March 25, 2020

COVID-19 updates for international students and departments

As the world reacts to COVID-19, we continue to advocate on your behalf with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to ensure that your concerns, and those of your students, are being heard and addressed in a timely manner and with as much flexibility as is possible. Here’s what we’ve been able to ascertain to date:

Regarding travel and border closures:

On Friday evening, March 20, IRCC issued a press release confirming that “exemptions to the air travel restrictions will apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home, and travel by these individuals will be considered essential travel for land border restrictions” and that these exemptions include “international students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020”.   

Regarding work authorization:

Current IRCC guidelines state that courses of study being delivered online on an exceptional basis due to COVID 19 will not affect Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program eligibility. Additionally, we anticipate that international students in Canada who are not able to maintain full-time status during each academic session for reasons related to COVID-19 will still be considered eligible, provided they meet all other program criteria. We are asking that these exceptions also apply to international students taking part or all of their program online from outside of Canada. We are seeking clarification.

Given that COVID-19 is beyond a student’s control, we anticipate that international students who were eligible to work on or off-campus, can continue to do so even if they have been forced to drop to part-time studies or take a break in studies. These students, however, will still be subject to the same number of authorized working hours they would have been permitted had they been full-time students.

Regarding study and work permit processing:

IRCC officials affirm that staff continue to process permits and have extended deadlines for applicants to provide required documentation. However, service delivery has been and will continue to be severely impacted, as many overseas missions have been reduced to essential staff. We continue to advocate for IRCC to remain flexible and consider alternatives means for bio-metric data collection and non-traditional means to demonstrate language proficiency through both the regular and Student Direct Stream.  

For more information, and to remain up to date, check How COVID-19 is affecting business at IRCC regularly.

Continuing business

We recognize that many of you are also involved in CICan projects both domestically and internationally. We are working with funders to ensure flexibility in meeting deadlines and are in regular conversation with the relevant federal departments. We have also recommended that the launch of the Outbound Student Mobility program be postponed until the fall.    

In the meantime, program business is continuing with a new Request for Proposals for our Young Africa Works: Youth Employability through TVET project in Kenya with the Mastercard Foundation. 

This is a difficult and uncertain time for Canada’s international education industry. Rest assured that we will continue to advocate for as much flexibility as possible and provide updates as best we can.