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Trips to Canada in flux, weddings and conferences to take a hit | Mumbai News

Since Thursday morning, immigration consultant Cyrus Sethna‘s phone has been buzzing non-stop with anxious queries. A couple that has planned a big December wedding in Mumbai is now wondering whether their 30-40 relatives living in Canada will be able to make it. On the other side, a delegation of Canadian doctors who were due to participate in a conference in India are trying to figure out whether they should cancel. “It’s not the best news that India has pulled the plug on visas,” says Sethna. “The Canada visa process was already a bit of a nightmare, with long waits and rejection often on baseless grounds. Now we don’t know what will come next.” The escalating diplomatic tussle between the two countries has left many floundering and unsure of what steps to take next. Students applying to Canadian universities, prospective immigrants aspiring for residency, those who have family in either country, are wondering what’s in store. The number of Indians travelling to Canada has been rising steadily, with students forming a sizable proportion. Direct Air Canada flights tend to be permanently booked both ways. In 2022, Indians comprised 40% of total international students studying in Canada, with post-grad studies even more popular. The total number of Indian students in Canada on study visas has crossed 3 lakh. “Canada has always been viewed as a safe, friendly country for college and for settling down thereafter,” says education consultant Viral Doshi, who advises students on colleges and careers. “In the last 24 hours, things have changed, and I have received at least five calls from parents saying they’d like to look at other options like the UK and Netherlands, in case the diplomatic tussle aggravates further.” KP Singh, head of a Mumbai consultancy service, adds that parents who were looking at a January admission are planning to wait until there is more clarity. “The children are keen on going, but parents want them to postpone their plans till things return to normalcy. We are advising everyone to be calm as the situation on ground is normal,” says Singh. Indian students, who are already studying in Canadian universities are beginning to sense that something is off. Akash Mistry, who just completed a month in Kitchener city in Ontario, said things are fine on the ground. “Some students are a little anxious and are panicking, but we are all trying to stay away from rumours. There is no official communication from the college or from the Indian Embassy here, except for the government advisory issued on Wednesday. Nobody will want to return in a hurry after investing time and money for studies here,” says Mistry. But parents located many thousand miles away are worried. “The current scenario has definitely caused a lot of concern given the uncertainty, safety and racism,” says a Mumbai-based mother, who has two children studying there currently. Canada is viewed as a great option for Indians not just for its educational institutions, but also the prospect of getting residency there. The Express Entry point-based system enables families to move there and avail of multiple benefits, from medical insurance to free education. Besides the Sikh community there are large numbers of Parsis across Canada. Sometimes, when families get together, they could well be sitting in Dadar Parsi Colony, but with four feet of snow around them. “We are worried about what is going to happen next,” says a Mumbai resident who has family in Vancouver and goes back and forth regularly. (With inputs from Yogita Rao)

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