Study permit: COVID-19 program delivery

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

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 U.S. 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

Until further notice, IRCC offices will not refuse an application for non-compliance. IRCC officers will continue to request additional supporting documents or necessary actions (such as biometrics and medical examinations) 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 measures in place to provide for expedited processing of study permit applications. The decision to expedite an application due to special circumstances remains at the discretion of unit managers of the responsible migration office and the manager of the responsible processing office in Canada.

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Travelling to Canada

The following foreign nationals who are currently outside Canada are exempt from Canada’s travel restrictions and can travel to Canada if they are travelling for a non-discretionary purpose:

Foreign nationals who had a study permit application approved on or before March 18, 2020 have been sent a letter (push notification) advising them about

The letter also requests that they check with their designated learning institution (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.

Foreign nationals who had a study permit application approved after March 18, 2020 will be sent a letter (push notification) advising them that

Non-optional and non-discretionary purpose of travel

Students who have a valid study permit or were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020 may be exempt from the travel restrictions if they travel for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose. While many Canadian college and university campus locations are closed, classes are generally continuing online. Travel will be deemed discretionary or non-discretionary depending on individual circumstances. IRCC case processing officers will not assess whether the applicant is exempt from the travel restrictions when processing a study permit application. Prior to boarding, air carriers are instructed to conduct an assessment of foreign nationals’ ability to travel to Canada based on Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) guidance for the travel restrictions. However, the decision to allow entry into Canada will rest with CBSA officers.

Border services officers will assess the circumstances surrounding the student’s travel and consider, for example, whether any of the following apply:

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

Processing instructions

IRCC continues to process study permit applications to the extent possible. Officers may make decisions on complete applications and may refuse applications for reasons other than failure to submit missing information or documents.

Once the officer is satisfied that the applicant has met all eligibility and admissibility requirements, they should continue to follow the final decision guidelines, including determining validity periods, and send a passport request to the applicant. On a daily basis, the Communications team will send push notifications to every applicant whose final assessment is approved after March 18, 2020 and whose study permit status is set to “authorized” the day before.

If an application is received for a study permit extension and the passport will expire within the next 6 months, officers will request a new passport from the applicant as per the instructions below. If the applicant is applying for a study permit extension for a duration that is for less than 6 months, then the application can be processed as normal.

Requests for additional documents on open applications

Until further notice, 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, including police certificates, biometric enrolments, passports and medical examinations, as follows:

As an office may send multiple reminders or letters to the applicant, the number of requests or letters sent should be added in a note in the Global Case Management System (GCMS).

Two-stage assessment process for study permit applications

As a facilitation measure to support the fall 2020 intake of international students, the department is implementing a temporary 2-stage assessment process in which applicants will receive a notification from IRCC once they have passed the preliminary eligibility assessment (stage 1 of the 2-stage process) but before they give their biometrics.

Applicants who have submitted their biometrics but have not completed their immigration medical examination or provided a police certificate will also benefit from this process.

The 2-stage assessment process for study permit applications only applies to initial study permit applications and does not apply to in-Canada study permit extension applications.

This temporary 2-stage assessment process for study permit applications intends to provide a certain degree of reassurance to international students who cannot provide all of the required documents or information needed to finalize the assessment of their study permit application.

There is no guarantee that the study permit application will be approved. For example, applicants who pass the preliminary eligibility assessment may still be refused based on eligibility reasons once biometrics are collected. Once services begin to resume, applicants who are able to submit missing information or documents previously requested of them will begin to do so, at which time the application will move into the second stage of processing and officers will process the application to finalization.

Eligibility for 2-stage assessment process

To be eligible for this 2-stage assessment process, applicants must have submitted a new study permit application electronically on or before September 15, 2020, and their program of study must begin in the fall 2020 (or earlier). The applicant must also submit all the documents needed in order for an officer to make a preliminary eligibility assessment. If the client is unable to provide any of the required documents, they will not be eligible to receive a preliminary eligibility assessment until they submit the information or documents requested of them (with the exception of biometrics, medical examinations and police certificates).

Applicants who receive a positive preliminary eligibility assessment will receive a letter in their MyAccount.

Student Direct Stream (SDS)

Note: Clients are advised to submit a study permit application under the SDS only if they can satisfy all eligibility requirements upon submission of their application. Those who are unable to provide the required documents for the SDS upon submitting their application may be advised to submit a study permit application under the regular process or to apply under the SDS once services resume and they are able to submit the required documents.

Study permit eligibility

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Documents

As a temporary facilitation measure, students applying to extend their status in Canada 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.

If a school has or will be closed and is or will no longer be offering programs, but retains its designation status, the Integrity Risk Management Branch (IRMB) will confirm the school designation status with the applicable provincial or territorial authority.

In this scenario, 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.

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 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. Officers cannot issue a study permit if the applicant intends to complete the entire program via distance learning.

Students already in Canada

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 in order to continue their studies in Canada 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 designated learning institution 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 of 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

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. The following note should be entered in GCMS:

CAQ # XXXX automatically renewed until December 31, 2020.

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.

On- and off-campus work authorizations

Student on-campus work authorization

International students who are eligible for on-campus work, including those who have been forced to drop to part-time studies or take a break in their studies due to COVID-19 for the winter, spring and summer 2020 semesters, can continue to work remotely for the employers located within the boundaries of the educational institution at which they are registered. It is recommended that employers provide a teleworking work agreement to the students as confirmation. The on-campus employer can be any of the following:

Student off-campus work authorization

International students who have been forced to drop to part-time studies or take a break in their studies due to COVID-19 for the winter, spring and summer 2020 semesters can continue to work on or off campus. They are still subject to the authorized number of hours they would have been permitted to work as a full-time student.

For instance, full-time students during the winter 2020 semester who were forced to drop to part time and complete their courses via distance learning are authorized to work off campus for up to 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions and full time during the DLI’s regularly scheduled breaks.

IRCC has temporarily removed the condition that allows international students to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions, provided they are working in an essential service or function. This temporary change is in place until August 31, 2020. 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

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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. Applicants should submit a letter of explanation indicating that they are unable to submit the requested documents due to school closure. 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.

Applicants who submit their application before the expiry date of their study permit but without their letter of completion or final transcript are still eligible to work without a work permit until a decision is made on their application, as per paragraph R186(w). Applicants may start working full time as soon as they submit their application. Applicants who need to restore their status are not eligible to work while IRCC processes their application.

Post-graduation work permit eligibility requirements

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

Part-time status

Students may 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 changes 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.

Distance learning in Canada

With regard to post-graduation work permit eligibility, 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 will not be penalized. In other words, as a temporary facilitative measure, students who have completed more than 50%Footnote * of their program of study by distance learning because their classes were moved online due to COVID-19 will remain eligible for the post-graduation work permit program.

Distance learning outside Canada

Due to travel restrictions, IRCC acknowledges that study permit holders or applicants who have been approved for a study permit may be unable to travel to Canada and have to start or continue their program through distance learning abroad although their initial intent was to come to Canada.

Students falling into one of the following categories will remain eligible for the post-graduation work permit if at least 50%Footnote * of their total courses are completed in Canada:

Note: To be eligible for the post-graduation work permit program, students will require a study permit.

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

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. However, for students in the above categories, on a temporary basis, the time spent in distance learning abroad until December 31, 2020 will not be excluded from the time accumulated toward the length of the post-graduation work permit, as long as the applicant submitted a study permit application prior to the start of their program of study, they later become a study permit holder, and at least 50% of their program is completed in Canada.

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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