This week, Igor Mishurov, Deputy Director at Students International in Russia, explains the impact of this year's Canadian embassy strikes on their outbound business.


“This past summer told negatively both in terms of our operations and the customer satisfaction for the Canadian part of our business.

We have three main streams of clients for Canada:

·  Academic students

·  Short-term language students

·  Parents wishing to visit their kids studying in Canada

All three groups of clients were affected by the strike.  The academic (i.e. the higher education) students were the least harmed ones, since apparently the Embassy had decided that these were the most prioritised visitors for Canada and thus their visas were issued relatively well, although we have to admit that there still had been some delays and several students had to arrive to their schools late. Fortunately, we were able to convince most of our partner schools to postpone the start of these students’ programmes. So, it was quite stressful for all the parties involved, but still more or less manageable. 

The next group was the short language course students. And those were the students who suffered the most this summer. We offer both group and individual programs in Canada. Due to the strike we actually lost two groups of high school students (more than 50 kids) and around 30 individual students. Moreover, one of the groups is still being ‘reviewed’ by the Canadian Embassy in Moscow. And their applications were submitted almost five months ago!

Several students agreed to choose other destinations (for example, Malta, Spain, US, Ireland). Some students got their visas late but kept them in the hope to travel later. A few students still decided to go at this point but had to significantly shorten their programmes because it was long past their summer break dates. We even had the students whose visa the Embassy was ready to issue, but only upon the presentation of all of the visa documents anew.

The last group of our clients is the parents of our students whom we offer visitor visa support services.  Such visa issuances basically stopped completely at some point during the strike and a major amount of these parents simply missed a chance to visit their kids during their vacation.

Needless to say we’re now extremely happy to know that the strike is finally over and that we may continue our regular operations. However we are now very much concerned with the new visa issuance system recently introduced by the Canadian Embassy in Moscow. The Embassy has delegated some of the functions to the VFS visa centres in several cities throughout Russia. However, it seems that the staff at these visa centres are not yet fully trained.

Our only hope at this stage is that we won’t see a very significant decline in the numbers of our customers interested in Canada as their study destination in the upcoming season, although we realise that we’ll have to put much more effort into promoting this country.”

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