Students – Eligibility: 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.
On this page
- School closures
- Cancelled programs
- Deferred enrolment
- Distance learning
- Programs of study 6 months or less in duration
- Students destined to Quebec
- Compliance with study permit conditions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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