Study permit: COVID-19 program delivery

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Important: The 2-stage assessment process for initial study permit applications expired on September 15, 2020.

These instructions provide guidance for issuing study permits during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Due to the closures and limited operations of some visa application centres (VAC) and United States Application Support Centers and limited access to IRCC and Service Canada offices, study permit applicants may be unable to

Note: Temporary residents who are in Canada and who would normally be required to provide biometrics will be temporarily exempted from the requirement to provide biometrics.

Learn more: COVID-19 update: New public policy on biometrics collection exemption for temporary residence applicants from within Canada in effect until further notice.

IRCC officers will continue to request additional supporting documents or necessary actions (such as biometrics, medical examinations, police certificates and updated passports) as part of the application process and will keep applications open until documents are received or evidence is provided that action has been taken. Please see more information in the processing section below.

Note: Migration offices overseas and processing centres in Canada are currently working with reduced capacity, which will increase processing times. At this time, there are no special measures in place to provide for expedited processing of study permit applications.

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Travelling to Canada

As of October 20, 2020, international students may be authorized to travel to Canada if attending a designated learning institution (DLI) that

Note: DLIs are expected to provide information to the provinces and territories about the public health readiness of their institution before students arrive. Institutions have been asked to support students in meeting quarantine requirements, help them plan for their transportation to their place of quarantine after they arrive, and provide guidance or assistance in acquiring the necessities of life, including food and medication, during their quarantine.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, travellers entering Canada must follow the rules set out by the emergency orders under the Quarantine Act.

Travellers are prohibited from travelling to and entering Canada if they are symptomatic. Commercial airline restrictions may also prevent travellers from boarding if they are sick. However, Canadians, persons with status under the Indian Act and permanent residents who have COVID-19 symptoms are allowed to return to Canada.

Students are encouraged to travel via the most direct route possible and be aware of rules if they are transiting through airports. The International Air Transport Association’s website has a great tool to see what restrictions and measures are in place internationally.

In addition, all travellers are required to provide specific information upon entry into Canada. The ArriveCAN app enables travellers to submit their information up to 48 hours prior to arrival. It reduces physical contact for a safer, faster border process. The ArriveCAN app is available through the App Store or Google Play.

International students travelling to Canada from outside the United States

As of October 20, 2020, international students who hold a valid Canadian study permit or who received a letter of introduction from IRCC may be authorized to enter Canada from outside of the United States for non-discretionary reasons if they attend a designated learning institution (DLI) with a COVID-19 readiness plan that has been approved by their province or territory.

International students who had a study permit application approved have been sent a letter (push notification) advising the principal applicant or their authorized representative about

The letter also requests that they check with their DLI to make sure their course or study program is still operating. Like all travellers, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, international students who enter Canada will undergo the necessary health checks and must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.

Mandatory documents for students travelling to Canada from outside the United States

Border services officers will ask students to provide additional information to facilitate the immigration process, and students are required to have the following documents ready when arriving in Canada:

Before considering travelling, all travellers arriving in Canada must plan for their mandatory 14-day quarantine period, which starts on the date they arrive. Government of Canada representatives will conduct health screenings at the time of entry to Canada and let people arriving know if they need to quarantine or isolate.

Students will also be asked if they have a suitable place to quarantine, where they will

Students, like all travellers, are strongly encouraged to make housing arrangements for quarantine before arriving in Canada. Students will also be given instructions about the actions they must take under the emergency order and the penalties for non-compliance.

Border services officers will make a final determination on the foreign national’s eligibility to enter Canada at the port of entry.

International students travelling to Canada from the United States

As of October 20, 2020, international students who hold a valid Canadian study permit, who received a letter of introduction from IRCC or who are eligible to apply for a study permit at the port of entry may be authorized to enter Canada from the United States for non-discretionary reasons if they attend a designated learning institution (DLI) with a COVID-19 readiness plan that has been approved by their province and territory.

Foreign nationals who are eligible to apply for a study permit at the port of entry may be able to do so, provided

International students who had a study permit application approved have been sent a letter (push notification) advising them about

The letter also requests that they check with their DLI to make sure their course or study program is still operating. Like all travellers, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, international students who enter Canada will undergo the necessary health checks and must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.

Mandatory documents for students travelling to Canada from the United States

Border services officers will usually ask students to provide additional information to facilitate the immigration process, and students are required to have the following documents ready when arriving in Canada:

Before considering travelling, all travellers arriving in Canada must plan for their mandatory 14-day quarantine period, which starts on the date they arrive. Government of Canada representatives will conduct health screenings at the time of entry to Canada and let people arriving know if they need to quarantine or isolate.

Students will also be asked if they have a suitable place to quarantine, where they will

Students, like all travellers, are strongly encouraged to make housing arrangements for quarantine before arriving in Canada. Students will also be given instructions about the actions they must take under the emergency order and the penalties for non-compliance.

Border services officers will make a final determination on the foreign national’s eligibility to enter Canada at the port of entry.

Non-optional and non-discretionary purpose of travel

Note: The decision to allow entry into Canada will rest with border services officers at a Canadian port of entry.

Students who have been approved for or hold a valid study permit and who are destined to study at a DLI with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by their provincial or territorial government may be able to enter Canada, if they travel for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose. Travel will be deemed discretionary or non-discretionary depending on individual circumstances. Prior to boarding, air carriers are instructed to conduct an assessment of foreign nationals’ ability to travel to Canada based on the Canada Border Services Agency’s guidance for the travel restrictions. Border services officers will assess the circumstances surrounding the student and their accompanying family members’ travel and may consider, for example, whether any of the following apply:

Note: Accompanying family members of international students who are exempt from travel restrictions must also be travelling for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose (that is, to establish themselves in Canada).

Processing instructions

Requests for additional documents on open applications

Officers may continue to request any necessary additional information or documents or impose regulatory requirements for processing in relation to study permit applications in Canada and abroad, such as police certificates, biometric enrolments, passports and medical examinations, as follows:

Study permit eligibility

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Documents

As a temporary facilitation measure, students already in Canada applying to extend their status may submit an application without a letter of acceptance or proof of enrolment from their DLI. In lieu of the letter of acceptance, applicants are advised to submit a letter of explanation indicating that they are unable to submit the requested document due to school closure. When CPC-E is ready to process the application, the documents will be requested by the officer as per the instructions above. Applicants who need to restore their status may also submit an application without their letter of acceptance or proof of enrolment.

Applicants submitting their study permit application outside Canada must provide a valid letter of acceptance from a DLI.

School closures

The vast majority of schools are continuing to offer their programs via distance learning or a mixture of distance learning and in-class learning. However, some schools are closing, cancelling programs or deferring the start date of their programs.

The guidelines pertaining to loss of designation continue to apply to schools that have been de-designated by the applicable provincial or territorial authority. In this scenario, the school will be removed from the public DLI list.

If a school has or will be closed and is or will no longer be offering programs, but retains its designation status, officers should request a new letter of acceptance from the applicant to confirm that they intend to study at a DLI that is in operation. Officers should follow the instructions concerning Requests for additional documents on open applications and allow 90 days for the applicant to respond.

Cancelled programs

If an officer becomes aware that a program of study has been cancelled or the start date has been deferred, before the study permit application is finalized, officers should request a new letter of acceptance from the applicant. Officers should follow the instructions concerning Requests for additional documents on open applications and allow 90 days for the applicant to respond.

Deferred enrolment

After a study permit application is submitted (150 days or less)

If less than 150 days have passed since the intended program start date, officers should continue to process the study permit application.

After a study permit application is submitted (more than 150 days)

If more than 150 days have passed since the intended program start date, officers should request a new letter of acceptance from the applicant to confirm if the student has deferred their enrolment to a later date. Officers should follow the instructions concerning Requests for additional documents on open applications and allow 90 days for the applicant to respond.

Refunds

A refund may be issued if an applicant formally withdraws their application before processing begins. If the application is already in processing (for example, the applicant is sent a document request letter), no refund applies, even if the applicant chooses to withdraw their application.

The officer will refund the biometric fee if the applicant paid the fee but did not complete the biometrics collection.

Distance learning

Under normal circumstances, a study permit cannot be issued to those intending to complete a program of study via distance learning, since physical presence in Canada is not required.

As a consequence of COVID-19, many programs that normally require in-person classes (or in-class learning) have been shifted to an online format. Prospective students who wish to begin a program of study that normally requires in-person attendance at a DLI 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).

The letter of acceptance or a supporting document from the DLI must clearly indicate that the program requires in-person attendance for the student to complete their program of study once the DLI is able to resume classroom operations. The DLI must also indicate a target start date for courses that require the student to be in Canada. Officers should be satisfied that the applicant intends to continue their studies or complete their program of study in Canada once the DLI resumes classroom operations.

However, if there is evidence indicating that the entire program of study has been shifted to distance learning indefinitely and in-person attendance is not essential to complete the program, then the prospective student will not be eligible to apply for a study permit, since physical presence in Canada is not required.

Students already in Canada seeking to extend their stay

For students already in Canada, a valid study permit is required if the program length is more than 6 months. Students already in Canada must apply to extend their study permit to continue their studies in Canada and maintain the temporary resident status even if their program has been shifted to an online format.

Programs of study 6 months or less in duration

As per section 188 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), a foreign national may study in Canada without a study permit if the duration of their program is 6 months or less and will be completed within their stay authorized upon entry. This includes programs of study at a Canadian DLI now offered completely online because of the health and travel restrictions related to COVID-19.

As such, foreign nationals on visitor status who were unable to complete their program of study of 6 months or less within the duration of their initial visitor record, and who are not authorized to apply for a study permit from within Canada as per section R215 (for example, temporary residents who did not complete their prerequisite course), must apply for a visitor extension and discontinue studying, or leave Canada at the end of the validity of their current temporary resident visa. Foreign nationals in this situation are not authorized to continue studying in Canada while on implied status pending the decision on their visitor visa extension, even if the course is now offered completely by distance learning.

Please note that IRCC continues to examine the impacts of COVID-19 on foreign nationals.

Students destined to Quebec

The MIFI has developed facilitative measures to limit the need to obtain a new CAQ.

Postponement of the study program start date from the summer to the fall semester

The MIFI is temporarily exempting students who were issued a CAQ for a program starting in summer 2020 and who have to postpone the beginning of that program until fall 2020 from applying for a new CAQ. This measure does not change the expiry date of the CAQ. Officers can accept a CAQ with a summer start date for a program beginning in the fall. As per normal procedure, the validity of the study permit should be until the expiry date of the CAQ or the applicant’s passport, whichever comes first.

Automatic extension of CAQs

As a second temporary measure, the MIFI is automatically extending the validity of CAQs until December 31, 2020 for all certificates expiring between April 30 and December 31, 2020. This measure does not apply to CAQs that expired prior to April 30, 2020.

Study permit extensions with a CAQ

Students who apply to extend their study permit with a CAQ expiring between April 30 and December 31, 2020 should be issued a study permit valid until December 31, 2020, unless the applicant’s passport expires prior to this date.

For applicants whose program of study will continue after December 31, 2020, if they receive a new CAQ before IRCC is ready to process their application, they should submit their new CAQ using IRCC’s Web form.

Applications submitted without a CAQ or with a CAQ that expired prior to April 30, 2020 should not be refused on that basis. Officers should request a new CAQ as per instructions above.

Initial study permit applications

New study permit applications submitted outside Canada without a CAQ or with an expired CAQ should not be refused on that basis. Processing officers should request a new CAQ as per the instructions above. However, study permits for a new program of study should not be issued with a CAQ that was renewed automatically.

Compliance with study permit conditions

As a consequence of COVID-19, students who were studying in Canada prior to March 18, 2020 or whose programs of study commenced or will commence in the spring, summer or fall 2020 semester and whose programs of study are temporarily shifted to an online format will still be considered compliant with their study permit conditions if they remain enrolled at a DLI and continue to actively pursue their studies online.

If a DLI closes permanently as a consequence of COVID-19, students in Canada should either enrol in a new program of study, change their status or leave Canada. For the purpose of assessing if a student is enrolled and actively pursuing their studies, any time taken to transition to a new DLI and program, change status or leave Canada should not exceed 150 days from the date the school closed. If the student does not intend to enrol in a new program of study and is unable to leave the country, they must apply for a visitor record or a work permit.

If a student is already in Canada studying at a DLI that doesn’t have an approved COVID-19 readiness plan and isn’t listed on the IRCC website, then the student will still be considered compliant with their study permit conditions. However, if the student leaves Canada, then they may not be allowed re-entry until the province or territory has approved the DLI based on its COVID-19 readiness plan and it is listed on IRCC’s website.

Approval of a study permit application processed outside of Canada

Foreign nationals who are physically in Canada and who received a positive decision letter (letter of introduction) on their study or work permit application [IMM 1294 or IMM 1295] processed outside of Canada may request the examination and document issuance required by section 11 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) from within Canada using the IRCC Web form.

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, these foreign nationals can’t leave and re-enter Canada to present their letter of introduction for examination (in other words, they can’t travel to a port of entry to flagpole or travel to another country and return). Therefore, a process has been developed to conduct the examination and issuance of documents required under section A11. This process will be in place until March 31, 2021.

For more information, visit Foreign nationals who are in Canada with a letter of introduction (LOI) after approval of a study or work permit application processed outside of Canada: COVID-19 program delivery

On- and off-campus work authorizations

IRCC had temporarily removed the condition that allowed study permit holders to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions, provided they were working in an essential service or function. This temporary change was effective until August 31, 2020 and has not been extended. As of September 1, 2020, these study permit holders are permitted to work only a maximum of 20 hours per week off campus during an academic session.

International students who worked over 20 hours per week in an essential service or function from March 18, 2020 to August 31, 2020 will not be deemed to have violated their study permit conditions when their eligibility is assessed for future work permit applications.

Services and functions that may be considered essential are included in the government’s Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Officers can refer to the list for information purposes only.

Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP)

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Documents to submit

Due to school closures, many international students may be unable to obtain a letter of completion or final transcript from their DLI. As a temporary facilitation measure, applicants who apply for a post-graduation work permit will be allowed to submit an application without their letter of completion or final transcript. When IRCC processes the application, the documents will be requested by the processing officer as per the above procedures.

Applicants who need to restore their status will also be eligible to apply without their letter of completion or final transcript.

Post-graduation work permit eligibility requirements

Given the impact of COVID-19 on international students and the post-secondary sector, temporary policy changes have been made to post-graduation work permit eligibility requirements for the following groups of students:

Distance learning

Under normal circumstances, all distance-learning courses completed outside Canada are excluded from the time accumulated toward the length of the post-graduation work permit, and 50% of a student’s courses must be completed in Canada and in class.

The following temporary policy changes have been made to better accommodate eligible international students who have completed distance learning in or outside Canada.

In Canada

Students who are studying in Canada and whose classes have been moved online due to COVID-19-related health restrictions will remain eligible for the post-graduation work permit.

Outside Canada

Time spent studying outside of Canada in a post-graduation work permit-eligible program offered by an eligible Canadian institution until April 30, 2021, will be counted toward the overall length of the post-graduation work permit, provided the student completes at least 50%Footnote * of their program of study’s total courses in Canada (either online or in class).

Short-term studies

Students who started short programs (8 to 12 months in length) in the spring, summer or fall 2020 semester may complete their entire program of study outside of Canada and still maintain post-graduation work permit eligibility, provided that they meet all the other applicable program requirements. These students are exempt from the requirement to complete at least 50% of their program of study in Canada and in class. However, time spent studying outside of Canada will only be counted towards the overall length of the post-graduation work permit until April 30, 2021. Any time spent studying outside of Canada after April 30, 2021 will be deducted from the length of the post-graduation work permit.

Program stacking

Students who have enrolled in a program with a start date in the spring, summer or fall 2020 semester, who study outside of Canada up to April 30, 2021, and who graduate from more than one eligible program of study may be able to combine the length of their programs of study when they apply for a post-graduation work permit in the future, as long as 50% of their total studies are completed in Canada. Each program needs to be a minimum of 8 months in duration, and the programs need to be completed from an eligible DLI within 2 years as per current instructions on Determining the length of the post-graduation work permit.

Note: For vocational programs in Quebec, the diploma of vocational studies (DVS) must be at least 900 hours in length, but an attestation of vocational specialization (AVS) can be less than 900 hours in length when submitted in combination with the DVS.

Applicants may have to submit additional documents from the DLI confirming which part of the program was completed in Canada.

Part-time status

Students in or outside of Canada may have been required to put their studies on hold or become part-time students due to course cancellations as a result of public health measures at DLIs. For the winter, spring and summer 2020 semesters, when a student’s status changed from full time to part time due to changes in course delivery at a DLI, their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit will not be impacted.

Work authorization after submitting a post-graduation work permit application

As per paragraph R186(w), graduates who apply for a work permit, such as a post-graduation work permit, before the expiry of their study permit are eligible to work full time without a work permit while waiting for a decision on their application if all of the following apply:

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