As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge setback in several industries, this didn’t just end there as it has affected numerous lives hindering their study and general progress as humans.
All things being equal, international students in their thousands typically come to Canada to further their studies. But, since 2020 this number has significantly reduced and as of now, things are not quite back to normal.
Since things are not yet back to normal and lots of students still need to travel for studies in Canada, we have curated a comprehensive guide detailing everything international students should know about study permits and studying in Canada in general during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Latest COVID-19 news for international students
The latest news as regards the global pandemic for international students is the recently announced exemptions for fully vaccinated travelers: As of 5th July, Canada officially ended the compulsory 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers who are fully vaccinated, although special measures are still put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Similarly, on the 9th of August, the Canadian government began letting non-essential travelers from the United States who’re fully vaccinated enter the country. The similar exemptions would be quickly extended to fit all other countries in the world from 7th September.
It’s important to note that international students have since been exempt from Canada’s travel restrictions and they were allowed to gain entrance into the country throughout most of the pandemic.
What is the requirements for international students to enter Canada at this time?
A measure put in place since last October, allowed international students attending a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) which has been approved by the necessary body for having a pandemic readiness plan were given the leeway to enter Canada.
For an international student to gain entrance into the country, they must possess a valid study permit or a letter of introduction that states that they have been approved for a study permit.
So, those international students who match these criteria have to follow an exact special measure. The measure followed solely depends on if the student is full or not vaccinated.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers to Canada: Special travel requirements
First, make sure that you are permitted to enter Canada. If you are eligible to gain entrance into Canada at this time, you would need to follow these below-stated measures:
- Entering by air — Pre-departure negative COVID-19 test: You must show a negative Covid-19 test as far as you’re above 5 years old which must be carried out not more than 72 hours before you boarded your flight. A positive test result from 14 to 90 days before boarding is also accepted ( Getting this test result is solely the responsibility of the treveler).
- Entering by air — COVID-19 testing and mandatory hotel stay upon arrival: You are required to take the COVID-19 PCR test immediately you arrive. Before, as an air traveller, you had to undergo a compulsory stay at a quarantine hotel, but this has since ended.
- Entering by land at the U.S. border — COVID-19 testing requirements: Every non-essential traveller who wishes to cross the land borders into Canada from the U.S ought to mandatorily present a negative COVID-19 PCR test that was done in the United States within 72 hours of crossing the border (or a positive test taken 14 to 90 days prior to arrival). Also all individuals entering Canada through the land borders would manadatorily take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, in additional to another test near the end of their 14-day mandatory quarantine period.
- All travellers — mandatory 14-day quarantine: Every individual gaining entrance into Canada would be mandated to enter a 14-day quarantine. Consequently, an isolation plan must be prepared before their arrival in Canada showing specific details of where and how you would complete your quarantine. It is important to note that breaking quarantine would result in fines and possibly jail time.
- All travellers — ArriveCAN app: Every individual travelling into Canada via air ought to compulsorily use the ArriveCAN app to submit all the required information regarding to their contact information, quarantine plan, and corona virus self-assessment.
Fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada: Travel requirements
As mentioned above, ensure you are eligible to enter Canada and thereafter follow the below steps.
For a traveler to be regarded as a fully vaccinated traveler, he/she must have received the full dosage of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada or a mixture of accepted vaccines. Currently, Canada accepts four known vaccines:
- Johnson & Johnson.
If for any reason you’ve only been vaccinated with any other vaccine, you would be considered ineligible for the exemption at this time.
- Pre-arrival negative COVID-19 test: You must show a negative Covid-19 test as far as you’re above 5 years old which must be carried out not more than 72 hours before you boarded your flight. For those entering through the U.S. land border, you must take the Covid-19 test in the U.S within 72 hours before arriving at the border. A positive test result from 14 to 90 days before boarding is also accepted ( Getting this test result is solely the responsibility of the treveler).
- Proof of vaccination submitted via ArriveCAN app: Individual travelling into Canada ought to mandatorily use the ArriveCAN app to submit their their proof of vaccination and other required details.
- On-arrival COVID-19 test: A new randomized testing system was introduced by the Canadian government on the 9th of August 9, 2021. this system is being put in place for fully vaccinated travellers. This systems entails the random selection of fully vacinnated travellers who are then tested, only those selected takes the test.
- Quarantine plan: Although fully vaccinated travellers are not included in the quarantine requirement, every fully vaccinate travellers ought to still mandatorily prepare a quarantine plan in case border officers say they aren’t eligible to be exempted or they test positive during their COVID-19 on-arrival test.
NOTE: All children below age 12 would be exempted from Canada’s quarantine measures, but would still need to follow certain special measures put in place for them, like not attending schools, daycares, and camps.
What is considered “non-optional / non-discretionary travel” for international students?
International student’s travel into Canada since October 2020 has been regarded as essential (non-discretionary) if their DLI is on the list of the approved institutions and if they possess either a letter of introduction stating they’ve been approved for a study permit or a valid study permit itself. As a student, traveling to Canada isn’t considered essential (non-discretionary) if:
- Your study program has been suspended or cancelled.
- You are entering Canada for any other reason but to study
Is Canada still processing study permit applications?
The answer is Yes as Canada is still actively processing study permit applications. But the IRCC has announced that lots of immigration applications are experiencing processing delays, so you’ve to be patient.
Consequently, Canada started a new two-step process specifically for study permit applicants. This process would enable some international students to start their Canadian studies without receiving final approval on their study permit.
How does Canada’s new two-step approval process for study permits work?
Under normal circumstances, international students residing outside of Canada must submit a fully completed study permit application and receive the approval letter prior to traveling to Canada to beginning their studies.
After receiving the approval letter, students can travel to Canada and then activate their study permit at any Canadian port of entry (POE). The newly adopted two-step process allows students to start their studies remotely, using distance learning, while they get something like a semi-approval on their study permit.
Approval-in-principle & distance learning Study permit applicants ought to start by submitting their applications for their study permit, irrespective of if they are not able to get some of the required documentation.
The new two-step process states that study permit applicants can submit their study permit applications without the below-listed documents:
- Medical exam.
- Police certificates.
- Original travel documents.
However, the applicants must still submit:
- An acceptance Letter from a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada.
- Their Proof of funds.
- Their Proof of eligibility for the study permit apart from documents that are unavailable due to the COVID-19.
- Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) (Only for institutions in Quebec).
On the condition that an applicant meets every criterion to deem his application eligible aside from missing any of the aforementioned documents, the immigration officer would issue that applicant an “approval-in-principle.” and with that document, the applicant is authorized to start their Canadian studies from outside the country.
What if I can’t get all the documents required for my study permit application?
As aforementioned, applicants for study permits can submit an incomplete application if they can’t get or submit one of the below-listed documents due to COVID-19:
- Medical exam.
- Police certificates.
- Original travel documents.
Consequently, there won’t be a refusal of a study permit application if the above documents are the only thing missing as a result of COVID-19. Rather the two-step process shall be fine in play.
Can I still apply for my study permit via the Student Direct Stream (SDS)?
You are allowed to submit but only on the conditions that your application through the Student Direct Stream (SDS) is entirely complete without missing a document. On the flip side, regular study permits are allowed to submit applications with missing documents because of the COVID-19. So as a resident of an SDS-participating country who cannot obtain all necessary documents, you can only apply through the regular study permit stream.
If I studied online will I still be able to apply for my Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)?
Yes as of 13th of February 2021, the government of Canada announced a new rule allowing “international students to entirely complete their program online from their home country and still be eligible for a PGWP.” These requirements apply solely to “international students enrolled in a PGWP-eligible program, and meet every other PGWP criteria.”
What if I submitted my study permit application, but my school in Canada then cancelled classes or closed down?
In this case, an immigration officer would issue a request for a brand new letter of acceptance, which would give you the opportunity to apply for your study permit under an entirely different program.
I am a study permit holder in Canada. Can I work for more than 20 hours weekly during COVID-19?
No, you can’t as the temporary measure that was put in place for students working in essential services is no longer in place.
I am a study permit holder in Canada, but I reduced or paused my studies due to COVID-19. Can I still work?
The answer is Yes, you can still work. Nevertheless, students ought to still abide by the conditions given to them on their study permits, this includes hours they are permitted to work per week. Students who are eligible for on-campus jobs may continue to work for their on-campus employer remotely.
How has COVID-19 affected international students in Quebec?
Really none, as every post-secondary institution in Quebec was placed on the approved list of institutions with a pandemic readiness plan. Although, the province of Quebec did introduce its own province-specific set of special measures to help international students during COVID-19.
I applied for my study permit from outside of Canada, but I’m inside of Canada with my approval letter. Can I activate my study permit?
Yes as there’s a new process that has since taken effect and would last till 31th of August 2021 just as far you have got an approved study permit and have a valid Letter of Introduction (LOI). This new process might be extended.