Ottawa is relaxing Canada study permit rules for international students for the coming school year to allow them to begin their courses online from their home countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government has introduced a new 2-step process for students starting this fall who may have to begin their courses online due to coronavirus restrictions.
The process involves approval in principle for candidates beginning their studies online, with full approval granted at a later date when the candidate arrives in Canada.
Canada’s Border Services Agency has been advised to only let students back into the country if they are:
- Already established, residing and studying in Canada;
- Expected to begin studying upon arrival after completing their quarantine;
- Required to be in Canada for their continued participation in the program of study or pursuing online studies is not an option for their school or program from their home country, or;
- Scheduled to start studying later in the year because the school semester has been cancelled.
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Under normal circumstances, the Canadian government refuses to issue study permits to students planning to take a program through distance education because that usually means they don’t need to be in the country.
The federal government is making an exception this year to allow students to begin their studies online in their home countries. Students can then come to Canada and study at universities and colleges once travel restrictions are lifted.
“Prospective students who wish to begin a program of study that normally requires in-person attendance at a (college or university) are advised to apply for a study permit before commencing their studies online, as the program of study may still require the student to be in Canada in the future (subject to travel restrictions),” states a government update.
International students planning to come to Canada for a program that will involve distance learning need to have a letter of acceptance or a supporting document from the school clearly indicating the program requires in-person attendance for the student to complete their program of study once classroom operations resume. That letter also needs to have a target start date for those classes.
Students from other countries will not be able, however, to get study permits for those programs that are now completely online and do not require them to be in Canada.
The province of Quebec is also giving international students a break. Those students whose programs were to be held during the summer but were postponed to the fall because of the pandemic will still be able to work on campus with their existing Quebec Acceptance Certificate, usually referred to as a CAQ. That province’s Ministry of Immigration, Francisation and Integration is automatically extending these CAQs which had expiry dates between Apr. 30 and Dec. 31 to the end of this calendar year.
In its latest update, Ottawa also says eligibility for Post-Graduation Work Permits will not be affected by distance learning.
The time spent in distance education from outside Canada does not usually count towards the length of the work permits.
But, here too, Canada is giving international students a break. Those students who were already studying in Canada and whose classes were moved online due to the travel and health restrictions introduced due to COVID-19 won’t be penalized with regard to their PGWP eligibility.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is also recognizing that a lot of students who wanted to come to Canada had to start their programs online from their home countries due to the current travel restrictions.
But those students will still be eligible for the PGWP if at least 50 per cent of their total program of study is completed in Canada.
- Study permit holders who had already begun their studies in Canada, but left Canada and are continuing their courses online from their home country, and;
- Applicants who have been approved for a study permit to begin a program in the spring, summer or fall 2020 semester, and who will begin their program online from their home country instead of trying to travel to Canada at this time.
These students may, however, have to submit additional documents from the education institution offering the distance learning to confirm which part of the program was completed in Canada.
Although distance-learning courses completed outside Canada are usually excluded from the time accumulated towards the length of the PGWP, that will not be the case during the pandemic and through to the end of this year.