International students make immense cultural and social contributions to Canada, and generate more than $21 billion in economic activity. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, has made a number of temporary policy changes to support and reassure international students and learning institutions.
As the fall season is fast approaching, the Minister has announced additional measures to support international students beginning a new program online this fall with a Canadian learning institution, if their institution is offering the program online, so that they can pursue their education while ensuring everyone’s safety.
These changes will give students more certainty about their ability to enter Canada once travel and health restrictions are eased in Canada and their own home countries. They mean that students will be eligible to work in Canada after graduation, even if they need to begin their studies online from overseas this fall.
The changes will continue Canada’s reputation as a premier destination for international students and demonstrate the importance of the international student program and the contributions international students make to Canada.
The new measures include
- providing priority study-permit processing for students who have submitted a complete application online, to ensure that permits are processed as quickly as possible
- allowing students to count the time spent pursuing their studies online abroad toward their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit, if they have submitted a study permit application and if at least 50% of their program is completed in Canada
- providing reassurances to international students who cannot submit all of the documentation needed to complete processing of their applications, and who choose to pursue programs through distance learning, by implementing a temporary 2-stage approval process
The temporary process will allow applicants to count the time spent studying online abroad towards their post-graduation work permit once they receive an approval-in-principle, as long as they are able to satisfy all requirements and receive the full approval of their study permit application at a later date.
As services begin to reopen, applicants will be required to submit remaining documents and receive an approved study permit before being allowed to travel to Canada.
This process is available to students starting a program in the fall semester who submit a study permit application before September 15, 2020. This measure will reassure students that they can enrol and begin their studies this fall online, even when they are not able to submit all required documentation due to pandemic-related closures.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of challenges worldwide, Canada’s whole-of-government approach is aimed at protecting the health of Canadians while minimizing the economic and social impact of restrictions. With these changes, it is expected that international students will continue contributing to the health and vitality of Canada and the local communities where they study from coast to coast to coast.
It is important for prospective students to note that commencing their studies online from abroad following approval-in-principle of a study permit application is not a guarantee that they will receive a full approval of their study permit application, or be authorized to pursue their studies in Canada.
It is still possible that an applicant could receive a negative final decision on their study permit based on factors such as inadmissibility for criminality or security reasons, and the inability to predict how the COVID-19 situation and any associated travel restrictions will evolve.
“The pandemic has had a significant impact on international students and the Canadian institutions and communities that host them. This is why we have implemented a series of measures to support them. We value the contribution of young people seeking a high-quality education in Canada, and we’re making every effort to minimize how current challenges affect their plans and dreams for the future.”
– The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
- In 2019, Canada hosted over 650,000 international students at the post-secondary education level.
- More than 58,000 former international students have become Canadian permanent residents.
- The temporary stages for approval are approval-in-principle and eligibility/admissibility:
- Applicants who pass the approval-in-principle stage—which includes showing that they have been accepted at a Canadian learning institution, have the available funds and are otherwise eligible for the study permit—will be notified of a first-step approval.
- Once the approval-in-principle is issued, applicants can begin studying online abroad and have that time count towards their post-graduation work permit, provided they meet other criteria and that they eventually receive full approval of their study permit.
- An applicant will receive final approval once they have met all eligibility and admissibility requirements, including submitting biometrics and necessary documents such as an immigration medical exam and a police certificate. Only once a final approval is received will an applicant be able to travel to Canada.