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.