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What International Students Taking Courses in Canadian Schools Need To Know So Far

The government of Canada has rolled out  a series of updates  for international students, helping them push through with their plans to study abroad while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. 

To help agents and students better understand the important updates, MSM held an exclusive MSM Live! Agent e-Training webinar on July 30, 2020 titled  “Updates on Study Permit Processing for Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” 


Officials from the Canadian High Commission of India discussed in detail the temporary policies set by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to serve the needs and interests of international students while balancing national security and safety.


“These temporary changes will ensure that Canada remains a premier destination for international students. We encourage students to still consider Canada even though classes for the first three months of the semester will be online,” said Anindita Buragohain, outreach officer of the High Commission of Canada.  


Ms. Buragohain noted that by far, the Fall 2020 semester has the largest international student intake throughout the country’s academic year. 


Are you an agent helping out students who are making their plans for the fall 2020 semester at a Canadian college or university? Here are some important updates that you need to know so far.


(Note: Officials of the Canadian High Commission of India emphasize that we are in a very dynamic and volatile situation and that policies regarding travel restrictions, student visas, and other related measures can be updated at any time.) 

Who are the international students who can enter Canada?

Only international students who can prove that they need to be on campus and attend in person-classes for the fall semester will be allowed to enter the country. This is important because many institutions have already announced that they will be having online classes until December 2020.


To be exempt from travel restrictions, students must have the following documents issued before or on March 18, 2020:


  • a valid study permit; OR
  • a port of entry letter of introduction which indicates a study permit has been approved

Additionally, students must demonstrate that their purpose for coming to Canada is essential and that they are required to attend classes in person. This can be done by providing a recently dated letter from the designated learning institution (DLI) stating that they need to physically attend classes for the fall semester.


Officials highlight that students must not travel to Canada until at most three weeks before the start date of their class for which their physical presence in Canada is required. For example, if a student will be attending in-person classes beginning January 21, 2021, he or she should travel to Canada from the first week of January 2021 or three weeks prior to the start date of the physical classes.


Say I am a student with a valid student permit and I have documents to show that my travel is essential. What happens before air travel and upon arrival to Canada?

All international students travelling to Canada must pass a health check performed by airline officials. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to board their flight.


Upon arrival to Canada, border services officers will assess if a student is exempted from travel restrictions by checking for the following:


  • a plan detailing how the student will be able to complete a 14-day quarantine period. This includes a place to stay and livelihood strategies while in quarantine
  • proof that a student will begin studying after completing the quarantine
  • documents and evidence that the student needs to be in Canada to attend in-person classes for their program

What are the processing changes or limitations to keep in mind due to the effects of the pandemic?

The IRCC recognizes that there are overwhelming challenges and limitations in terms of the processing of student visas due to the closures of visa application centers (VACs) and limited operational capacity of businesses. Officials note that IRCC is doing its best to fast-track permit processing for international students who submit complete applications online but there will be processing delays due to reduced staff. 


Officials, however, assure that applications will not be refused for not submitting biometrics, passports, medicals or other required documents within specified time frames.


They also clarify that mandatory upfront submissions include application forms, fees, and letter of acceptance. They add that the application process will only be completed until all requirements are submitted.  

How will the 2-stage approval process work for applications submitted after March 18th?

The first stage is the Approval In Principle (AIP). This refers to the eligibility assessment of the student’s application. At this stage, the student needs to:


  • submit authentic documents to prove he or she is a genuine student
  • show proof of acceptance by a DLI in Canada
  • show documentation or financial evidence that he or she has sufficient funds to pay for studies, living expenses and transportation, without working
  • demonstrate evidence that he or she will leave Canada by the end of he authorized stay as per R179 

Click here for a full list of required documents for AIP. TIP: Students must include a letter explaining why they chose their program of study. They must also show evidence of a financial plan that details how they will be paying for all the subsequent years of the school beyond the first year.


A student who gets AIP approval will be notified through a letter that will be sent online.

Officials clarify, however, that getting AIP approval does not guarantee a student visa. Only students who get approval after the second stage of the processing will be issued student permits. 


The second stage involves the Admissibility Assessments. This happens after the AIP and before the issuance of a visa. At this stage, the student needs to:


  • submit all required documents that include biometric information and medical documents
  • ensure that all documents submitted are authentic 
  • ensure that he or she does not withhold information regarding previous visa applications

How will online courses affect students’ eligibility for Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)?

In-person classes that have switched to online due to COVID-19 will not affect students’ eligibility for the PGWP program.


Students who are eligible for the program are those who:


  • have a study permit
  • have been approved for a study permit OR
  • have received AIP for their pending study permit application

Students may begin their classes while outside Canada and complete up to 50% of the program. In this case, the student will remain eligible for the PGWP and will not have any time deducted from the length of the future PGWP, up to December 31, 2020. 


Officials emphasize that time spent studying online from abroad will count toward eligibility for PGWP so long as at least 50% of the program is still completed in Canada.

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