entering Canada
International students may still be barred from entering Canada if their study permit application was approved after March 18. Source: JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES/AFP

International students may not be able to travel to Canada if their study permit application was approved after March 18, 2020.

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said on its website that international students with a valid study permit or were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020 may enter Canada only for “non-discretionary or non-optional purpose”. 

A letter advising the public health measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada as well as what to expect upon arrival, such as instructions for mandatory 14-day quarantine, has been sent to this group of students.

Those with a study permit approved after March 18, 2020 “may not be exempt from the travel restrictions” and “should not make any plans to travel to Canada until the travel restrictions are lifted, as they will not be allowed to travel to or enter Canada,” said IRCC.

Entering Canada: A checklist for international students

The campuses of many Canadian colleges and universities are currently closed, with most learning shifting online. 

IRCC said travel will be deemed “discretionary or non-discretionary” depending on individual circumstances. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers will assess whether the applicant is exempt from the travel restrictions when processing a study permit application.

Officers will assess the circumstances surrounding the student’s travel and consider, for example, whether any of the following apply:

  • They are established, residing and studying in Canada. If they are established in Canada, their return is non-discretionary
  • They are expected to begin studying upon arrival after completing their quarantine
  • Their presence in Canada is necessary for their continued participation in the programme (such as in laboratories or workshops)
  • Pursuing online studies is not an option for their school or programme or not possible from their home country (for example, due to internet restrictions or bandwidth limitation)
  • The semester has been cancelled or the person will begin studying later in the year

“A border services officer will make a final determination on the foreign national’s eligibility to enter Canada at the port of entry,” said IRCC.

Canada still working towards supporting international students

Despite these travel restrictions, the Canadian government has recently introduced several measures to support international students.

IRCC’s introduction of the new two-step Canadian study permit approval process will allow international students to start the semester online without a finalised study permit.

It is available to students starting a programme in the fall semester who submit a study permit application before Sept. 15, 2020.

IRCC also announced last week that it is providing a fast-track study permit process for students who have submitted a complete application online to ensure that permits are processed as quickly as possible.

CIC News notes that Canada’s international student population has grown six-fold over the past 20 years. 

The Canadian government research estimates that international students contribute some 22 billion Canadian dollars annually to the country’s economy and help to sustain over 170,000 jobs.

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