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.

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Applicants must provide a letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution (DLI) for study permit extensions and initial study permit applications. Applicants who need to restore their status must also submit an application with their letter of acceptance or proof of enrolment.

Applications may be refused if clients do not provide a letter of acceptance. Please visit General processing measures: COVID-19 program delivery for more information.

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.

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 refer to General processing measures: COVID-19 program delivery

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 refer to General processing measures: COVID-19 program delivery

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. A new letter of acceptance is not required.

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.

If clients are unable to provide a new letter of acceptance and have not provided an explanation with their application stating that they are affected by service disruptions due to COVID-19, officers may use their discretion to either grant an extension to submit the new letter of acceptance or make a final decision with the information on file.

Please visit General processing measures: COVID-19 program delivery for more information.

Refunds

A refund may be issued if an applicant formally withdraws their application before processing begins. If processing of the application has already been started (for example, the applicant has been 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, as physical presence in Canada would be required.

As a result 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).

For information on the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP), including temporary policy changes to better accommodate eligible international students who have completed distance learning in or outside Canada, please visit Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP): COVID-19 program delivery.

The letter of acceptance or a supporting document from the DLI must clearly indicate that the program normally requires in-person attendance but, due to the impacts of COVID-19 and the current travel restrictions, the program has shifted to an online format.

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 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 record extension and discontinue studying, or leave Canada at the end of the validity of their initial visitor record. Foreign nationals in this situation are not authorized to continue studying in Canada while on implied status pending the decision on their visitor record extension, even if the course is now offered completely by distance learning.

Under current travel restrictions, foreign nationals who are study permit exempt under paragraph R188(1)(c) (those who are taking short-term courses) are not considered to be travelling for a non-discretionary purpose and are prohibited entry to Canada unless they apply for and obtain a study permit for a DLI with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by its province or territory.

For more information, please visit Students – Travel to Canada: COVID-19 program delivery.

Students destined to Quebec

Important: The Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) ended the automatic extension of Quebec Acceptance Certificates (CAQs) on December 31, 2020.

Students who would like to extend their study permit or begin studies in Quebec after December 31, 2020, must submit a new application for a CAQ to the MIFI and a new application for a study permit to IRCC.

Under current travel restrictions, foreign nationals who are study permit exempt under paragraph R188(1)(c) (those who are taking short-term courses) are not considered to be travelling for a non-discretionary purpose and are prohibited entry to Canada unless they apply for and obtain a study permit for a DLI with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by its province or territory. Foreign nationals destined to Quebec are exempt from the CAQ requirement when they enrol in a program or course lasting 6 months or less. Therefore, students are not required to submit a CAQ with their study permit application for short-term study.

Compliance with study permit conditions

As a consequence of COVID-19, students whose programs of study have been 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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