International students will be exempt from Canada’s travel ban as long as they have a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit prior to March 18, when the travel restrictions took effect.
This is a major concession from Canada for its sizeable international student community – it is also making concessions for its temporary foreign worker program. Full details of the exemption are expected to be detailed early next week, according to the IRCC communique.
“These international students and faculty are valued members of our university communities, and are contributing to Canada,” Universities Canada president Paul Davidson said.
“We are very pleased to see that the government recognises this and is ensuring they will be able to return to Canada.”
Foreign students are now anticipated to travel to Canada as planned for spring-term (May) enrollments, according to Canada-based Gautham Kolluri, who runs global education counselling firm CIP Study Abroad and has many Indian student clients.
But he said that students would need assistance from the colleges they were enrolled with to help them navigate logistics from airport pick-up to organising accommodation, especially for an initial 14-day isolation period.
“I’m looking into booking furnished homes and hotels,” he told The PIE News, explaining that his agency is already an exception in terms of organising interim housing for students as they arrive. “Most students have nobody out here,” he said.
“It’s very difficult logistics that we have to co-ordinate now,” he said. “If the government has advised that students have to stay self-isolated for 14 days…for new students…we have no understanding how to do it. I am hoping that institutions can come up with some support.”
Asked if some students would decide not to enrol, Kolluri said he felt those who had already made the financial investment would decide to travel anyway, despite it being unclear now how they would access the studies they have paid for.
“I don’t see any students really saying, sorry, we are not interested, we are going back, especially from India – the largest second-largest market for international students,” said Kolluri.
“They will come. I talk to thousands of students every month through our social network. It’s a very big commitment for students and their parents’ financial commitment and also given their interest to study abroad – especially given that this would lead to post-study job opportunities and permanent resident pathways. This is a very important decision for the students.”
Lane Clark, president and CEO of the Canadian College of English Language (CCEL) and Canadian College, told The PIE that he and his staff were “relieved” by the government’s decision even though operations have already moved online.
“We are happy to hear that, when it is safe to reopen, students will be able to arrive and attend classes,” he said.
“I have never seen something this impactful on this industry and truly hope we will all come out intact on the other end. There have been many localised issues over the years, however this is a complete standstill, the magnitude of which has the power to shift our entire industry.”
A spokesperson for the University of Alberta added that they were also pleased to see the regulations clarified by the IRCC and will continue to support all its students as the world “adjust[s] to the ever-changing realities of this global pandemic”.
The exemptions also include all temporary foreign workers, with particular mention being made of seasonal agricultural workers, those working in fish/seafood and caregivers.
Workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will also be able to work for two years, instead of just one.
“Our government will continue to take the measures necessary to protect the health and safety of Canadians, including putting in place social distancing, isolation and travel restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” commented Marco E L Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.
“Today’s announcement will ensure both a robust response to addressing the spread of the virus and that our farmers, fishers and other producers have the workers they need, when they need them, to strengthen Canada’s food security and provide other vital services.”