There is no one line answer to this question, so we believe that writing this article in detail to understand the IELTS requirement for Canadian study visa is much needed.
First thing to clarify, if you have overall 6 bands in IELTS Academic with 1-2 modules 5.5, then you have always been eligible to apply for a Canadian study visa via general study visa application or non-SDS.
Rest of the countries have to apply for Canadian study visas under the general stream, or we can say non-SDS.
Citizens of 14 SDS eligible countries are also eligible to apply under non-SDS.
As per IDP IELTS, it is confirmed that beginning August 10, 2023, only 6 overall bands in IELTS Academic will be needed for SDS study visa, rather than 6 in each module.
This means individuals with 5.5 in 1-2 modules and overall 6 bands will be eligible to apply under SDS beginning August 10.
- To secure an offer letter from a Canadian college or university, the IELTS requirement varies depending on the level of the college program for an SDS or Non-SDS study visa. There is no separate requirement for any of the two streams to get an offer letter.
- However, IRCC has set a minimum IELTS requirement to apply for a Canadian study visa under SDS. Currently, it is set at an overall 6 in IELTS Academic or General, with no module less than 6.
- For Non-SDS study visas, IRCC has not set any minimum IELTS requirement to apply for a Canadian study visa, and IELTS is only needed to secure an offer letter from colleges.
To make it more clear, see the below table for the contrast between SDS and non-SDS study visas.
|Student Direct Stream (SDS)|
|Non-Student Direct Stream|
|IRCC requires 6 in each module|
IELTS General or Academic
|There is no minimum requirement set, but applicants need the offer letter from the college or university to apply.|
|Overall, 6 bands with no module less than 5.5 are needed by colleges for 1-2 years of diplomas after 10+2 to give an offer letter.||Overall, 6 bands with no module less than 5.5 is needed by colleges for 1-2 years of diplomas after 10+2 to give an offer letter|
|6.5 bands with no module less than 6 or even higher could be needed to get an offer letter from Canadian colleges or universities to pursue master’s or higher-level diploma or degree programs||6.5 bands with no module less than 6 or even higher could be needed to get an offer letter from Canadian colleges/universities to pursue masters or higher level diploma or degree programs|
So for non-SDS, if you are able to secure an offer letter from a Canadian college or university with your IELTS score, you still need to mention your IELTS Academic score while applying, but there is NO set minimum requirement for IRCC.
Conversely, for SDS study visa applications, if you are able to secure an offer letter from a Canadian college or university with your IELTS score, you still need to meet the minimum IELTS score requirement of 6 in each module of IELTS General or Academic for IRCC as well.
As reported by IDP IELTS based on the information in the Canada Gazette, this IRCC requirement of needing 6 in each module of IELTS Academic will be removed starting August 10, and individuals having an overall 6 band will be eligible for Student Direct Stream (SDS).
The Canada Gazette language has not been clearly mentioned on the IELTS Academic requirement as it only mentions IELTS Academic (minimum 6), but it doesn’t mention it in each module as it clearly states for IELTS General (CLB 7 in each of the 4 language abilities).
Once again, IRCC has kept this language wide open for interpretation, and IDP IELTS, being a reputed IRCC-approved organization for IELTS, claims that applicants don’t need IELTS Academic 6 in each module for SDS.
IRCC is known for backing down their stance on certain policies and update their language as we saw in PGWP Extension policy error this April, which was then quietly changed by IRCC.
Always remember, individuals with an overall score of 6 with 1-2 modules and a 5.5 have always been eligible to apply for study visas under non-SDS, but if you are seeking admission to a high level diploma or degree for which a college or university has a higher band requirement, then you cannot simply secure an offer letter.
As a result, you will not be able to apply under non-SDS, but if you are applying for a 1-2 year undergraduate diploma after 10+2, then almost all of the programs accept an overall 6 with 5.5 in 1-2 modules.
By securing the offer letter, such individuals can then apply to the IRCC for a study visa under non-SDS.
What is the approval rate between SDS and non-SDS visa applications?
However, this difference could also be due to the fact that an individual who once got a refusal in SDS, reapplies under non-SDS, and their profile might have been lacking among other aspects that got them a refusal in the first place under SDS.
Always remember that there is no guarantee of getting a study visa, whether it is under SDS or non-SDS. Nobody can guarantee you a visa.
What are the 14 countries eligible to apply Canadian study visa under the Student Direct Stream (SDS)?
Legal residents living in one of the below listed countries are eligible for Canadian study visa under Student Direct Stream (SDS)
Antigua and Barbuda
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago