Your questions from the webinar “Survive, Revive and Grow – How Canada is handling the Coronavirus Pandemic” answered

When will visa processing resume for Canadian student visas?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) continues to process study permit applications at a limited capacity although service closures in Canada and overseas, such as Visa Application Centres, have an impact on individuals’ ability to submit a complete application, and IRCC’s ability to complete their assessment of applications.

What current backlog is there with Canadian visa processing?

All completed applications are processed to finalization. IRCC officers will continue to request additional supporting documents or necessary actions (such as biometrics and medical exams) as part of the application process and will keep the applications open until documents are received or evidence is provided that action has been taken.

When and where will Canadian biometric centres be open?

VACs are gradually resuming services, please check IRCC’s website for the most up to date information.

Are Canadian requirements for biometrics likely to be changed or cancelled due to COVID-19?

Notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19 on international students’ ability to travel, the identity management and security rationale supporting the collection of biometrics remain. IRCC is continuing to work with educational partners to facilitate the entry of international students to Canada.

What is the visa situation for students whose programmes have been moved online for the first semester? Do they need a visa to commence their study programme, even if they’re studying remotely?

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many courses that normally require in-person attendance have been shifted to an online format. A study permit or visa is not required to study online from overseas and earn a credential from a Canadian university, college, institute or school. Prospective students who wish to begin a program of study that normally requires in-person attendance are encouraged to apply for a study permit before commencing their studies online, as the program of study may still require in-person attendance in the future.

For applicants intending to study at a post-secondary institution, who do not have either a study permit or approval of their study permit application prior to the beginning of their studies, time spent pursuing their studies online will not count towards their eligibility for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

Under normal circumstances, all distance learning courses completed outside Canada are excluded from the time accumulated toward the length of the PGWP. However, on a temporary basis, for prospective students currently outside Canada who are scheduled to begin studying in the spring, summer or fall 2020 semester, the duration of time spent in distance learning abroad will not be excluded from the time accumulated toward the length of the PGWP (until December 31st, 2020 for the fall cohort) if at least 50% of their total program of study is completed in Canada.

Are IRCC considering accepting other English Language Tests for SDS & Immigration, such as Duolingo, considering all the IELTS test centres outside Canada are still not operating?

Currently there is no alternative to the IELTS test for all study permit applications, including Student Direct Stream applications.

Can family members of incoming students to Canada accompany their relatives?

Immediate family members may be eligible to accompany their relative on a study permit.

Current travel restrictions contain certain exemptions for foreign nationals. Foreign nationals travelling from any country other than the US may be eligible to travel to Canada under the family reunification exemption, but will require written authorization from IRCC and demonstrate that their travel is non-discretionary:

  • If the accompanying immediate family members already hold a valid travel document (visitor visa or eTA), they can request written authorization at IRCC.COVID-TravelExemptions-Exemptionsdevoyage-COVID.IRCC@cic.gc.ca
  • If the accompanying immediate family members do not yet have their travel document (visitor visa or eTA), they will need to follow the instructions on our website to self-identify
  • If the accompanying immediate family members also meet one of the exemptions from the travel restrictions, they do not require written authorization, but will still need to demonstrate that that their travel is non-discretionary
  • There must be two or more foreign nationals who are immediate family members of each other, and authorizing one or more of them to travel to Canada must allow them to be reunited.
    • As such, whether the minor child and parent are travelling together to Canada for non-discretionary purposes or whether the minor child is already in Canada and the parent is travelling to reunite with the minor child, both are covered under this exemption.

Foreign nationals travelling from the US do not require written authorization, but they must also demonstrate they are travelling for a non-discretionary purpose, which includes, among others: showing appropriate documentation to return to Canada to work / study, or land as a permanent resident, and entering Canada for the purposes of taking up full-time residence in Canada (this applies to prospective permanent residents as well as temporary residents who are seeking entry to Canada to establish themselves with immediate family members).

CAPS-I has developed a Pre-Departure, Travel, Arrival & Quarantine Protocols which has been shard with their member schools who are now adding some final details specific to their own programs and consulting with their respective provincial and regional health and education authorities. All CAPS-I member schools will be sharing the Protocols with their agency partners and students planning to travel to Canada in the near future very soon.

Is arrival into Canada for the purposes of study considered essential?

Foreign nationals who hold a valid Canadian study permit or received a letter of introduction on or before March 18 can enter Canada if they are travelling for non-discretionary purposes, as determined upon arrival in Canada by the Canada Border Services Agency. Students are responsible to ensure that their programs of study are still ongoing, whether they are online or in-class. Travel will be deemed either discretionary or non-discretionary depending on individual circumstances, and each case is examined on its own merit.

Upon arrival in Canada, Border Services Officers will assess the circumstances surrounding the student’s travel and consider, for example, whether the student is:

  • Already established, residing and studying in Canada (if they are established in Canada, their return is non-discretionary);
  • Expected to begin studying upon arrival after completing their quarantine (if the semester has been cancelled or postponed, the purpose of travel may be considered discretionary);
  • Required to be in Canada for their continued participation in the program (i.e. laboratories, workshops, etc.); or,
  • Enrolled in a program where pursuing online studies is not an option for their school / program, or not possible from their home country (e.g., due to internet restrictions or bandwidth limitation)

A Border Services Officer will make a final determination on the foreign national’s eligibility to enter Canada at a port of entry when the foreign national first arrives in Canada.

What will happen to students outside Canada who have a valid study permit but who are unable to travel to Canada before it expires due to COVID-19?

If a foreign national’s study permit has expired, the student must submit a new application if they wish to complete their studies in Canada or have the time spent studying abroad counts towards their PGWP eligibility.

If a student has a valid study permit, or has been approved for a study permit for a program starting between May and December 2020, but can’t travel to Canada at this time due to travel restrictions, their PGWP eligibility will not be impacted if they complete more than 50% of their studies in Canada.

Will there be any special allowances for students who already applied for a Canadian PGWP who could not continue working due to COVID19?

Other work permits may provide options to continue working in Canada, or to resume working for an employer at a later date once travel and health restrictions have been eased. See IRCC’s website for more details.

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