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Ottawa announces changes for international students beginning studies online

This file photograph shows students on the campus of Cape Breton University. The federal government recently announced a series of measures to support international students pursuing their studies at a Canadian institution online while abroad in the fall. DAVID JALA/CAPE BRETON POST
This file photograph shows students on the campus of Cape Breton University. The federal government recently announced a series of measures to support international students pursuing their studies at a Canadian institution online while abroad in the fall. DAVID JALA/CAPE BRETON POST

The federal government is introducing a series of measures to support international students pursuing an education at a Canadian institution in the fall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a news release the changes will give students who will be beginning a new program online abroad this fall with a Canadian school “more certainty about their ability to enter Canada once travel and health restrictions are eased.” 

The new measures include fast-tracking study-permit processing for students who have submitted a complete application online.  

The government will also allow students to count the time spent taking courses online abroad toward their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit, if they have submitted a study permit application and at least 50 per cent of their program is completed in Canada. 

These new measures are being introduced as part of a temporary two-stage approval process, which will allow students to enrol and begin their studies this fall online, even when they are not able to submit all required documentation due to pandemic-related closures. 

As services begin to reopen, they will have to submit remaining documents and receive an approved study permit before being allowed to travel to Canada.

For the first stage of the approval process, applicants will need to show that they have been accepted at a Canadian learning institution and have enough money to pay for their studies to be eligible for a study permit. Then, they will be notified of a first-step approval. 

Once the “approval-in-principle” is issued, applicants can begin studying online abroad and have that time count towards their post-graduation work permit, provided they meet other criteria and that they eventually receive full approval of their study permit.

They will eventually receive final approval once they have met all requirements, including submitting biometrics and necessary documents such as an immigration medical exam and a police certificate. Only once a final approval is received will an applicant be able to travel to Canada.

The temporary process is available to international students starting a program in the fall semester who submit a study permit application before Sept. 15. 

The government noted that is “still possible that an applicant could receive a negative final decision on their study permit based on factors such as inadmissibility for criminality or security reasons, and the inability to predict how the COVID-19 situation and any associated travel restrictions will evolve.”

Last year, Canada hosted more than 650,000 international students at the post-secondary education level. More than 58,000 former international students have become Canadian permanent residents.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendocino stated in the release that the series of measures are meant to support international students who have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. 

“We value the contribution of young people seeking a high-quality education in Canada, and we’re making every effort to minimize how current challenges affect their plans and dreams for the future,” he said.

Noushin Ziafati is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.

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