Canada international students - visa application, work and travel update - Canada Visa & Immigration
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Canada international students – visa application, work and travel update

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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has updated its COVID-19 visa and travel information for international students. IRCC continues to process study permit and work permit applications submitted online and permanent residence applications. However, paper applications for visitor visas, study and work permits will not be processed until further notice.

The following sections discuss how to apply for a study permit during this pandemic, who can enter Canada to study, students already in Canada, working as a student, and post-graduation work permits.

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Travel exemptions and restrictions for international students

To be able to enter Canada as a student, you must meet 2 requirements:

  1. You must be travelling for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose.
  2. You must be 1 of the following:
    • an international student with a valid study permit or who was approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020; OR
    • travelling directly from the US

You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.

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Your travel to Canada may be considered essential (non-discretionary) as a student if

  • you already live in Canada
  • you need to be in Canada for your program (for laboratory work, workshops, or similar)
  • your school isn’t offering online study options
  • you can’t study online from your home country because of internet restrictions or bandwidth limitations
  • you can’t participate in live online classes from your home country because of the difference in time zones

A border services officer will make the final decision on whether your reason for travelling to Canada is non-discretionary or non-optional.

When you travel to Canada

Make sure you have proof that you’re exempt from the travel restrictions and that you’re travelling for a non-optional or non-discretionary purpose.

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When the border services officer greets you, they look at several factors, including

  • your reason for travelling to Canada
  • that you’re able to complete a 14-day quarantine period as soon as you arrive at your final destination
  • if you either
    • have time to complete your quarantine before you physically attend classes, or
    • can study online during your quarantine

You must bring

  • a valid study permit, or
  • a port of entry letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a study permit, if you’re coming from the United States, or
  • a port of entry letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, if you’re coming from any other country

Before you travel, you can contact the Border Information Service for more information.

A border services officer will make the final decision on whether you’re eligible to enter Canada when you arrive.

Health requirements for travellers to Canada

To travel to Canada, you must

Applying for a study permit

IRCC is temporarily changing how you apply to study in Canada. This is to make sure that IRCC can keep processing applications from people who meet the requirements to enter Canada.

Due to the impacts of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), IRCC will not

  • process applications normally
  • provide accurate processing times

IRCC is prioritizing some applications, including

  • Canadians trying to return to Canada
  • vulnerable people
  • people who perform or support essential services such as those related to agriculture, agri-food and health care

Applying online

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

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.

Study permit applications submitted from outside Canada

If you’re outside of Canada and you apply for a study permit, IRCC will process your application in 2 stages. This 2-stage process only applies to study permit applications,

  • submitted by September 15, 2020, and
  • for programs that start, or started, in spring, summer or fall 2020

NOTE: IRCC will process complete applications first.

Stage 1: Eligibility check

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, IRCC will let you know in your online account. This doesn’t guarantee that IRCC will approve your application and issue you a study permit.

Stage 2: Admissibility assessment 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, IRCC will approve it.

At this point, if you meet the requirements to travel to Canada, you’ll be

  • ready to travel to Canada and begin your studies, or
  • able to continue your studies in Canada, 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 at this time. You should apply online for a study permit before you travel to Canada.

If you’re already in Canada and you try to apply at the port of entry, you will likely need to quarantine for 14 days if the border services officer approves you to re-enter 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. IRCC won’t process applications that are submitted without this document.

IRCC won’t reject your application if you can’t submit the required documents, other than your letter of acceptance, because of COVID-19.

When IRCC starts processing your application, you will be asked for the missing documents and IRCC will 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:

  1. You may be able to extend your study permit, if you want to continue studying.
  2. You may be eligible to apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP), if you completed your study program.
  3. 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.

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 IRCC asks you to upload your CAQ. If you receive a new CAQ before IRCC is ready to process your application, you can submit it using IRCC 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

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.

Find out if your work was considered an essential service or function.

How your post-graduation work permit (PGWP) eligibility is affected

If you’re eligible for the post-graduation work permit program, you’ll still be able to get a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) if

  • your in-person classes in Canada have been moved to an online-only format and you had to begin or will continue 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

If you’re outside of Canada

You’re still eligible for a PGWP if you can’t travel to Canada at this time and

  • you have a study permit
  • you’ve been approved for a study permit
  • you applied for a study permit before starting your study program in the spring, summer or fall 2020 semester, or
  • you will apply for a study permit before starting your study program in the January 2021 semester

If you’re in this situation, you can begin your classes while outside Canada.

If you applied for your study permit before starting your program

Any time spent studying online from outside Canada since spring 2020 now counts toward the length of a PGWP. (Before, only the time spent studying online after you were approved for a study permit counted.)

You won’t have time deducted from the length of your PGWP for studies you complete outside Canada until April 30, 2021.

See also Canada introduces measures to assist international students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

How much of your program you can complete online

How much of your program you can complete online depends on when you started studying and how long your study program is.

  1. You’re taking a short-term program that started between May and September 2020. You can complete 100% of your program online. Your program must be between 8 and 12 months long, and you must have started your studies between May and September 2020. If you’re studying in a Quebec vocational program, your program must be between 900 and 1,348 hours.
  2. You’re taking a program that is 12 months or longer, or you started a short-term program before May 2020. You can complete up to 50% of your program online (until April 30, 2021). You must complete the other 50% of your program in Canada.
  3. You’re completing 2 study programs. You can complete up to 50% of your total studies online (until April 30, 2021). To be able to do this
    • you must complete both study programs from an eligible DLI within 2 years
    • one of the programs must have started between May and September 2020, and
    • each program must meet all PGWP eligibility requirements and be at least 8 months longYou must complete at least 50% of the combined length of the 2 programs in Canada.If you’re studying in a Quebec vocational program
    • a diploma (DVS program) must be at least 900 hours long
    • an attestation of vocational studies (AVS) can be less than 900 hours if it’s combined with a DVS

Applying for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP)

To apply for a PGWP, you need to submit

  • a letter of completion and/or
  • 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 IRCC makes a decision on your application, if


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You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.