The Government of Canada recognizes that international students provide tremendous social, cultural and economic benefits to campuses and communities across Canada.
International students contribute over $22.3B per year to the Canadian economy – greater than exports of auto parts, lumber or aircraft.
International graduates are also a source of key talent to help support Canada’s future economic growth and counteract the country’s aging demographic.
The Government of Canada is committed to the success of the international student program and will continue to adapt and respond to the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Study permit processing
The Department has met its spring 2021 commitment by processing over 99% of complete study permit applications received before May 15 in time for the fall 2021 semester, in order to facilitate enrollment.
The Department will continue to finalize complete applications, and proactively communicate with applicants who are able to submit biometrics/medicals where visa application centres (VACs) are open.
We understand that processing times are a concern for students, our partners, and stakeholders. Recent increases in study permit applications exceeded our projections and we are working internally to address these increases.
COVID-19 Temporary changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWP)
Through the pandemic, the Department has made temporary policy changes to encourage students to continue pursuing their Canadian programs of study.
In November 2021, the Department announced an extension to temporary measures on distance learning and the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program. These special measures allow international students to complete up to 100% of their studies at a Canadian designated learning institution online from outside Canada and remain eligible for a PGWP. Studies completed online from abroad between spring 2020 and August 31, 2022, count toward the length of a PGWP.
This extension will support the international education sector in adjusting to ongoing border measures in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. The extension will also provide international students and designated learning institutions with time to adapt to the transition back to the original PGWP policies on distance learning.
Temporary policy changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program and distance learning
Under normal circumstances, 50% of a program of study at a Canadian designated learning institute must be completed in Canada and in class and time spent studying from outside Canada is not counted towards the length of a post-graduation work permit.
Temporary policy changes have been made to ensure international students can remain eligible for the PGWP if they study in Canada or outside Canada via distance learning:
Students who are studying in Canada and whose classes have been moved online due to the pandemic will remain eligible for the PGWP. There is no specific end date to these temporary policy changes.
On November 26, 2021, the Government of Canada announced an extension to August 31, 2022 to temporary measures which allow students enrolled in a PGWP-eligible program to complete up to 100% of their studies online from outside Canada, and have them count towards PGWP eligibility and length. These measures apply to all programs undertaken and ongoing between March 2020 and the summer 2022 semester. The measures end on August 31, 2022, and time spent studying outside of Canada after this date will not count toward the length of the PGWP.
This extension will: support the international education sector in adjusting to the recent border measures announced this fall; ensure we remain a destination of choice for international students; and provide international students and designated learning institutions with time to adapt to the transition back to the original PGWP policies on distance learning.
The original distance learning policies, which allow for 50% of studies being distance learning, provide greater integration opportunities for graduates destined to the labour market, and better facilitates opportunities for potential permanent residence.
Effective January 15, 2022, international students aged 18 years and older will only be permitted entry to Canada if fully vaccinated. International students under the age of 18 are exempt from this measure and may be permitted entry even if unvaccinated or partially vaccinated when destined to a designated learning institution with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan.
Moving forward, each traveller should ensure they are eligible for entry. Travellers will have the responsibility to verify the latest information through the Travel Wizard to see if they are eligible to enter Canada, and leverage the ArriveCAN app to submit their vaccination details.
Temporary public policy for former students in Canada with expired or expiring post-graduation work permits
On January 8, 2021, the Department announced a new temporary public policy to facilitate the issuance of open work permits with durations up to 18 months to foreign nationals in Canada with an expired or expiring PGWP. The public policy was open to applications from January 27, 2021 to July 27, 2021.
The additional open work permit provided current and former PGWP holders with additional time to acquire required work experience to qualify for permanent residence programs, the ability to support themselves in Canada, and the opportunity to help fill Canadian labour market needs. This temporary public policy also recognized that former students are an important pool of future permanent residents that will help Canada’s economic recovery as the pandemic recedes.
Temporary public policy for granting permanent residency to recent international graduates from a Canadian Institution
In May 2021, the Department launched a temporary pathway to facilitate the granting of permanent residence for foreign nationals in Canada, outside of Quebec, with a recent credential from a Canadian post-secondary institution.
Intake to the pathway closed shortly after opening when the intake cap of 40,000 spaces was reached. Altogether, over 47,000 applications were received as due to a system glitch over 7,000 were not tallied while the cap was still open and were subsequently added.
In recognition of the importance of Francophone immigration to communities outside Quebec, an uncapped parallel pathway was established as part of these temporary pathways specifically for French-speaking and bilingual international students from Canadian institutions intending to live outside Quebec. Approximately 7,000 applications had been received for this stream by the closure of the pathway in November 2021.
By granting permanent resident status to recent international graduates from Canadian post-secondary institutions who are currently employed in Canada, the economy will be able to continue to benefit from their training and expertise for pandemic recovery and into the future.
Temporary public policy to extend stay, document requirements and biometrics
In July 2020, a public policy was introduced to provide an exemption from the requirement that foreign nationals in Canada apply for restoration in Canada within 90 days of losing their status. Eligible former students, along with former workers and visitors whose status expired between January 30, 2020 and May 30, 2021, and who remained in Canada, were eligible for this public policy exemption and thus could restore their status, provided they met the requirements for the type of status and authorization they were applying to restore. This public policy expired on August 31, 2021.
Since July 15, 2020, the Department has exempted temporary residence applicants, such as study and post-graduation work permit applicants, applying from within Canada, from having to provide their biometrics. Biometrics are required for students applying from outside of Canada.
Dual intent is present when a foreign national who enters Canada for a temporary period as a visitor, student, or worker, while required to leave at the end of their authorized stay, may be considering applying for permanent residence in Canada. The possibility that an applicant for temporary residence may, at some point in the future, be approved for permanent residence does not absolve the individual from meeting the requirements of a temporary resident, specifically the requirement to leave Canada at the end of the period authorized for their stay, in accordance with section 179 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
There is no inconsistency in the international student program offering pathways to permanent residence for individuals who complete their studies in Canada. However, permanent residence will not be an option for every international student and those who are not accepted or do not want to remain in Canada are expected to return home.
Supporting Facts And Figures
Canada offers a generous international student program. Worldwide, Canada remains one of the top-ranked countries as destination of choice for international students.
556,700 study permit applications were received from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021; this represents a 76% increase compared to the same period in 2020 and a 31% increase compared to the same period in 2019. The significant decrease in 2020 was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the VAC closures and overall processing delays.
557,700 study permits were finalized from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021; this represents a 153% increase compared to the same period in 2020 and a 32% increase compared to the same period in 2019.
317,100 study permits were confirmed from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021; this represents a 390% increase compared to the same period in 2020 and a 30% increase compared to the same period in 2019 (*study permits confirmed is a proxy for “arrived in Canada” for new study permits only).