15th Apr 2024
Afia Azmi

Difference Between SDS and Non-SDS Visa Applications

If you are planning to study abroad in Canada, you might get confused between terms such as SDS and Non-SDS during the visa application process. Formerly called the Students Partner Programme, SDS stands for Student Direct Stream and is available to specific nations, including Brazil, India, and others.

Non-SDS is a general visa application process for employment, study, immigration, and colleges in Canada. It is available to all foreign visitors, regardless of their origin. In this blog, we will talk about the differences between SDS and non-SDS Visa applications.

New IELTS Requirements for Canada SDS
  • IELTS test takers utilising the SDS program will now need to achieve an overall 6.0 band to be accepted.
  • To highlight how important the test-taker's overall skills are, the 6.0 band individual score was eliminated.
What is SDS?

The Student Direct Stream (SDS) was formerly the Students Partner Program (SPP). It is an initiative by Canadian Immigration Services. Under the SDS approach, student visa applications are processed quickly and directly if they want to study in Canada. However, you can only submit your SDS application online. Also, students must meet certain requirements set by Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada under the SDS category.

What is Non-SDS?

Non-SDS is a general category for applying for a visa to study in Canada. Under this approach, candidates unable to meet the SDS requirements can apply. Since additional documents can be needed, the requirements will also change.


Students can apply for an express-entry visa to study in Canada and get into colleges in Canada using the Student Direct Stream (SDS). In contrast, Non-SDS is a general visa application for everyone to work, move, or study in Canada. Non-SDS applies to all countries, whereas SDS only applies to specific nations like China, India, Peru, etc.

SDS and Non SDS Document Requirements for Visa Application
SDS Documents RequiredNon SDS Document Required
Official academic transcripts, including the 12th mark sheet. Candidates must have scored at least 55% aggregate marks for undergraduate courses. Official academic transcripts, including the 12th mark sheet. Candidates must have scored at least 55% aggregate marks for undergraduate courses. 
Undergraduate degree or advanced diploma. Applicants must have a minimum of 50% or above to pursue postgraduate courses. Undergraduate degree or advanced diploma. Applicants must have a minimum of 50% or above for postgraduate studies.
Statement of Purpose.Document financial resources, such as investments, bank accounts, and student loans.
English proficiency tests, with a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 for UG and a band average of 6.5 for PG. Results from English proficiency tests, with a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 for UG and a band average of 6.5 for PG.
Offer letters from SDS-eligible colleges.An offer letter from the universities having a part in Non-SDS. 
Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of $10,000 (INR 7.4 lakhs) to cover the cost of living. Income tax return documents or form 16 either of the candidate or the sponsor
Proof of previous work experience.Pay slips for the past three months and proof and documents of previous employment. 
Receipt of tuition fees.Receipt of tuition fees.
Proof of necessary medical tests.Proof of necessary medical tests.
Visa application fees of $150 (INR 11K approx).Visa application fees of $150 
Digital Photographs. 
Application Process for SDS and Non SDS

Application Process for SDS

To process your study permit faster, you must apply online. There is no paper application for Student Direct Stream. Therefore, make sure to align all your documents before applying.

Here's the checklist:

  • Instruction Guide for your application form
  • Scanner or camera to make digital copies of your supporting documents
  • Valid credit/debit card for the payment
  • Give your biometrics. Visit the official website, answer the questions asked, and submit the biometric fee.

Application Process for Non-SDS

  1. Go to CIC Canada's official website and log in using your password and GCKey user ID. Complete the identity confirmation form and accept all terms and conditions.

  2. Launch the application and input the code for your reference. If you don't have the code, apply online and answer a few questions to determine eligibility. Lastly, save the questionnaire and exit it.

  3. A pop-up indicating your eligibility will appear after you complete the questions. If you are eligible, go on to the next step.

  4. Review each of your responses

  5. Examine your documentation and personal checklist. If any prerequisites are missing, add them.

  6. Submit your application

Why Choose SDS over Non-SDS?

Here are the main reasons why the SDS approach is better than non-SDS for visa applications.

Less Documentation: Candidates do not need to submit much paperwork to prove their financial eligibility under the SDS category. On the other hand, in the Non-SDS approach, the number of documents is higher.

Fast Process: Compared to non-SDS, the SDS approach is more efficient and simple. The entire process takes about 45 days.

Success rates SDS and Non-SDS category

The non-SDS visa success rate is comparatively lower than the SDS category. This is because the number of documents is less in SDS than in non-SDS. Per the IRCC, the SDS success rate in 2021 was 71%, whereas, for the non-SDS applicants, it was 40%.

Comparison between SDS and Non-SDS applications
FeatureSDS (Student Direct Stream)Non-SDS (Non-Student Direct Stream)
Processing TimeTypically faster with many applications processed within 20 calendar days.Longer processing times compared to SDS vary significantly based on the country and individual circumstances.
Language Proficiency RequirementsHigher English or French language scores required; for English and 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 SupportApplicants 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 InstitutionMust 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 SubmissionApplications are primarily submitted online.Both online and paper applications are accepted depending on the applicant's country of residence.
Geographic AvailabilityAvailable in specific countries like 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 ExamMust be completed before application submission.May be completed before or after application submission depending on the country.
BiometricsRequired as part of the application process.Required as part of the application process.
Other RequirementsThere may be additional country-specific requirements.General requirements apply but there could be variations based on the applicant's country.

For overseas students planning to study in Canada in 2024, the decision between the SDS (Student Direct Stream) and Non-SDS options for Canadian visa applications will still be crucial.

With its faster processing times and specific financial and language requirements, the SDS option offers a streamlined route for students from eligible countries looking for a quick start to their academic journey. On the other hand, the Non-SDS pathway provides flexibility for those who may need to meet the stringent requirements of SDS or are from countries not covered by the SDS program.

Each pathway has its advantages and is designed to cater to the diverse needs of international students, ensuring that Canada remains an accessible and attractive destination for higher education abroad. Applying for an SDS Canada visa requires extensive planning and time. Connect with Azent, a study in Canada consultants. We can assist you in realising your ambition of study abroad in Canada if you're seeking the proper direction.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

SDS (Student Direct Stream) and non-SDS visa applications for Canada have different processing times, language competence criteria, proof of financial support, and geographic availability.

One downside of the non-SDS visa is that it takes longer to complete and has more severe paperwork requirements than the SDS visa, which can lead to application delays and issues.

Yes, the SDS visa has a speedier processing period, often within 20 calendar days, than non-SDS visas, which vary greatly depending on individual circumstances and nation.

The non-SDS visa in Canada is open to applicants from countries not covered by the SDS programme or who do not fulfil SDS standards, making it a more flexible alternative for foreign students.

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