Roshan Sunthar

Updated on 01-04-2023


Difference between SDS and Non-SDS visa applications

Difference between SDS and Non-SDS visa applications

Students must know the difference between SDS and Non-SDS visa applications if they are aspiring to study in Canada. After introducing the SDS visa, students get quicker access to study in Canada. However, some students take more time as they don’t know the difference between SDS and Non-SDS visa applications. If you want to know everything about the SDS and non-SDS difference, processing, success rate, etc., you are at the right place!

SDS visa - The Student Direct Stream (SDS) is an expressway entry to study in Canada only for certain countries like India, China, Peru, etc. Once a student meets SDS IELTS requirements, they can apply for an SDS visa.

The application will be processed in 20 calendar days, provided they meet the other requirements. Once approved, the student can enrol in any designated learning institutions (DLIs) and start their journey.

Non-SDS visa - The Non-SDS is a general process where visa applications are accepted for study, work and immigration in Canada. It’s open to all countries. Candidates must fulfil the needs set for non-SDS visas. It is an alternative option for study in Canada, where students who did not meet the SDS visa requirements can apply here.

Table of Content


The main difference between SDS and Non-SDS visa applications is that SDS (Student Direct Stream) is an express-entry visa application for students to study in Canada, while Non-SDS is a general visa application for all people to work, study or migrate in Canada. Moreover, SDS is for certain countries like India, China, Peru, etc., whereas Non-SDS is for all countries.

sds vs non sds


SDS vs Non-SDS
1 For study permit only For study, work or migration
2 Visa processed in 20 days Visa processed in 45 - 90 days
3 Apply online only Apply either online or offline
4 GIC is mandatory GIC is not mandatory
5 Tuition fee for 1 year to be paid Tuition fee for 6 year to be paid
6 IELTS is mandatory IELTS, TOEFL, or PTE
7 Applicable for certain countries Applicable for all countries
8 Success rate is 75 - 85% Success rate is 65%

What is an SDS visa?

SDS stands for Student Direct Stream, also known as the Students Partner Program (SPP). Students from certain countries who fulfil the Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada (IRCC) requirements can apply for an SDS visa online and get study permits faster. Successful candidates can bring their spouse, partner, and dependent children with them. If interested, they can apply for Canadian permanent residence (PR).

Till now, the SDS Canada visa is offered only to legal residents who also reside in

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

Those countries may change in future based on international agreements and the necessary infrastructure that is in place.

What are the requirements for an SDS visa?

Like every visa, the SDS Canada visa also comes with a set of requirements to process the applications swiftly. Candidates fulfilling those requirements and submitting valid documents on time makes the immigration officer's work easier. 

what are the requirements for an sds visa

Let us see the requirements of an SDS visa one by one:

Language Proficiency Test

  • Candidates must submit a proof of English proficiency test results from the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
  • Students can select either IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training test.
  • A band score of 6.0 (for UG) and 6.5 (for PG) in IELTS in each module: listening, reading, writing and speaking is necessary.
  • The IELTS Test Report Form (TRF) score has a validity of two years. If the IELTS test result is expired, it will not be accepted. 
  • A minimum score of Test d’Evaluation de Français (TEF) which is equivalent to a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score of 7 is a must for French.


  • If you’re applying for a SDS visa, you need a valid passport to kick-start the process.
  • Make sure your passport is not expired. If yes, then renew it immediately.
  • Upon passport verification, you are eligible for study permit, temporary resident visa (TRV), and many more.

Identification Proof 

  • Along with a passport, the candidate must submit another proof of identity. It can be an aadhaar card, driving licence, voter’s ID, or pan card. 
  • To prove that you are not only a citizen of a country but also a permanent resident, an identification proof is essential.

Family Information Form [IMM 5645]

  • A family information form is a document containing your full name, date of birth, marital status, and relationship to you.
  • Canadian visa officers will verify the information and decide whether to permit a temporary residency.
  • The information will be collected under the authority of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. 
  • This information may be shared with other federal agencies, law enforcement bodies, and medical practitioners in Canada for validating identity, eligibility and admissibility purposes. 

Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)

  • A GIC is a Canadian Investment that holds your money of CAN$10,000 to meet your daily expenses in Canada.
  • A bank from your country must offer GICs, including

                      i . Attestation letter

                      ii .  A GIC certificate  

                      iii .  An Investment Directions Confirmation or an Investment Balance Confirmation

  • Mostly SBI Canada Bank, ICICI, CIBC and ScotiaBank provide GIC for their customers.
  • The bank keeps the funds in an investment account or a student account unused until the applicant physically reaches Canada.
  • After entering into Canada, the bank will validate the applicant’s identity.
    Upon successful identification, the applicant receives an initial disbursement of $ 2,000 CAD. The remaining funds will be released monthly or bimonthly for a period of 10 to 12 months.   

Tuition Fee

  • International students are required to make full payment of the first year’s tuition fees.
  • It is necessary to keep                     

                      i . the bank’s receipt, and 

                      ii . an official letter from the educational institution for payment confirmation of tuition fees.

Letter of Acceptance (LOA) 

  • The Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) is mandatory to study in Canada.
  • After thorough research, a student shall submit an application to one of the Designated Learning Institutions. If the application meets their expectations, the institution will issue a Letter to Acceptance to that student.
  • All primary and secondary institutions in Canada come under DLI. However, at the post-secondary level, only approved institutions under DLI can accommodate international students to study a degree.

Educational Documents 

  • The student must produce all educational documents right from the 10th, 12th, undergraduate degree (UG), etc.
  • If the student has attained any diploma course certificate, or postgraduate (PG) degree through distance learning, they can submit it as well.

Experience Documents

  • Students who have worked earlier, currently working or serving their notice period, must submit their work experience documents or the proof of work experience. 
  • The work experience documents include the following:

                    i  . Appointment letter
                   ii  . Resignation acceptance letter from your employer
                  iii  . Payslips of last six months
                   iv . Relieving letter
                     v .Reference letter (if any)
                   vi . Promotion letter (if any)
                  vii . Any other document considered relevant.

Medical Examination Report 

  • Candidates who have resided or travelled for six (6) months in one of the designated countries shall submit a medical examination report for an SDS visa.
  • When SDS was launched in 2018, it included students from China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam only as designated countries. In 2019, it included Pakistan, Morocco, and Senegal. Now, it has 14 countries on the list.
  • If the area of study asks for a medical examination report, the candidate must provide it.
  • The check-up report includes a full-body medical examination.
  • If the doctor/physician gives you the medical report in an electronic format, submitting its printout is fine.

Statement of Purpose (SOP)

  • SOP, widely called Statement of Purpose, is a 1000-1500 words essay that includes a candidate’s academic, professional and other relevant experiences.
  • The candidates must write why they are choosing a particular stream, a degree, or a college and their objective.
  • Before writing, please look at some of the statement of purpose (SOP) samples to get a clear idea.

Digital Picture 

  • Canada does not compromise in a candidate’s photograph. That’s why they laid strict instructions to follow.
  • The photo must contain the full front view of the head along with the top of the shoulders. The face should be in the middle.
  • The minimum frame size is 35 mm X 45 mm (1 ⅜” X 1 ¾”).
  • Explain these instructions carefully to the photographer to make it perfect.
  • The candidate should submit two photographs (passport size). The digital photo must not exceed 4 MB.
  • Remember that the photographs will be rejected if they do not meet the specifications mentioned.

SDS Visa Application Fees 

  • The SDS Visa application fee starts from $150 CAD (11,000 INR) while the biometric fee is $85 CAD.

SDS Visa Success Rate

  • People who think SDS Visa doesn’t work effectively must look at its success rate. The SDS visa approval rate is on average 75 - 85% in less time.
  • To study in Canada, international students mostly opt for SDS Visa as the application process will be complete in 20 days.

Incomplete Applications 

  • Incomplete applications will not be accepted by the immigration office.
  • If the application fee is not included or wrongly entered, it will not be processed.
  • If the biometric fee is missing, the immigration officer must collect the fee at the earliest.

Prerequisite & Eligibility for SDS

As you are aware, the first step for eligibility is scoring a minimum of 6.0 band (for UG) and 6.5 band (for PG) in all four skills. Since they accept both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, students can choose either one. 

Students who need to take a prerequisite course or bridging program before entering into the main program are eligible to apply for the SDS category of visa. However, it must be mentioned in the letter of acceptance. Last but not least, as a Covid-19 precaution, you must be a fully vaccinated traveller (taken 2 doses) before arriving in Canada.

Family members of study permit applicants under the SDS 

There is no need to worry about leaving your spouse or children. Under the SDS visa, the candidate can bring the spouse and dependent children with them. All they need to do is apply online for temporary residence of the accompanying family members.

What is a Non-SDS Visa? 

Non - SDS (Student Direct Stream) is a general category visa for temporary residence, work, and study in Canada, inviting applications from across the globe. Students who missed their chance through SDS visa subsequently apply here with more supportive documents. Candidates can apply either online or offline, with the application fee and biometric fee.  

After the pandemic outbreak, everyone wants to know the SDS and non-SDS visa success rates for 2021. It is predictable. SDS visas get higher success rates than non-SDS visas as the SDS category accepts only online applications and approves in less time. 

What are the requirements for a Non-SDS Visa? 

Searching for ‘Non-SDS Canada requirements 2023’ is tiresome? Here you will get up-to-date information on the requirements for a Non-SDS Visa. 

Language Proficiency Test

  • The candidate must submit a language proficiency test result for study, work or migration to Canada. 
  • To study in Canada, students can provide either TOEFL or IELTS scores.
  • For immigration purposes, authorities accept IELTS scores only.
  • If you think IELTS Academic is heavy, you can take the IELTS General Training test.
  • Since IELTS Test Report Form (TRF) is valid for two years, students are advised to submit the scores quickly.


  • As you know, a passport is an official document, identifies you as a citizen of a particular country. A valid passport is required for applying for a Non SDS visa.
  • In case of expired passports, renew your passport before it gets too late.

Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) 

  • For a non-SDS visa processing, a guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) is not mandatory.
  • Under GIC, a Canadian Investment holds a fund of $10,000 CAD in advance for the cost of living in Canada.
  • Under non-SDS, the applicant can show proof of liquid funds by avoiding GIC.
  • Proof of liquid funds includes Income Tax Returns, Form - 16, J-Forms, GPF, and above all, a bank statement to portray that you are financially stable.

Family Information Form [IMM 5645]

  • As a part of the application process, the applicant must produce a family information form [IMM 5645].
  • It contains details like name, date of birth, marital status, present address, and so on.
  • Based on the information, the Canadian visa officers will decide whether to permit a temporary residency.
  • The information will be collected under the authority of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. 

Tuition Fee

  • Under the non-SDS category, the student must pay the tuition fee for the first six months to the designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada.
  • After payment, the student must carry

                i . The bank’s receipt that shows tuition fees have been paid.
               ii .  An official letter for payment received/confirmation from the educational institution. 

Letter of Acceptance (LOA)

  • A letter of acceptance from the Designated Learning Institute (DLI) is required for your further study in Canada.
  • A student must submit an application to one of the DLIs. After a thorough review of the application, the letter of acceptance will be issued from the college/university.
  • If you’re new to non SDS visa Canada, and puzzled about DLI, a Designated Learning Institute (DLI) is nothing but an educational institution, designated by the Canadian province or territory to teach international students.

Educational Documents

  • For the study, work or migration in Canada, the candidate must submit academic credentials.
  • Academic documents include your 10th, 12th, undergraduate (UG), postgraduate (PG) degrees, etc.
  • Any other additional documents like diploma courses, distance learning, etc., can be added as well.
  • Make sure all your educational documents are genuine.

Experience Documents

  • Candidates who have worked in at least one company previously or currently working must produce relevant documents as proof of work experience.
  • The work experience documents include the following:

                      i . Appointment letter
                     ii . Resignation acceptance letter from your employer
                    iii . Payslips of last six months
                    iv . Relieving letter
                     v . Reference letter (if any)
                    vi . Promotion letter (if any)

Medical Examination Report 

  • Candidates applying for a Non-SDS visa must produce a medical examination report taken recently. 
  • Candidates can take up a medical examination once they receive a request from IRCC.
  • After the request from IRCC, fix up an appointment from a panel physician in your vicinity, and show that medical request letter to the physician.
  • After the medical examination, the panel physician will send your report directly to the IRCC.
  • The IRCC will approve the Medical Examination Report after thorough verification.

Statement of Purpose (SOP) 

  • Each institution asks for a statement of purpose, popular as SOP from the candidate for filtering purposes. 
  • It is an essay-type answer, where students shall mention their objectives, relevant experiences, and anecdotes (if necessary) in 1000-1500 words and explain why they want to pursue a particular course.
  • There are many samples/templates available online to refer to.

Digital Picture 

  • Canada provides a set of instructions to follow for a valid passport photograph.
  • The photo must contain the full front view of the head along with the top of the shoulders, and the face in the middle. 
  • The ideal frame size is 35 mm X 45 mm (1 ⅜” x 1 ¾”). Please explain these instructions to the photographer first.
  • The candidate must submit two photos (passport size). The digital photo’s size does not exceed 4 MB.
  • If the passport photo lacks any of the requirements, it will be rejected.   

Non-SDS Visa Application Fees 

The application fee for a non-SDS Canada visa is similar to the SDS visa application fee. The biometric fee is $85 CAD. For more information, you can visit Canada immigration’s official website.

Non-SDS Visa Success Rate 

The Non-SDS visa success rate is quite less compared to the SDS visas. On average, it is 65% of approval rates per year and decreasing further. Whereas the approval rate for SDS visas is 75 - 85% in less time.

Advantages of SDS over Non SDS visa

SDS and Non-SDS visa, which is better? By now, you would have figured out SDS is comparatively better than non-SDS and a few advantages of SDS over Non-SDS visa is explained here. 

advantages of sds over non sds visa

  • Less Processing Time - Compared to other visa applications to Canada, visas under the SDS category are processed in 20 days, saving ample amount of time.    
  • Less Documentation - Since GIC is mandatory and covers most information the officer wants, it lessens the burden from the applicant’s side.
  • Online Application - Students can only apply online for an SDS visa. To make the process paperless and efficient, Canada receives online applications only. It avoids the risk of missing documents now and then.
  • Ensures Financial Stability - Under SDS, the candidate must hold funds of $10,000 CAD to meet the daily expenses while in Canada. Eventually, it makes the person survive financially under any circumstances. 
  • Higher Success Rate - When it comes to SDS and Non-SDS visa success rates, SDS tops the list. As Canada receives millions of applications every year, applicants under SDS are 75-85% successful conversions, which is higher than other visa categories. 
  • Access to more Institutions - All colleges and universities at international standards come under DLIs, where students get direct access to those institutions and pursue a degree that suits them the best.


Canada, the land of opportunities, attracts millions of foreigners to travel, study and work. In this regard, Canada has offered a Student Direct Stream (SDS) visa for certain countries to make international students' application process faster and more efficient. Ever since students who wish to study in Canada often apply for study permits under the SDS category and land in one of the best universities without much hassle.

Applying for an SDS Canada visa takes a lot of preparation time and effort. If you’re planning for higher studies in Canada and looking for the right guidance, our team full of tutors and student visa experts are here to help you achieve your dream.


1 . Can I apply for the SDS visa with a PTE score?
No. Students can submit only the IELTS score to apply for the SDS visa, not a PTE score. For those who are new, PTE stands for The Pearson Language Test (PTE).

2 . Does the SDS Replace IRCC’s Regular Study Permit Stream?
No. The SDS category does not replace IRCC’s Regular Study Permit Stream. If a student applied under SDS visa and was not selected, their application could be processed under regular processing procedures.

3 . Do I need an IELTS score to apply for a non-SDS visa?
No, an IELTS score is not mandatory to apply for a non-SDS visa. Candidates can give either IELTS, TOEFL or PTE test scores to prove their English proficiency.

4 . Why do some prefer non-SDS rather than SDS visa applications?
Some prefer non-SDS rather than SDS visa applications to avoid submitting a GIC certificate. Since the applicant needs to show exactly $10,000 CAD in the bank account to get a GIC certificate, some people find it difficult. The GIC certificate is a valid document, tells the immigration officer that a candidate is financially stable and able to meet the expenses in Canada.

5 . How much time does it take for an SDS and a non-SDS application to process?
For an SDS visa application, it takes 20 days on an average. Whereas, for a non-SDS visa, it takes 2 to 3 months to complete. However, due to Covid-19 impact, there are delays in receiving applications and processing time.

6 . Students from which countries are eligible for SDS visas?
Students who are legal residents and also reside in the following countries are eligible for an SDS visa.

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

7 . Any updates on the SDS?
Canada plans to expand the SDS category visa over the next five years. In future, students can apply for a study permit, temporary resident visa (TRV), or work permit through an SDS visa. Once the necessary resources and infrastructure are in place, the Canada immigration office will make it official.

8 . What is the disadvantage in non-SDS in Canada?
The biggest disadvantage in the non-SDS category in Canada is the visa processing time. The applicant has to wait for 2 to 3 months for visa approval. Next is the lack of financial stability as the applicants have to pre-plan everything to pay bills and other expenses while in Canada.
9 . What colleges come under the non-SDS category in Canada?

  • Columbia International College
  • Douglas College
  • Medicine Hat College
  • Norquest College
  • Camosun College
  • Vancouver Community College
  • Lakeland College
  • Dawson College
  • Niagara College
  • Langara College
  • Canadore College

About Author Roshan Sunthar

Roshan Sunthar is a study abroad expert as well as a renowned writer and author in international education. His academic excellence and 5+ years of work experience give him in-depth knowledge of international standardised exams and test preparation in IELTS, TOEFL, GRE, PTE, SAT, etc. The study materials he prepares incorporate exam-like questions. He’s also an expert in writing Statement of Purposes (SOPs) and Letter of Recommendations (LORs) for college admissions. He usually spends his leisure time watching English classics and documentaries, travelling, etc.

More Articles Post by Roshan Sunthar

Kanan International is an IRCC-certified study abroad consultancy that offers reliable services, products, and solutions for students and education institutions. We support students throughout their study abroad journey, ensuring a hassle-free experience. Our expertise and commitment to excellence make us the go-to partner for expanding global horizons. The company provides coaching for IELTS, GRE, TOEFL, and SAT exams and services like visa consultation, accommodation, scholarship assistance, and education loans.

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