CIMM - International Students - Mar 8, 2021
- The Government of Canada recognizes that international students provide tremendous social, cultural and economic benefits to campuses and communities across Canada.
Temporary changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program
- Through the pandemic, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has made temporary policy changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) to encourage students to continue pursuing their Canadian programs of study. These changes ensure that students can study online in Canada or abroad and remain eligible for the program, thus maintaining the opportunity to work in Canada after they graduate and potentially qualify for permanent residency in the future.
- Most recently, on February 12, 2021, due to the prospect of many international students continuing online learning from abroad for several more months, IRCC announced an extension and expansion to the temporary PGWPP policy changes. The new measures ensure studies completed outside Canada until December 31, 2021 will count towards a future PGWP, and an entire program of study can be completed online from abroad and still be eligible for a PGWP.
Public policy for expired or soon to expire PGWP holders
- My department has given former students in Canada with expired or expiring post-graduation work permits with the opportunity to apply for additional open work permit with a duration of 18 months between January 27, 2021 and July 27, 2021. This will provide these former students with additional time to acquire the work experience needed to qualify for permanent residence programs, the ability to support themselves in Canada, and the opportunity to help fill labour market needs.
Updates on study permit processing
- Students who have submitted a complete study permit application online and who are destined to a designated learning institution with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan continue to benefit from priority processing.
Updates on travel by air quarantine measures
- As of February 22, 2021, adult and accompanied minor international students will be required to present a quarantine plan, be tested on arrival and complete a three-day quarantine at Government Approved Accommodation (GAA) before proceeding to the quarantine location determined by their designated learning institution. Unaccompanied minors are exempt from the three-day GAA step and are allowed to proceed to their suitable quarantine destination.
Former students in Canada with expired or expiring post-graduation work permits
- On January 8, 2021, the Department announced a new temporary public policy that will facilitate the issuance of open work permits with durations up to 18 months to foreign nationals in Canada with an expired or expiring post-graduation work permit. The public policy is effective from January 27, 2021 to July 27, 2021.
- The additional open work permit will provide 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 recognizes that former students are an important pool of future permanent residents that will help Canada’s economic recovery as the pandemic recedes
- To apply, foreign nationals must:
- have a PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in four months or less from the date they apply;
- be in Canada when the public policy takes effect (January 27, 2021) and have remained in Canada; and
- have a valid temporary status, or are applying to restore their status
Temporary policy change to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program and distance learning
- Given the impact of COVID-19 on international students and the post-secondary sector, temporary policy changes have been made to PGWPP eligibility requirements.
- Under normal circumstances, 50% of a program of study must be completed in-Canada and in-class, and time spent studying outside of Canada is deducted from the length of the work permit.
- Temporary policy changes have been made to ensure international students can remain eligible for the PGWPP if they study online 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: On February 12, 2021, the Department announced that for international students who begin or began a program in any semester from spring 2020 to fall 2021, or whose program was already in progress in March 2020:
- Studies completed outside Canada up to December 31, 2021 will be counted towards the eligibility and length of a future PGWP; and
- Up to 100% of a student’s program can be completed online from outside Canada while retaining eligibility for a PGWP.
- These measures are available to students who have a study permit, a study permit approval, or applied for a study permit prior to starting their program of study and are eventually approved. All other PGWP program criteria must be met.
New travel restrictions - unaccompanied minor international students exemption
- Under the new travel measures that came into force on February 22, 2021, international students under the age of 19, traveling unaccompanied will be:
- required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test result within 72 hours of pre-arrival;
- exempt from the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon arrival, but will instead undergo an alternative testing protocol to screen or diagnose COVID-19 upon arrival;
- required to demonstrate they have a “suitable quarantine” plan in place, and quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Canada; and,
- exempt from the new requirement to quarantine for three-nights in a Government-Approved Accommodation, and allowed to proceed to their suitable quarantine destination.
- The definition of “suitable quarantine” includes a requirement that minors be supervised by parents, guardians, or tutors when quarantining.
- The Department is working with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency to ensure that unaccompanied minors will be able to transition to the care of their assigned caregiver for the purpose of quarantine without issue.
Measures to extend stay, document requirements and biometrics
- Since July 14, 2020, the Department provides an extension for foreign nationals applying for restoration in Canada beyond the normal 90-day timeframe. This public policy was renewed on January 1, 2021. Former students, along with former workers and visitors whose status expired between January 30, 2020 and May 30, 2021, and who remained in Canada, have until August 31, 2021, to apply to restore their status, provided they meet the requirements for the type of status and authorization they are applying to restore.
- Since July 15, 2020, the Department put in place a public policy to exempt temporary residence applicants, such as study and post-graduation work permit applicants, applying from within Canada from having to give their biometrics. Biometrics are required for students applying from outside of Canada.
- The Department continues to provide more time for applicants to provide necessary documentation, and has committed that no application will be refused where an applicant is unable to provide the required documents.
Impacts on approval rates for study permits from Francophone students from Africa
- Supporting immigration from Francophone countries is a priority for the Department. Unfortunately, the pandemic has affected local conditions overseas, including the ability to obtain documentation such as passports and education credentials to complete a study permit application. This has been seen in most top source countries for international students, including those in the Maghreb and Francophone Africa.
- In addition, with the reopening of Visa Application Centres (VACs), panel physicians’ availability in Senegal and Morocco has been resumed to full capacity. All of the six clinics (3 operating in each countries) are open.
- Students located in countries that are able to apply for faster processing through the Student Direct Stream in countries such as Morocco and Senegal may be experiencing additional delays in obtaining their study permits.
- We know students and stakeholders are concerned with application backlogs. The Department is monitoring the situation closely and is considering options such as re-assigning staff working in areas that have seen a decrease in application volumes (e.g., temporary resident visas for visitors) to process study permit applications and reduce backlogs.
- Official language test results are not required as part of the standard study permit application process. However, clients who reside in eligible countries who wish to take advantage of expedited processing under the Student Direct Stream (SDS) must include test results with their application for a study permit.
- Official language test results (International English Language Testing System for English of CLB 6.0 or higher or Test d’évaluation de français for French of at least CLB 7 for each language skill) are one of the requirements under SDS that enable faster decision-making on study permit applications as they demonstrate the applicant has the necessary language proficiency to succeed academically. Applicants must also comply with other requirements, including purchasing a Guaranteed Investment Certificate of CAN $10,000.00 or more; proof of full tuition payment upfront and medical exams). SDS is available to legal residents of the following countries:
- International students may be required to obtain language test results as part of the admission process, as controlled by their designated learning institution (DLI).
- Official language testing remains widely available and testing organizations in most countries are not significantly impacted by COVID-19 reductions in service.
Supporting facts and figures
- International students contribute over $22.3B per year to the Canadian economy – greater than exports of auto parts, lumber or aircrafts.
- Canada offers a generous international student program. Worldwide, Canada ranks 4th for education destination of choice.
- In 2020, the Department received approximately 316,100 applications for new study permits. This compares to approximately 425,800 new study permit applications in 2019, representing a 26% decrease. The significant decrease is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the VAC closures and overall processing delays.
- From January to December 2020, the Department processed approximately 222,000 applications for new study permits. This compares to approximately 424,000 for the same time period in 2019, representing a 48% decrease.
- In 2020, the Department processed just over 216,300 applications for study permit extensions. This compares to just over 178,800 study permit extensions processed during the same period in 2019, accounting for a 21% increase.
- In 2020, the Department issued more than 300,000 study permits to international students, including extensions (21 % decrease over 2019). The average study permit approval rate in 2020 was 49% (excluding extensions).
- In January 2021, over 28,000 study permits were issued. This led to over a 50% increase compared to the month of January, 2020 which had 18,000 study permits issued. While the cause for this increase is not certain, the increase could be attributed to international students applying earlier for their permits to get their permit on time for their intended future travel.
Based on the volume of study permits confirmedFootnote *, 64,928 international students arrived to Canada, between January 1 and December 31, 2020; compared to 247,155 students arriving during the same time period in 2019. (74% decrease in 2020)
- In 2019, there were 829,405 international students in Canada studying from primary to post-secondary levels (in 2015, there were 495,590 students in Canada).
- Based on the number of study permits which are authorized but not yet confirmed (students ready to travel, but have not arrived in Canada) we can assume the number of students who are planning to come to Canada. Between Oct 18, 2020 and Feb 20, 2021, 55.6K study permits were authorized and have not yet been confirmed [54.4k are travel exempt (destined to an approved DLI) and 1.2k are travel restricted (non-approved DLI)].
- International students who submitted study permit applications on or before December 15, 2020 for the winter 2021 semester benefit from a two-stage assessment process if they are unable to provide biometrics and medicals to complete their application due to VAC closures or limited services. This allows students to begin their studies from abroad and remain PWGP eligible, provided that their study permit application is eventually approved.
- As services begin to reopen, applicants will be required to submit remaining documents and receive an approved study permit before being allowed to travel to Canada. Study permit applications for students who meet the family reunification travel exemptions will be prioritized.
- As of February 4, 2021, 147 Visa Application Centers (VACs) are now open to the public, with 13 fully operational and 134 offering partial services. As VACs re-open, IRCC is closely monitoring client behavior, inventory backlogs and VAC capacities to ensure resumption of good quality and prompt client service levels.
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