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Travel Restrictions Eased for International Students

Posted on 03/08/2020

If you’re an international student who has a study permit but have been unable to travel to Canada because of travel restrictions affected by coronavirus/COVID-19, you should take note of the following:

You may now be allowed to travel to Canada to start or to continue your studies if your travel back to Canada is deemed to be:

Non-discretionary, meaning you were already living in Canada and attending a designated learning institution on a valid study permit and you have to return in order to complete your studies, Or

Non-optional, meaning that you do NOT have the option of studying online because:

  • Your school in Canada does not offer an online option for the courses you are taking, or
  • Your home country or country of residence abroad does not have sufficient bandwidth or does not allow direct unrestricted access needed to study online at your school in Canada.

As well, you will have to meet the following requirements to be exempt from travel restrictions:

  • You are an international student with a valid study permit, or
  • You were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, or
  • You are travelling from the United States.

Because travel restrictions remain in place for most people who might otherwise travel to Canada, you will have to be interviewed by a border services officer at your port of entry who will try to determine the following:

  • Whether you are already living in Canada. If the answer is yes, then your travel back to Canada to study will be considered non-discretionary and you should be allowed in (assuming you fulfill the remaining conditions)
  • Whether you have a plan that will allow you to quarantine yourself for 14 days immediately upon arriving back in Canada
  • Whether you will begin your studies as soon as your self-quarantine period is over
  • Whether you need to be physically present in Canada for your program of studies (are there laboratory projects or workshops involved for example?)
  • Whether pursing your studies online from abroad is not possible due to your Canadian school not offering your courses online or due to restrictions and/or limitations in your home country or country of residence. If online studies are not an option then your travel is considered non-optional and you should be allowed back in assuming you meet all the other conditions.

When you travel back to Canada please remember to bring the following with you:

  • Your valid study permit, or
  • Your Port of Entry Letter of Introduction for your study permit, if you are arriving from the United States: this is a letter you will have received from IRCC indicating that your study permit has been approved although it is not a study permit, or
  • Your Port of Entry Letter of Introduction for your study permit that shows you were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020 if you are from any other country.

The final decision on whether to allow you back into Canada to resume or start your studies will be made by the border services officer at your port of entry. Please note that you can contact the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) here, in order to get more information about returning to Canada as an international student.

While nothing related to Covid-19 can be taken with absolute certainty, there are some encouraging signs.

  • An unprecedented international effort to produce a vaccine as well as to produce medication that can lessen the effects of the virus are producing optimistic early-stage results.
  • As testing becomes more available and more data is assembled, governments including public health officials should have the information necessary to plan safe and orderly re-openings of the economy.
  • The importance of re-opening schools at all levels from pre-kindergarten to universities has been clear for some time as parents need to be able to get back to work especially in jobs that can’t be done effectively from home.
  • Thus, allowing international students to return to Canada is a key step towards re-opening all schools and will help provide data and policy ideas towards that goal.

Canada’s unprecedented period of prosperity over the last decades has been in no small part due to our country’s immigration policy that has been rigorous and yet generous and has brought talented, hard-working people from around the globe who have and are contributing to Canada’s economy and society.

And in terms of Canada’s post-secondary institutions, they are in large part sustained by their substantial component of international students who receive a world-class education as well as a wonderful way to learn about Canada and its diverse cultural mosaic.

Canada’s international students are Canada’s future. They will help staff and create the businesses that drive the economy forward in the years to come just as key entrepreneurs who moved to Canada have already done. In Australia – whose immigration policies are similar to Canada’s – immigrants reportedly make up over 50% of doctors. In Canada, how many skilled professionals come from abroad? Do you use Zoom? I do almost every day. Would you like to guess what country the guy who founded the company comes from?

There are arguments to be made about ensuring the interests and safety of your country. Keeping talented people out of your country is a great way of doing exactly the opposite.

This means that easing travel restrictions for international students is not just a welcome step towards a full and ordered re-opening of Canada to the world, you could say it’s non-optional.

Posted in News Tips and tagged Student Visa, Study Permit, Travel to Canada

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