Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): International students
We recognize that the travel restrictions have an impact on many people who can’t travel to Canada right now. These restrictions stop most discretionary travel to Canada.
On this page
- Travel exemptions and restrictions for international students
- Apply for a study permit
- What to do if you can’t provide required documents
- If you want to stay in Canada longer
- Studying in Quebec
- Complying with your study permit conditions
- Working as a student
- How your post-graduation work permit (PGWP) eligibility is affected
- Apply for a PGWP
- If your PGWP has expired or will expire soon
Travel exemptions and restrictions for international students
To be able to enter Canada as a student, you must
- have a valid study permit or a letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a study permit
- be attending a designated learning institution (DLI) with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by its province or territory
Who can study in Canada as a family member
You can come to Canada as a family member to study if
- you meet the requirements to reunite with a family member in Canada and
- you have a valid study permit or a letter of introduction that shows you’re approved for a study permit and
- your DLI is on the approved COVID-19 readiness plan list. If your DLI is on the approved COVID-19 readiness plan list, you don’t need to get a written authorization from IRCC to travel to Canada.
If you cross the border into Canada regularly for school
You’re exempt from the COVID-19 mandatory requirements if
- you have a study permit, and
- you live in the United States and cross the border daily or regularly to attend your classes in British Columbia
While in Canada, you must
- wear a mask in any public setting where you can’t maintain physical distancing
- follow all public health guidelines for the municipality and province or territory in which you study
If someone will be driving you to and from your DLI
They’re also exempt from the mandatory requirements as long as
- they only leave their vehicle to escort you to and from your school, and
- they wear a mask at all times while outside their vehicle
Mandatory quarantine, COVID-19 testing and other requirements
Before you travel to Canada, make sure you know the rules and what you need to do before and after you arrive:
When the mandatory hotel stay is over, you must then follow the COVID-19 readiness plan for your approved DLI.
If you’re an unaccompanied minor, you’re exempt from the mandatory hotel stay for air travellers.
You must use ArriveCAN before checking in at the airport or crossing the border to submit your
- travel and contact information
- quarantine plan
- COVID-19 symptoms self-assessment
Please bring your ArriveCAN receipt (electronic or paper) with you to show the border services officer upon arrival.
When you arrive in Canada
A border services officer (BSO) will make the final decision on whether you’re eligible to enter Canada when you arrive. When the border services officer greets you, they consider
- your reason for travelling to Canada
- your ability to comply with all the mandatory COVID-19 requirements, unless you’re exempt
- your ability to comply with your approved DLI’s COVID-19 readiness plan
- This may include a 14-day quarantine period.
- proof that you have enough money to support yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada
- the timing of your arrival
- You should give yourself enough time before school starts, to
- complete the mandatory COVID-19 requirements
- meet any requirements in your approved DLI’s COVID-19 readiness plan
- If you arrive too early, you may be refused entry by the BSO.
- You should give yourself enough time before school starts, to
Contact the Border Information Service before you travel if you have questions about travelling to Canada.
If you’re already studying in Canada and you leave the country
You won’t be able to return to Canada if you don’t comply with the mandatory COVID-19 requirements.
If immediate family members want to be with you in Canada
Your immediate family members may be able to come with you to Canada.
If they want to help you get settled in Canada
They don’t need a written authorization from IRCC to travel with you, but they must have an essential (non-discretionary) reason for travel.
Essential reasons for travel are either:
- You’re a minor child and you need a family member to
- travel with you
- help you meet your guardian in Canada, and
- get set up in your new home
- You aren’t a minor child, but you have supporting documents that prove you need a family member with you to get settled. For example, you have a physical or mental condition and you need help getting settled. In this case, you’d submit a medical note as proof.
In either case, only 1 immediate family member will be able to travel with you to Canada.
Your family member may still need an electronic travel authorization (eTA) or a visitor visa to travel to Canada.
If they need a visitor visa, you should include their application when you apply online for your study permit.
If they need an eTA, they must apply for one separately. Make sure they follow the special instructions on how to apply for an eTA at this time.
If they’ll study or work in Canada with you
You must submit all of your applications together when you apply online. To be able to enter Canada, they’ll need to
- have a study or work permit, or a letter of introduction showing they’ve been approved for a study or work permit
- meet all other requirements to enter Canada as a student or worker
If they’ll join you later
If your family will join you after you’re already in Canada, what they need to travel depends on where they’re travelling from. Find out what they need to join you in Canada. They may also need an eTA or a visitor visa to travel to Canada.
Apply for a study permit
Due to the impacts of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we
- have temporarily changed how we process applications
- can’t provide accurate processing times
This is to make sure that we can prioritize applications from people who meet the requirements to enter Canada.
If you’re applying for a study permit, you should apply online, whether you’re outside of Canada or already in Canada.
When you apply, you should
- submit as many of the documents needed for a complete application as possible
- include a letter of explanation for any documents that are missing due to COVID-19
If you can’t apply online because of a disability or because there’s a problem with the online application, you can apply on paper.
If you plan to study in Quebec, you must provide a valid Quebec Acceptance Certificate or proof that you applied for one.
How we process applications
We’ll process your application in our regular study permit process if you
- submit a complete application, and
- will attend a DLI with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan
We’ll process your application in 2 stages if
- you submitted your application on or before December 15, 2020
- your application is incomplete due to COVID-19 (for example, you’re missing your biometrics or medical), and
- your program begins in the winter 2021 semester
If we process your application in 2 stages, this is what will happen:
Stage 1: We check your eligibility
In this stage, an officer reviews your application for
- a letter of acceptance from a DLI
- a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (if you’ll be studying in Quebec)
- proof that you have enough money for
- tuition fees
- living expenses for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada, and
- return transportation for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada
- any family ties you may have to Canada
- evidence that you’ll leave Canada when you no longer have legal status
If your application passes this first stage, we’ll let you know by email or in your online account. This doesn’t guarantee that we’ll approve your application and issue you a study permit.
Stage 2: We check your application for admissibility and any changes to your eligibility
In this stage, an officer reviews your application for
- a medical exam, if needed
- police certificates, if needed
- your biometrics
- any information that changed after we reviewed your application for eligibility
If your application passes this second stage, we’ll approve it. If you applied for a co-op work permit, we’ll now assess your co-op work permit application.
At this point, if you meet the requirements, you may be able to travel to Canada and
- begin your studies, or
- continue your studies, if you’ve already started studying online
Applying at the port of entry
In general, you should not apply for a study permit at a Canadian port of entry. You should apply online for a study permit before you travel to Canada.
Only certain people can apply at the port of entry at this time. You may be able to apply at the port of entry if you’re a
- U.S. citizen
- lawful permanent resident of the U.S.
- resident of Greenland
- resident of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
If you meet one of these requirements, you must have all the documents required to apply for a study permit with you when you arrive at the border. The border services officer who greets you will determine if you’re eligible to enter Canada as a student.
What to do if you can’t provide required documents
Upload a letter of explanation explaining why you can’t submit the required documents (like your biometrics, proof of enrolment, final transcripts, or others). For example, you may not be able to get these documents because offices are closed.
You must provide a letter of acceptance from a DLI when you apply. We won’t process applications that are submitted without this document.
We won’t reject your application if you can’t submit the required documents, other than your letter of acceptance, because of COVID-19.
When we start processing your application, we’ll ask for the missing documents and give you an extension to provide them, if needed.
If you want to stay in Canada longer
You must apply online to extend your stay in Canada.
If your study permit is going to expire soon
If you’re a student, you have 3 options:
- You may be able to extend your study permit, if you want to continue studying.
- You may be eligible to apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP), if you completed your study program.
- You can apply to change your status to visitor, if you’re not studying or applying for a PGWP.
You must submit an application for 1 of these options before your study permit expires, or you may need to leave Canada.
COVID-19: Changes to biometrics requirement for in-Canada temporary residence applicants
As a temporary measure, if you’re in Canada and applying to work, study or stay temporarily in Canada, you do not need to give your biometrics. Learn more about the exemption.
If your study permit has expired
If your study permit expires before you apply to extend it, you’ve lost your status as a student in Canada. You may be able to restore your status.
If you’re a visitor who needs a study permit
You can apply online for a study permit if you’re already in Canada as a visitor.
When you apply, you must follow the instructions for applying from outside of Canada. We’ll process your application in the same amount of time as though you’d applied from your home country, outside of Canada.
If we approve your application and send you a port of entry letter of introduction, you need to contact us to have your study permit sent to you in Canada.
You can’t start studying until you receive your study permit.
Studying in Quebec
The Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) is extending the validity of Quebec Acceptance Certificates (CAQs) until December 31, 2020 for all certificates expiring between April 30 and December 31, 2020.
If you submit a CAQ that expires between April 30 and December 31, 2020, with your study permit application, your new study permit expiry date will be December 31, 2020, unless your passport expires before this date.
This doesn’t apply if your CAQ expired before April 30, 2020.
You should apply for a CAQ if
- you never had a CAQ
- your CAQ expired before April 30, 2020
- you plan to continue studying after December 31, 2020
Submit proof that you applied for a new CAQ when we ask you to upload your CAQ. If you receive a new CAQ before we’re ready to process your application, you can submit it using our Web form.
Complying with your study permit conditions
You’ll still be complying with your study permit conditions if your in-class courses are temporarily moved to an online-only format or suspended completely because of COVID-19. To stay compliant you must
- stay enrolled in your DLI, and
- participate in your studies online, if your DLI offers them
If your DLI closes permanently due to COVID-19, you have 150 days to
- enrol in a study program at a new DLI
- change your status to a worker or visitor, or
- leave Canada
Letter of support for future applications
If, on a future application, an officer asks you for more information about your time studying in Canada, your DLI should provide you with a letter of support to explain how your studies were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working as a student
You can continue to work, even if COVID-19 has forced you to become a part-time student or to take a break in your studies, as long as
- you’re registered as a full-time student, and
- your study permit says you’re allowed to work while you study
If you work off campus, you can work up to 20 hours per week during an academic session. You can work full time during scheduled breaks in the academic year.
If you worked in an essential service or function
Between April 22 and August 31, 2020, you were temporarily allowed to work more than 20 hours per week during an academic session if
- you worked in an essential service or function, and
- you had a valid study permit that allowed you to work off campus
This change no longer applies.
If, on a future application, an officer asks you about work you performed during this time, let them know what essential service or function you worked in. You could ask your employer for a letter of support to confirm this.
Co-op work permits
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many international students are studying online from abroad. If your school and employer agree, you can either
- accept a Canadian work placement and begin working remotely from your home country
- work for a company in your home country
If you’re working outside Canada, you can work while we process your study permit and co-op work permit applications.
How your post-graduation work permit (PGWP) eligibility is affected
If you’re inside Canada
You’re still eligible for the PGWP if
- your in-person classes in Canada have been moved to an online-only format and you are taking your classes online because of COVID-19, or
- you had to put your studies on hold, or study part-time, during the winter, spring or summer 2020 semesters because of COVID-19
As of the fall 2020 semester, you must be studying full-time to be eligible.
If you’re outside of Canada
If you can’t travel to Canada at this time and you’re taking your classes online, you’re still eligible for a PGWP.
To be eligible, you must
- meet all the other PGWP requirements
- have been enrolled in a program that was in progress in March 2020, or
- have started or will start a program between spring 2020 and fall 2021, and
- you have a study permit, or
- you’ve been approved for a study permit, or
- you applied for a study permit before starting your study program
- your study permit must eventually be approved
How much of your studies count toward a PGWP
You can complete 100% of your studies online from outside Canada.
All your time studying online outside Canada between spring 2020 and December 31, 2021, counts toward the length of a PGWP. This applies even if you’re completing 2 study programs.
If you’re completing 2 study programs, you can finish 100% of your studies online if the programs were ongoing or started between March 2020 and fall 2021, and
- both study programs are from an eligible DLI and are completed within 2 years
- each program meets all PGWP eligibility requirements and is at least 8 months long
Time spent studying outside Canada after December 31, 2021, won’t count towards the length of a PGWP.
Apply for a PGWP
To apply for a PGWP, you need to submit
- a letter of completion and
- your final transcript
Find out what to do if you’re unable to provide required documents because of COVID-19.
You can start working right away, until we make a decision on your application, if
- you submitted your PGWP application before your study permit expired, and
- you meet the other requirements
If your PGWP has expired or will expire soon
Starting January 27, 2021, you may be eligible for an open work permit of up to 18 months under a new public policy. Find out if you meet the requirements for this open work permit.
You can submit applications for this open work permit until July 27, 2021.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: