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Difference Between SDS and Non-SDS Visa Applications in 2024

Updated on 28 June, 2024

Can someone get a Canadian study visa within a month? I was taken aback when my cousin received her visa within 20 days. How did it become possible? The answer is the SDS stream. But when can you opt for this route, and are there any associated cons or conditions?

All these questions will be answered as we explore the SDS vs. non-SDS visa applications in Canada in 2024. Understanding these distinctions can streamline your process and enhance your study abroad experience.

Explore this guide to discover how SDS and non-SDS categories differ and which suits your plans best. It's more than paperwork—it's about choosing the best path for your journey.

What is SDS?

The SDS or Student Direct Stream, is designed to expedite the Canada Study Permit Application process for students. Currently, only students from India and Brazil are eligible for SDS. However, candidates must meet specific requirements set by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to qualify for this program and 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

Applicants must provide recent IELTS Academic or General test scores with a minimum band score of 6.0 in each section (Reading, Speaking, Writing, and Listening).

Important Resources 

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

2. Passport

A valid passport is mandatory for applying for a Canadian student visa.

3. Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)

Students can secure financial stability in Canada by depositing CAD 10,000 into a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC), held by banks like NOVA SCOTIA, ICICI, CIBC, and SBI. Upon arrival, they receive approximately CAD 2,000 plus interest, with monthly payments of CAD 667 for 12 months.

Read More: Cost of Living in Canada for international student

4. Tuition Fee

Full payment proof of the first-year tuition fee is required, confirmed by the Designated Learning Institution (DLI).

  • 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

Applicants must have a Letter of Acceptance from colleges and universities that are authorized by DLI.

6. Educational Documents

Previous academic certificates and transcripts must be submitted.

7. Medical Examination

A medical examination report from a panel physician is necessary.

8. Statement of Purpose

The SOP for Canadian visas explains why the applicant chose a course, while university SOPs detail the applicant's academic background and interests in the course.

9. Digital Picture

A recent passport-sized digital photograph on a white background is needed.

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:

SDS Colleges Action
George Brown College Apply Now
Seneca College Apply Now
Humber College Apply Now
Niagara College Apply Now
Centennial College Apply Now
Fleming College Apply Now
Conestoga College Apply Now
Sheridan College Apply Now

Also Read : Student Visa for Canada

What is Non-SDS

For students aiming to study abroad in countries like Canada, understanding the differences between SDS and Non-SDS visa applications is crucial. Having discussed SDS, let's now explore Non-SDS. Students who do not meet SDS requirements can opt for the Non-SDS category to apply for a student visa, securing temporary residency in Canada through a standard visa application process.

Non-SDS Visa Requirements 2024

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

1. Language Proficiency Test

Applicants must clear a language proficiency test such as IELTS, PTE, or TOEFL.

2. Passport

A valid passport is required for the student visa application.

3. Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)

Students can deposit CAD 10,000 or more in a GIC to demonstrate financial stability in Canada. Alternatively, proof of liquid funds can be provided.

4. Tuition Fee

Proof of payment for six months of tuition fees at the Designated Learning Institution (DLI) is necessary.

5. Medical Examination

A medical examination report from a certified panel physician is mandatory.

6. Educational Documents

Genuine academic certificates including 10th, 12th, graduation, or diploma certificates must be submitted.

7. Digital Pictures

Recent passport-sized digital photographs with specific dimensions and background specifications are required.

8. Statement of Purpose

An essay explaining reasons for choosing Canada and the selected course is essential.

9. Financial Documents

Proof of financial stability through documents like Income Tax Returns, Bank Statements, and Fixed Deposits should be provided.

List of Non-SDS Colleges in Canada

SDS Colleges Action
Algonquin College Apply Now
Durham College Apply Now
Loyalist College Apply Now
Cambrian College Apply Now
Northern College Apply Now
Canadore College Apply Now
Selkirk College Apply Now
St. Clair College Apply Now

Read More: Accommodation in Canada for international students

Why Choose SDS over Non-SDS?

SDS is often preferred over non-SDS for several reasons:

1. Fewer Documents

SDS requires fewer financial documents compared to non-SDS, simplifying the application process. Key requirements include an IELTS score of 6.0 or higher and a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAD 10,000 or more.

2. Fast Processing

SDS offers streamlined processing, typically completed within 20 days, which is advantageous for students eager to start their studies promptly.

For serious students aiming to pursue higher education in Canada, explore upGrad Abroad's programs in collaboration with top Canadian institutions like Fraser Valley and Yorkshire University. Visit upGrad Abroad's website for program details and SDS application guidance.

Application Process for SDS and Non-SDS visa

The application process for SDS and Non-SDS visas follows a similar procedure. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Create GCKey Account: Visit the Immigration Refugee Citizenship (IRCC) website and create the GCKey account.

  2. Fill Application: Log in to the account and fill in all the necessary details for the SDS/Non-SDS visa as per eligibility.

  3. Upload Documents: Upload scanned copies of the required documents.

  4. Pay Fees: Pay the application fee of CAD 150 per person and an additional CAD 85 biometrics fee.
  5. Biometrics Submission: Upon fee payment, students receive a biometrics request letter to provide fingerprints and a photo to expedite processing.

  6. Medical Exams and Background Check: Students may need to undergo medical exams and background verification

  7. Receive Letter of Introduction: Upon approval, students receive a letter of introduction, temporary resident visa, or electronic travel authorization (eTA) for entry into Canada as a student.

  8. Arrival in Canada: Present the letter of introduction and temporary resident visa at the port of entry in Canada for verification.
  9.  Issuance of Study Permit: Upon meeting entry criteria, immigration officials issue the study permit.

Success Rates of Both SDS and Non-SDS category

The success rate for non-SDS visas is lower compared to SDS, primarily due to the reduced number of required documents in SDS applications. According to IRCC data, the SDS success rate in 2024 was 71%, whereas non-SDS applicants had a success rate of 40%.

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

Family members of the principal study permit applicant can have their applications processed concurrently if they apply at the same time as the primary applicant. They must submit their applications for 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:

Feature SDS (Student Direct Stream) Non-SDS (Non-Student Direct Stream)
Processing Time Typically 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 Requirements Higher 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 Support Applicants 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 Institution Must 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 Submission Applications are primarily submitted online. Both online and paper applications are accepted, depending on the applicant's country of residence.
Geographic Availability Available 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 Exam Must be completed before application submission. May be completed before or after application submission, depending on the country.
Biometrics Required as part of the application process. Required as part of the application process.
Other Requirements There may be additional country-specific requirements. General requirements apply, but there could be variations based on the applicant's country.

This table provides a comprehensive comparison between SDS and Non-SDS pathways for Canada visa applications, helping prospective students choose the most suitable option based on their circumstances.


In 2024, choosing between SDS and Non-SDS pathways for Canadian visa applications is crucial for international students. SDS offers faster processing and specific requirements, ideal for eligible countries. Non-SDS provides flexibility, accommodating those who don't meet SDS criteria or are from ineligible countries. Both pathways aim to make Canada an accessible hub for higher education, catering to diverse student needs. Understanding these options will empower students in planning their Canadian study journey effectively.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does SDS stand for?

SDS stands for Student Direct Scheme. It is a streamlined visa application process for students applying to study in Canada, designed to expedite visa processing times.

How much time does the SDS visa take?

The processing time required for most SDS visa applications is less than 20 calendar days.

Can one apply in the SDS category with PTE score?

 No, currently, SDS applications require an IELTS score of 6 bands or higher in each section for eligibility.

Which is better SDS or non-SDS?

SDS is preferred due to:

  1. Requiring fewer documents
  2. Faster processing times
  3. Higher success rates with complete qualifications and documents.

Do you need IELTS for non-SDS?

While IELTS is commonly accepted, applicants can demonstrate English proficiency through TOEFL or PTE scores for non-SDS.

Does a Canadian student visa get rejected?

Yes, approximately 30% of student visa applications are rejected annually. Common reasons include failure to meet financial requirements, insufficient IELTS scores, or incomplete SOP.

How much time does a non-SDS visa take?

Non-SDS visa processing generally takes up to two months, though official guidelines suggest processing within 180 days for all types of visa applications.

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

Reasons include the acceptance of PTE and TOEFL scores, flexibility in tuition fee payments, and alternatives to the GIC requirement for living expenses.

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

No, there is no inherent risk. Processing times may increase, and applicants in the general category are not obligated to open a CAD 10,000 GIC account.

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

Proof of financial stability is required under non-SDS, including income tax returns, bank statements, fixed deposits, or a student/education loan as proof of funds.

Did you find this article helpful?

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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