Navigating Visa Applications: Decoding SDS v/s Non-SDS Paths



Updated On 26 August 2023


Read Time 12 minutes


Are you looking forward to studying in Canada and struggling with your Canadian student visa application? Then, give this blog a good read as it unravels all the pivotal information on this topic.


You will uncover some rambling significant terms like SDS and Non-SDS at the time of the visa application process. Thus, diving deeper into the nuances of SDS and non-SDS visa applications is paramount for you before applying, as both pathways represent different routes to study in Canada.


SDS offers a streamlined process with explicit language, and financial and academic prerequisites. Non-SDS has diverse requirements impacting processing times, work permits, and university choices. This blog explores both pathways, empowering you to make informed decisions and ensuring a solid start to your global educational pursuit. Let’s get started!


What is SDS and Non-SDS?

Canada introduced the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program to make getting visas faster and easier. This program has not only sped up the visa process but also made it better.


Do you know that you can get your visa in just 4 to 6 weeks through an SDS study permit? Yeah, it’s true! Not only this, but your application can be made within 20 days after you qualify and use Student Direct Stream.


Furthermore, you can apply for SDS online. You can also bring your family along when your visa gets approved. Aside from this, you can also apply to become a permanent resident of Canada per your choice.


Now, let us understand the nuances of Non-SDS in detail. It’s a general visa process for studying, working, and living in Canada. In addition, this general process applies to all countries where it will take a long time to complete the process and has more documentation than an SDS study permit.


Non SDS student visa is a typical application process for students like you when seeking temporary residency in Canada. Besides this, you can apply online or in person, along with an application pay as well as a biometric fee.


Difference Between SDS and Non SDS visa

Now that you are aware of SDS and Non SDS visa let’s head over to the differences between them. SDS offers a streamlined path, while non-SDS follows a traditional route. Thus, choose wisely and Decide smartly for your visa journey by opting for SDS for efficiency and Non-SDS for the classic approach.




Visa processing time

20 Calendar days*

6-8 Weeks approx.


Applicable in Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam

Applicable to all countries worldwide 





Streamlined and efficient

Lengthy and confusing sometimes


Online (only accepted online)

Online or Offline

Success rate



SDS Visa Requirements

Understanding SDS and Non SDS is essential, but you also must know what you will require prior to applying for them. The below pointers briefly explain your SDS student visa requirements:

  1. Language Proficiency: You need to show the proof of valid language proficiency test acquired within 2 years of having SDS application form in your hand. This Language Proficiency can be either:

    • An IELTS overall score of 6.0 for Academic and overall 7 no band less than 7 for General.

    • A TEF score equivalent to a Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) score of at least 7 for each ability.

    • Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) General: 7

    • Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL): 60

    • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic: 60

    • Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT): 83


  1. GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate): To prove your financial security, you need a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) worth at least CAN$ 10,000. This certificate can be taken from a bank insured by the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) or listed on the IRCC SDS webpage. Here's how it works:

    • After you acquire the GIC, the bank gives you a document (like a certificate or letter) confirming it.

    • The bank keeps your money in a particular account, which you can access only after arriving in Canada. 

    • When you arrive in Canada, the bank checks your identity and gives you some amount. 

    • The rest of the money is given to you in smaller parts every month or two throughout 10 to 12 months.


  1. Tuition Fee: You need to show that you have paid the total tuition fees for your first year of study. You can provide:

    • A receipt from your school (DLI approved),

    • A letter from your school confirming the fee payment,

    • A bank receipt showing payment to your school, or

    • Proof of funds in a school account for future dues.


  1. Academic Transcripts: Your most recent school or college grades are needed. It could be from high school or college, as these grades show how you're doing in your studies.

    • Authorised transcripts, including high school and highest qualification.


  1. Statement of Purpose (SOP): You are required to explain your purpose for studying in Canada.


  1. Letter of Acceptance : You need to receive an official letter from the college that says they have accepted you to study there.

    • Admission offer from the chosen college.


  1. Photocopy of Passport Data Page: This page has details like your name, picture, and other personal information. So, when they ask for a photocopy of the biographical data page of your passport, they want a copy of this critical page with all your details on it.

    • It is required for documentation.


  1. Medical Tests: You must present a document from the Immigration Medical Exam (IME) from India's New Delhi office. This document shows that you underwent a medical examination before arriving in Canada.

    • Proof of necessary medical tests.


  1. Visa Application Fees: To apply for the SDS visa, you need to pay a fee of $150 for the visa application.

    • The fee of $150 for visa application.

    • Biometrics $85 


Non-SDS Visa Requirements

Now that you know about SDS student visa requirements, you also need to have a good knowledge of what you will need prior to applying for Non SDS visa. So, take a look below for the same:

  1. Language Proficiency Test:

    1. Needed for study, work, or migration to Canada.

    2. TOEFL or IELTS scores for studying.

    3. Only IELTS scores are accepted for immigration.

    4. Choose IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training.

    5. The IELTS Test Report Form (TRF) is valid for two years.


  1. Passport:

    1. Required official document for proving citizenship.

    2. Must be valid for non-SDS visa application.

    3. Renew expired passports before applying.


  1. Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC):

    1. Not mandatory for non-SDS processing.

    2. GIC holds CAD 10,000 for living expenses.

    3. Proof of liquid funds acceptable, like Income Tax Returns and bank statements.


  1. Family Information Form [IMM 5645]:

    1. Needed in the application.

    2. Includes personal details like name, birthdate, marital status, and address.

    3. Helps visa officers decide on temporary residency.


  1. Tuition Fee:

    1. Pay the 1st six months' tuition to a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada.

    2. Carry bank receipt and institution's payment confirmation.


  1. Letter of Acceptance (LOA):

    1. From Designated Learning Institute (DLI) for further study.

    2. Apply to DLI and receive acceptance after review.


  1. Educational Documents:

    1. Submit academic credentials: 10th, 12th, UG, PG degrees.

    2. Add extra documents like diplomas.

    3. Ensure the authenticity of educational documents.


  1. Experience Documents:

    1. Provide work experience proof if employed.

    2. Including appointments, resignation letters, payslips, relieving letters, and references.


  1. Medical Examination Report:

    1. A recent medical examination is required.

    2. Undertake exam upon request from IRCC.

    3. The panel physician sends a report to IRCC.


  1. Statement of Purpose (SOP):

    1. Institution-specific essay about goals and experiences.

    2. 1000-1500 words explaining course choice.

    3. Refer to samples/templates online.


  1. Digital Picture:

    1. Follow Canada's passport photo instructions.

    2. Full head and face view, proper dimensions.

    3. Submit two passport-sized photos.


  1. Visa Application Fees:

    1. Similar to the SDS fee.

    2. Biometric fee: CAD 85.


SDS Application Process

Awareness of visa requirements is vital for your preparation before getting into hassle. Apart from that, you should also go through the application process. So, in order to get started with your SDS study permit application quickly, you need to apply online.


There are no paper forms available for SDS visa application. Further, it is equally important to ensure your documents are authentic and ready. Hence, before starting your online application, ensure you have the following ready:

  • Instructions to help you fill out the forms

  • A scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your documents

  • A valid credit or debit card for payment 


Non-SDS Application Process

Well, Non SDS Visa application is a bit different than the SDS Visa application process. Let’s have a look at it in detail:

  • Step 1: You need to register for an online account with CIC Canada and get your user ID and password. In addition, you are required to accept the terms of the agreement.

  • Step 2: You must fill out the identification validation area after creating the account.

  • Step 3: You need to enter the personal reference code after starting the online application.

(If the personal reference code is unavailable, determine eligibility by answering the basic questions. Finally, save your application and exit the questionnaire.)

  • Step 4: After answering the required questions, the page will inform you whether you are eligible for the application. If the pop-up confirms your eligibility, you are ready to proceed.

  • Step 5: You must review all of your answers.

  • Step 6: Review the checklist and the required documents. If you have missed any documents, you can add them here.

  • Step 7: You are now ready to apply.


Why Choose SDS Over Non-SDS?

Now you have complete knowledge of SDS and Non SDS Visa, and you can decide what kind of visa application you prefer. Yet, persisting to pressure your marbles will not help, so check out some benefits of SDS over Non-SDS visas: 

  • Faster Processing: SDS is like the express lane for visa processing. It aims to decide on your study permit in about 4 weeks, way faster than the several months it takes for Non-SDS.

  • Who's Eligible: SDS is available for those students coming from certain countries, like India, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Senegal. If you're from these places, SDS might be for you.

  • Easier Process: It is designed to make applying for a study permit straightforward and quick.

  • Online Convenience: SDS visa application is done online, which is faster and more efficient. Non-SDS can also be done online, but it usually takes longer.


Deciding between SDS and Non-SDS depends on a few things:

  1. Country: Check if your country is on the SDS list.

  2. Time: If you're in a hurry to start your studies, SDS could get you there faster.

  3. Online Comfort: SDS might suit you if you're good with technology and prefer an online application. 



Q. What is the difference between SDS and non SDS visa applications?

 A. SDS (Student Direct Stream) offers faster processing and specific requirements like GIC and is available to eligible countries. Non SDS visa has a more varied processing time, broader country eligibility, and more flexible financial proofs.


Q. What is the success rate of SDS vs non SDS visa?

A. Success rates can vary, but SDS study permit often has a higher success rate due to their stringent requirements and streamlined processing, while non-SDS success rates depend on individual cases.


Q. What is the processing time for non-SDS visa in Canada?

A. Non-SDS processing times vary. It can take several weeks to months for a non SDS visa to be processed, depending on the volume of applications and your country of residence.


Q. Which visa is faster SDS or non-SDS?

A. SDS student visa is generally faster, aiming for around 4 weeks of processing time. In contrast, non-SDS processing times can be longer due to a more comprehensive review process.


Q. What is the disadvantage of non-SDS in Canada?

A. Non SDS student visa may have longer processing times, more varied requirements, and less streamlined procedures than SDS. It could be a disadvantage if you're looking for quick processing.


Q. What is the rejection rate for SDS visa in India?

A. Rejection rates can vary based on individual cases, but generally, SDS applicants have a higher chance of approval due to their stricter eligibility and requirements.


Q. Can I apply under SDS after refusal in non-SDS?

A. Yes, you can apply under SDS even if you were refused a non-SDS visa earlier. However, ensure you meet all the SDS requirements and address the issues that led to the previous refusal.   



In the complex world of Canadian student visas, the distinction between SDS and Non SDS pathways can significantly impact your journey. The blog has untangled the complexities of these terms, ensuring you understand the essence of each path.


SDS Student Visa symbolises efficiency, with expedited processing and clear prerequisites, whereas Non SDS Visa represents a more traditional approach with diverse requirements.


With this knowledge, you can make informed decisions and confidently begin your global educational journey. So, whether you choose the faster SDS route or the traditional Non-SDS route, you now have the key to embark on your Canadian study adventure.


We hope you had an insightful read about SDS and Non SDS visa. If you would like to get a deeper insight into student visa paths in Canada, we encourage you to have a word with our team of expert counsellors at Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC). Our counsellors will provide you with guidance throughout your study in Canada.


Get help with the application process, SOPs and filing for a visa. Visit us and get one-to-one counselling, or avail yourself of free video counselling via our website. We will be happy to help you, so please do not hesitate to contact us at or 1800-1230-00011.

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