Canadian Immigration News

The Impact of Covid-19 on International Students Who Want to Enter Canada

5.75 minute read
"The global pandemic indiscriminately affected both temporary and permanent visa applications for Canada. Therefore, international students were as much affected as temporary workers and immigrants. Many international students with approved study permits had to study remotely due to the pandemic. They were restricted from entering Canada until October 2020, when the border was partially opened for international students with a Covid-19 readiness plan, in addition to a letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Jul 7, 2021
young female student looking shocked my visa source
Begin your immigration journey now
Click and fill out a free online assessment to see how we can help you. It takes less than 1 minute to fill out.
Free Assessment
Call and speak to our team, so that they can book a time with a licensed immigration professional who will answer all your questions.
Call Us Now
Recommended For You
Author info:

The global pandemic indiscriminately affected both temporary and permanent visa applications for Canada. Therefore, international students were as much affected as temporary workers and immigrants. Many international students with approved study permits had to study remotely due to the pandemic. They were restricted from entering Canada until October 2020, when the border was partially opened for international students with a Covid-19 readiness plan, in addition to a letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). 

Even with a temporary study permit, if the applicant’s presence was not mandated for the study program, then they were required to start their course remotely from their home country. Many academic institutions in Canada were affected due to these restrictions as there was a decline in new admissions from international students. It is especially troubling since many institutions in Canada rely on a specific number of international students for financial reasons. 

The number of international students in Canada has been steadily increasing. In 2019, there were an estimated 830,000 international students compared to 721,000 international students in 2018. International students contributed $21.6 billion to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019. 

Was Online Learning for International Students Who Couldn’t Study in Canada Successful?

Canada’s educational institutions managed to completely shift their learning programs to an online space within 10 days of the border restrictions imposed in March 2020. 

Shifting 1.4 million students to virtual classrooms in a matter of 10 days is no small feat. While some schools had prior online learning spaces, many had to adapt at a moment’s notice to ensure that international students could start their study programs on time and safely, from the comfort of their homes anywhere in the world.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced many temporary public policies to help international students residing in the country. To this day, the IRCC is continuing to introduce many temporary public policies to help and support the international students while they are away from their home country at the time of a pandemic. 

The following temporary public policies have been introduced by the IRCC:

  • International Students enrolled in 2 study programs at a DLI are allowed to complete 50% of their entire programs combined online
  • International students enrolled in a study program that started before May 2020 may continue their program online until April 30, 2021. If they continue their studies online after the set date, then the number of months after this date will be deducted from their Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)
  • International students enrolled in a short-term study program (less than 8 months) that started between May 2020- September 2020 can complete their entire program online 

These public policies were introduced after international students expressed their concerns about not being able to meet the eligibility requirements for a PGWP after their graduation. To be eligible for a PGWP, international students must study as full-time students in Canada for at least 8 months. 

How Can International Students Come to Canada During the Pandemic?

International students enrolled at a DLI with an approved Covid-19 readiness plan are allowed to travel to Canada. This means that their university has started in-person classes. Now, with an approved study permit, an international student must present a negative Covid-19 test result, have a 14-day mandatory quarantine plan to enter Canada. They must also show proof of booking at a registered government hotel for a 3-day mandatory quarantine stay and proof that their presence is mandated to start their study program. 

Mandated presence has been a relief for many international students as the purpose of enrolling in a Canadian university is not just for a degree but to experience life in Canada, to connect with a new community and build up your network. 

What About International Graduates That Have a PGWP?

The IRCC has implemented another temporary public policy for international graduates with a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This policy will allow international graduates to renew their PGWP. Originally, a PGWP is only issued once, for 3 years and it can not be renewed.

This new policy will allow international graduates to renew their PGWP until July 27, 2021, considering the following requirements are met:

  1. Their current PGWP expired on or after January 30, 2020, or will expire within 4 months of their date of application for a renewal
  2. They were residing in Canada on January 27, 2021, when the policy was implemented and have stayed ever since
  3. They must either: 
  • Be a temporary resident with a valid PGWP, visitor record or another permit, or
  • Have already applied for a renewal for their temporary residence status, or
  • Have applied to restore their temporary residence status at the same time as renewing their PGWP
  1. They have a valid passport

The renewed PGWP will be issued for 18 months or until their passport expires. Therefore, it's best to check the expiration date of your passport before applying for a renewal.

What About International Students Employed As Essential Workers In Canada? 

In April 2020, the IRCC announced the removal of the restrictions on international students to work only a limited 20 hours per week (part-time). This was done to allow students employed as essential workers to work maximum hours and help the Canadian government’s response to the pandemic. This temporary policy allowed essential workers on a study permit to work full-time without requiring a work permit.

How Was the Processing of Study Permit Applications Affected During the Pandemic?

Given that immigration systems around the world were affected by the pandemic, processing times naturally increased for study permit applications during the pandemic. Study permit applications from African and African-French-speaking countries were the most affected due to the limited number of visa offices in these particular countries.

Countries like India and Pakistan were the least affected as the maximum number of study permit applications come from these countries. It has been observed that the refusal rate from African and African-French-speaking countries is also the highest compared to India and Pakistan. The visa office in Kenya has the highest refusal rate for study permit applications.

The refusal rate from African-French-speaking countries has affected the number of international students in Quebec. 25% of the Canadian population resides in Quebec and it has its own immigration system. To study in Quebec, you must first obtain a Certificate of Acceptance (CAQ) from the Quebec government before applying for a study permit to the federal government. This extra hurdle discourages many international students from coming to Quebec for further studies.

What About International Students Who Want to Immigrate to Canada?

On April 14, 2021, the IRCC introduced 6 new immigration pathways for English and French-speaking temporary foreign workers in healthcare and non-healthcare occupations and international students. While the immigration streams for English-speaking candidates had a visa cap, there was no such visa cap for French-speaking candidates.

These policies were implemented on May 6, 2021, and included the following: 

Questions About Immigration? My Visa Source Has Answers.
My Visa Source stays updated on all immigration news and announcements across Canada and the United States, including sudden changes in government law. Our legal solutions help individuals, families, businesses and investors from North America and around the globe.
Get The Personalized Help That You Need and Deserve!
Securing personalized legal help is quick and simple. Begin with our one-minute online immigration assessment form or call us toll-free at 1-888-509-1987. Book a personal consultation to speak with an award-winning immigration lawyer either in person, over the telephone, or through a video conference. We're open 6am-9pm PST & EST, 7 days a week and are ready for in person, phone, and video consultations.
Canadian Flag
Latest Articles from Immigration Magazine