as they also have the option to show proof of funds of their living expenses.

Is there any risk to submitting a student visa for Canada in the general category instead of SDS?

No. There is no risk involved if a student applies for a study visa in Canada in the general category instead of SDS. Only the processing time increases, and they don’t necessarily need to open a GIC account of 10000 CAD.

For the non-SDS category, is it mandatory to submit proof of a student/education loan from a bank?

Under non-SDS, candidates have to submit financial documents that will help justify their financial stability. The documents include Proof of Income (Income Tax Returns, Form-16, J-Forms). They can also add liquid assets in the form of GPF, Bank Statements, Fixed Deposits, and many more. A student or education loan taken from a bank is proof of funds too. So, even though it is not mandatory to submit proof of a student loan, it is mandatory to provide proof of financial stability.

Pratishtha Ghosh

A post graduate in Journalism and Mass Communication, Pratishtha enjoys penning down things significant. What interests her the most is exploring and researching on gamut of study abroad.

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