Canada eases immigration rules to allow incoming students to begin studies online

There is more reassuring news for international students who have received a study permit for Canada for spring 2020. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced those planning to begin studies in Canada in May or June can begin their programmes online from their home country in preparation for coming to Canada.

IRCC explains, “Students who have a study permit or who have been approved for a study permit for a programme starting in May or June but who are unable to travel to Canada at this time due to travel restrictions…may begin their classes while outside Canada and may complete up to 50% of their programme while outside Canada if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.”

Last week, IRCC announced that international students whose classes have moved online due to COVID-19 will still be eligible for the Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program. The very-popular PGWP allows international students who have completed a programme of at least eight months’ duration to stay on to work in Canada for up to three years, experience that can count towards a future application for permanent residency in the country.

The peak body Colleges and Institutes Canada welcomed the news and said that it will continue to work with IRCC officials for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, noting that the pandemic’s course is incredibly difficult to predict:

“While our hope is that students can transition to Canada, or begin new programmes in the fall, we will continue to ask for flexibility should the situation not improve and students remain unable to travel to Canada for reasons beyond their control.”

Speaking to local newspaper The Record, John Tibbits, president of Ontario-based Conestoga College, called the announcements “good news” for the spring semester. The college had feared that there would be 2,500 fewer international students in the spring because of the pandemic, but it now expects to see enrolment decline by 1,800 students “at most”. Still, added Mr Tibbits, “The cloud hanging over us is what’s happening in the fall. We don’t know.”

The uncertainty of the pandemic is one of the most difficult aspects for international educators. But already, one key market is planning to move toward more normal operations in its higher education system. China, the first country to be hit by COVID-19, announced today that there is a plan for colleges and universities to reopen “in an orderly manner.” Local authorities will be given the discretion to decide which institutions to reopen in a staggered manner and with new safety precautions in place.