Canada, known for its vibrant landscapes, also remains a popular academic destination for international students. As part of its ongoing efforts to make Canadian education more accessible, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently introduced changes. As of August 10, 2023, the IRCC expanded the list of accepted language tests and adjusted the IELTS academic requirements for the Student Direct Stream (SDS) Study Permit Applications.

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Changes to SDS Stream

Effective August 10, 2023, the IRCC now accepts a broader range of language tests and has relaxed the IELTS academic requirements. It is essential to highlight that only in-person versions of these language tests are acceptable, ruling out any online alternatives.

Accepted Tests and Required Scores:


  • CAEL: Overall score: 60
  • IELTS Academic: Overall score: 6
  • PTE Academic: Overall score: 60
  • TOEFL iBT: Overall score: 83


  • CELPIP: Score equivalent to CLB 7+ for each ability.
  • IELTS General: Score equivalent to CLB 7+ for each ability.
  • TCF Canada: Score equivalent to CLB 7+ for each ability.
  • TCF tout public: Overall score: 400
  • TEF Canada: Score equivalent to CLB 7+ for each ability.
  • TEF 5 épreuves: Overall score: 400 (Lexique/Structure not mandatory for SDS)


Eligibility Overview for SDS:

SDS stands for the Student Direct Stream. It is a program by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to expedite the processing of study permit applications for international students who want to come to Canada for their higher education.

The primary goal of the SDS program is to streamline the process for students from certain countries, allowing faster processing of study permit applications. However, to qualify for the SDS, students must meet specific criteria, including:

SDS Checklist

Ensuring the above requirements are met means your SDS application will receive priority processing.

Prospects of the New Changes:

The addition of new language tests and the relaxation of academic IELTS requirements present both opportunities and challenges.

Positive Perspective:

  • Inclusivity: Canada is extending its welcome to students worldwide by accepting more language tests. This means that students from a variety of backgrounds, even from countries that might not have easy access to common tests like IELTS, now have a chance to dream big and consider getting an education in Canada. The doors are now wide open!
  • Diverse Student Body: By making the rules a bit easier, Canada is likely to see students from even more diverse backgrounds. Imagine classrooms where stories from all corners of the world come together. This is not just enriching for the students, but it’s also a beautiful reflection of Canada’s multicultural spirit.
  • Recognizing Other Proficiencies: Not every student around the world takes the IELTS. There are so many other tests tailored to different countries and educational systems. Canada’s decision to recognize these tests demonstrates that “We value the talent and skills from everywhere, irrespective of regional or national testing norms.
  • No More Test Stress: We all know that big tests can be nerve-wracking. Everyone has their strengths. One student might find a particular test format more friendly, while another might prefer a different one. By offering more test choices, Canada’s giving these students a pat on the back, saying, “Choose the test that aligns best with your strengths”.
  • Boosting the Local Scene: More international students mean bustling campuses, lively local cafes, and busier stores. As students spend on tuition, housing, and also available for part-time work filling up labour shortage, it’s a win-win for local communities and businesses.

Points of Concerns:

  • Quota & Accommodation: With relaxed requirements, will both the IRCC and DLIs be equipped to handle a potential surge in student numbers? If IRCC has broadened the language requirements to accept more students, it’s essential to know whether they’ve also increased their quota for international students. Similarly, Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) should also ensure they have the capacity to handle an influx of students both in terms of physical resources (like classrooms, hostels), alternative accommodation and academic resources (like faculty).
  • DLI-Specific Requirements: Every Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) has traditionally set its language benchmarks. For instance, many have mandated scores like a minimum of 6 each in IELTS. Will these institutions align with the new broader perspective and adjust their requirements? It remains to be seen whether these DLIs be going to reduce their language requirements for academic IELTS language? Will they accept general IELTS and accepts other tests as well for admission requirements?
  • Anticipating Institutional Responses: Easier admissions could mean institutions overcommit to the number of students they usually accept. Can institutions guarantee that they won’t cancel or defer admissions later? 


  • Visa Refusals: A more accessible admission process mean a high number of letter of acceptance from DLIs, and that might paradoxically see an uptick in visa rejections. Eased admission requirements might result in an influx of applications. However, the IRCC has an annual quota, which may lead to a higher number of visa refusals.
  • Financial Implications: The process of applying to study in Canada involves various fees. While this is beneficial for Canada’s economy, it’s essential that the process remains transparent, fair, and student-friendly. Misleading students or providing them with false hopes can be detrimental in the long run.
  • Impact on Students: The most significant concern is the potential impact on genuine students. If colleges issue unlimited acceptance letters and then later cancel or defer admissions, it could leave genuine students stranded and disrupt their academic and career plans. The heart of the matter lies here. We must ensure that legitimate students don’t face unforeseen hurdles after receiving acceptance letters.



Given the stakes for countless young students, it’s vital for Canada to thoughtfully navigate these policy changes. While the drive to diversify and enhance accessibility to education is praiseworthy, it’s equally crucial to proactively address any potential challenges. The balance between inclusivity and infrastructural readiness will determine the success of this policy shift. Continuous assessment of the policy’s impact by the IRCC will be instrumental.

Disclaimer: The views and perspectives in this article are based on my personal analysis and interpretation of available data. Different interpretations and opinions might exist based on the same information.

For readers: What are your thoughts on these changes? Do you believe they’ll benefit international students in the long run? Share your views in the comments below!

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