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Difference Between SDS and non-SDS Colleges in Canada


In Canada, there are two main categories of colleges that international students often consider: SDS (Student Direct Stream) and Non-SDS. The SDS, formerly known as the Students Partner Program (SPP), is an initiative by Canadian Immigration Authorities that streamlines the visa application process for students. This program is designed to make the process of students receiving their Canadian Study Visa more efficient. However, it's important to note that only students from certain countries, including India and Brazil, are eligible for the SDS.

On the other hand, Non-SDS, often referred to as the General Category, is another method of applying for study in Canada. This is a general visa application process that helps those candidates who cannot meet the visa requirements to study and work temporarily in Canada. The Non-SDS colleges require more paperwork while the application process is quite the same.

Both SDS and Non-SDS Canadian colleges have their own set of requirements and processes, and choosing between them depends on the individual circumstances of the student. It's crucial to understand these differences when planning higher education in Canada.

What is SDS?

Students Partner Program (SPP), also known as SDS (Student Direct Stream), is an initiative of the Immigration Services of Canada. Student Direct Stream is the fastest approach for international students to apply directly to pursue education in Canada. There are specific requirements for students to fulfil, and then they can apply only through an online medium. The Immigration Refugees Citizenship of Canada sets the conditions under the Student Direct Stream.

Related Read:

SDS Colleges in Canada

What is Non-SDS?

The international students who were not able to fulfil the requirements of Student Direct Stream can avail of the non-SDS option, which is a standard visa application process to get a Temporary Residency in Canada. The requisites tend to differ as this route also requires more documents.

Visa Processing Times: SDS vs. Non-SDS

The Student Direct Stream (SDS) and Non-SDS pathways for Canada Student Visa applications each have unique processing times. These timescales, along with their respective requirements and advantages, are key factors to consider for a successful application. A clear picture of these differences can streamline your Canada Student Visa application process.

SDS Visa Processing Time: The Student Direct Stream (SDS) visa applications are usually processed within 20 calendar days. This streamlined process is designed to make visa processing quicker and more efficient for international students.

Non-SDS Visa Processing Time: The Non-SDS visa, also known as the General Visa process, typically takes longer. The average processing time for a Non-SDS Visa is around 6 to 8 weeks. This process applies to all countries and requires more documentation.

Language Proficiency Requirements for SDS and Non-SDS Canadian Colleges

The language proficiency prerequisites for SDS and Non-SDS Canadian colleges are vital components of the application process. These requirements, which may vary between the two pathways, play a significant role in determining eligibility for admission. A thorough understanding of these criteria can help prospective students prepare effectively for their journey to studying in Canada.

SDS Language Proficiency Requirements: For SDS colleges, students must qualify for an English Proficiency Test, such as IELTS Academic or IELTS General, with a minimum score of 6.0 in each section – Reading, Speaking, Writing and Listening. From August 10, 2023, an overall band score of 6.0 on IELTS Academic was also accepted.

For Non-SDS colleges, students need to clear a language capability test such as IELTS, PTE, or TOEFL. The required score is generally 6.0 with at least 5.5 in one module of the paper. For Undergraduate programs, the IELTS score should be 6.0 and for Postgraduate programs, it should be 6.5.

Financial Requirements and Proof of Funds

Financial requirements and proof of funds are critical aspects of the Canada Student Visa application process. These elements demonstrate a candidate's financial stability and ability to support themselves while studying in Canada. Grasping these requirements can help ensure a successful visa application and a worry-free study experience.

SDS Colleges:

  • Language Proficiency Test Results: Applicants need to qualify for an English Proficiency Test, such as IELTS Academic or IELTS General, with a minimum score of 6.0 in each section – Reading, Speaking, Writing and Listening.
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC): Students must deposit CAD 10,000 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.
  • Proof of Tuition Fee Payment: Proof of full payment of tuition for the applicant's first year of study.

Non-SDS Colleges:

  • Language Proficiency Test: Tests such as IELTS, PTE or TOEFL are required to prove their language proficiency.
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC): The candidates are required to deposit 10,000 Canadian Dollars as GIC.
  • Proof of Financial Funds: Proof of financial funds covering bank savings, student loans, investments, etc.
  • Proof of Tuition Fees: Receipt of tuition fees.
  • Proof of Necessary Medical Tests.

Admission and Acceptance Rates: SDS vs. Non-SDS

The admission and acceptance rates for SDS and Non-SDS pathways can provide valuable insights into the competitiveness of the Canadian Universities' admission process. These rates, which may differ between the two, are key indicators of an applicant's chances of securing a place in a Canadian college. Understanding these rates can help prospective students make informed decisions about their study abroad plans.

SDS Admission and Acceptance Rates: The Student Direct Stream (SDS) has seen a high rate of approval. The approval rate was 71%, and it increased to 73% at the start of 2023. This high approval rate is one of the reasons for the popularity of the SDS among international students.

Non-SDS Admission and Acceptance Rates: The Non-SDS, or General Visa process, has a lower approval rate compared to SDS. The approval rate for Non-SDS applicants was around 40% and it dipped to 14% at the start of 2023. Despite the lower approval rate, Non-SDS remains an important option for students who do not meet the SDS requirements.

Eligibility and Accessibility: Country-Specific Limitations

Eligibility and accessibility, particularly in terms of country-specific limitations, are crucial factors in the Canada Visa application process. These limitations can affect an applicant's ability to access certain pathways, such as SDS or Non-SDS. Being aware of these restrictions can help applicants choose the most suitable pathway for their specific circumstances.

SDS Eligibility and Accessibility: The Student Direct Stream (SDS) is available to eligible students from specific countries, including India, China, Brazil and others. These students must meet specific requirements set by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to study in Canada.

Non-SDS Eligibility and Accessibility: Non-SDS or the General Visa process, applies to all countries. It's a more extensive process and has more documentation requirements compared to SDS.

SDS Application Process

The candidate must fill out the application online for a fast study permit process. There is no paper application for SDS. Therefore, one should make sure to align all your documents. The following checklist must be considered:

  • Instructions guide for one's application form
  • Camera and Scanner to create digital photocopies of the documents required
  • Debit or a credit card for the online payment
  • Submit the biometrics online by visiting the official website and submitting the biometrics fee.

Non-SDS Application Process

  • Step1: Create your online account on the CIC Canada website, and get your user ID and password. Accept the terms and conditions.
  • Step2: Fill out the identification validation area after creating the account.
  • Step 3: Enter the personal reference code after starting the online application. 
  • (If one does not have the personal reference code, then determine eligibility by answering the basic questions. In the end, save the application and exit the questionnaire.)
  • Step 4: After answering the required questions, the page will tell you whether you are eligible for the application or not. If the pop-up announces you as eligible, you are all set for the next steps.
  • Step 5: The applicant should review all the given answers
  • Step 6: Check the checklist as well as the required documents. You can add any other documents here if you have missed some.
  • Step 7: You are all set to apply now. 

Why should you Choose SDS Over non-SDS?

Now, one has become familiar with the primary difference between Student Direct Stream and the Non-SDS; the following can be said as the main reasons why an SDS approach is considered better than the Non-SDS for a visa application.

  • Less Documentation required: Students don't have to submit many documents to prove their financial eligibility under the Student Direct Stream. On the other hand, in the Non-SDS approach, the number of documents is more.
  • Fast application Process: Student Direct Stream approach is much more streamlined and straightforward than the Non-SDS. The total time it takes is around 45 days.

If an applicant cannot meet the financial requirements of SDS, they can apply for a non-SDS visa for Canada. Here, you can rest assured that you can obtain all the relevant information on non-SDS in Canada, non-SDS meaning, and non-SDS band requirements. The non-SDS success rate is relatively low than the SDS category. This is because the number of documents is less in SDS than in non-SDS. As per the IRCC, the SDS success rate was 71%, whereas, for the non-SDS applicants, it was 40%.

Both SDS and Non-SDS colleges in Canada offer unique opportunities for international students. While SDS provides a streamlined visa process for students from specific countries, Non-SDS offers a more general approach that is accessible to all. The choice between SDS and Non-SDS ultimately depends on the individual student's circumstances and goals for studying in Canada.

Start your Canadian education journey with AECC where the choice between SDS and Non-SDS colleges can be made with ease.


Which one is better, SDS or non-SDS?

The SDS visa rate has more success rate compared to the non-SDS one. 

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