travel to Canada
Canada introduced travel exemptions for international students as long as it is safe to do so, and if it receives confirmation from respective provinces and territories, as well as from DLIs. Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

Will international students be able to travel to Canada soon? 

According to a letter obtained by CIC News, the country may ease travel restrictions for international students in time for the fall 2020 semester.

The undated letter is signed by Canada’s immigration minister Marco Mendicino and health minister Patty Hajdu.

It aims to engage in a dialogue with Canada’s provincial and territorial governments and designated learning institutions (DLIs) about ways to safely welcome more international students to Canada in the coming months.

DLIs are schools including colleges, universities and other educational institutions approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students.

Under the Canadian constitution, there is no ministry or department of education at the federal level; provincial governments have exclusive responsibility for all levels of education. 

As such, the federal government must consult with the provinces and territories to get their input when making a decision on international students.

CIC News explains that the letter does not necessarily mean that Canada will exempt more international students from its current travel restrictions anytime soon. However, it strongly suggests that Canada will introduce new exemptions for international students as long as it is safe to do so. This will depend on respective provinces and territories, as well as DLIs confirming that they are equipped to welcome more international students.

What the letter details and how it affects students who want to travel to Canada

In the letter, both ministers note “we are confident that all levels of government in Canada recognise the importance of the international student sector to learning institutions and communities across Canada”.

They added that before they can consider opening their borders to new international students and their immediate family members, they must “collectively commit to and adopt a coordinated, clear, and well-communicated approach to support the health and safety of students and the Canadian public”.

The ministers note that the federal government will be issuing guidance on how the country can welcome international students. 

The guidance will outline expectations for students, governments and DLIs in supporting this objective, and may be revised if the situation changes.

The ministers asked recipients to confirm whether their jurisdiction is ready to host a new cohort of international students and their immediate family members by July 24, 2020. 

The current situation in Canada

Currently, international students from countries other than the US 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”. 

New guidance on IRCC’s website on Friday, July 24, 2020 exempts US students from travel restrictions, but they must still meet certain criteria to enter Canada.

Canada has introduced several policies to support international students during COVID-19, such as a new two-step Canadian study permit approval process which will allow international students to start the semester online without a finalised study permit.

International students can also study online and have that time count towards their Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) eligibility. 

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