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Canada adjusts to huge movement of students, online shift

In response to the growing COVID-19 epidemic, Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced the country will be closing its borders to non-citizens and those without permanent resident status starting on March 18. The announcement is expected to impact a large number of international students, many of whom are in Canada and now considering travelling to return home.

Downtown Vancouver is no longer bustling - some international students are considering returning home early to study online. Photo: The PIE

"Those that are considering staying are asking how they will afford to stay here over the summer"

Canada is the world’s third-leading destination of international students, with 642,000 in 2019. Some 56% come from India and China.

Stakeholders explained that many international students, planning to return home for a summer break anyway, may now consider leaving early, not just because of the travel ban but also because institutions were making all courses accessible online.

“Our priority now is international students on campus”

Speaking from self-isolation in Ottawa, Trudeau pointed out that the government was acting on the advice of public health officials in its new travel rules.

“It is a significant step. It is a step that we take in exceptional circumstances, but it is the right step,” Trudeau explained. Canadians abroad are also being urged to return home and a loan program established to help this happen.

As a result of the measures, international offices in Canada are faced with “unprecedented daily changes and challenges”, director of the internationalisation office at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Sonja Knutson, told The PIE News.

“The FAQ’s that we wrote on Friday no longer applied as of Monday,” she said.

“Our priority now is international students on campus – while international students are welcome to stay in Canada, most are worried – they don’t know whether they should return home immediately and finish their terms by distance, or whether they should stay.”

Knutson said the biggest unknown is whether students can gain re-entry to Canada come September.

“Those that are considering staying are asking how they will afford to stay here over the summer as most were planning to work and many workplaces are reducing staffing.

“We can’t give blanket advice – situations are case-by-case, taking in study permit expiry, health insurance, and status of the home country; some have closed borders already,” she added.

“We have sent messages to our students abroad ensuring they are making their way home – Memorial had already taken that step on March 15, but now the federal government has also stated that all Canadians and permanent resident are urged to return.”

At Trent University, Cath D’Amico, director, international, told The PIE, that there was not necessarily a level of panic among students – a number of whom had seen an early coronavirus curve in Asia – but that reassurance about their decisions and the legitimacy of their study permit were paramount.

[Students] needed those kinds of reassurances that their study, right now, is still legitimate, even though it’s transitioned to an online delivery, and that their future studies would not be compromised because of the switch,” she related.

But some educators have taken to social media to voice their concerns over the impact the measures will have on international students.

Vice president partnerships at Camosun College in British Columbia, Geoff Wilmshurst, told The PIE that the institution is focused on assisting the return of its study abroad students all of whom are in Europe this semester.

“We have offered additional monies to assist them to book a flight home and offering other supports.

“This, of course, will impact our spring and summer semesters. Our efforts are focussed on retaining international students that are currently at the college and those that are in-country and looking for study opportunities,” Wilmshurst added.

Gabriela Facchini, manager of International Business Development and Partnerships (Latin America, Europe, Turkey, Korea and Japan) at Sheridan College in Ontario said that her institution’s number-one priority right now is to “do our part in helping our community, our province and Canada to slow down the curve of infection of COVID-19”.

“Sheridan and I believe most, if not all, public institutions have closed this week to allow faculty the time to adjust the curriculum to go online for the rest of the semester,” she told The PIE, adding that other staff will work from home as March 18, and that a webpage has been set up to help the community stay informed.

Facchini said that the closing of Canadian borders means that May semester new students may not be able to start their programs at Sheridan.

“To that effect, we are allowing students to defer their start dates. Also, Sheridan will issue a full refund of fees if students are not able to travel to Canada [and] deferrals of fees and enrollment to January 2021 may be requested and approved where possible.”

“As the situation is so fluid, it is hard to predict what will happen in the weeks ahead”

Additionally, Facchini told The PIE that some students have requested to go home for the remainder of the semester.

“We are uncertain right now if this would have any effect on their eligibility for Post-Graduate Work Permits once students graduate,” she added, saying that it also may be difficult for students to return to Canada should the situation changes and in-person classes were to resume.

“As the situation is so fluid, it is hard to predict what will happen in the weeks ahead.”

Knutson at Memorial agreed: “it is an unprecedented time for us, we are all leaning on lessons learned from previous crises but this current crisis goes far beyond what we have previously experienced.”

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43 Responses to Canada adjusts to huge movement of students, online shift

  1. Canada is home to over 500,000 international students and unfortunately those who were out for spring break are unable to come back to their homes. The latest announcement made impossible re-unification of families too. The spouses of international students are unable to enter to Canada starting Wednesday. As a result many students are returning back to their home countries to meet their families and not to be alone. It seems that international students in Canada are completely left vulnerable both by the provincial and federal governments.

  2. Hi I m a international student from India, I have a student visa, looking to travel to Canada, vanacuver on 23 rd march from British airways via London,
    Please let me confirm I will travel or not through student visa…
    I have my program starts on 6 April.

    • U should try to contact the agent in India ….because what PM is saying is that all flights will be disabled and only permanent residents/citizens of Canada america can come …..maybe u should change ur intake to sep or Jan 2021….because it’s not safe right now in Canada …I’m an international student from India in Ontario…..and our classes r changed to online

    • Hi sunny, I’m international student in Canada from Indonesia, I’m confused as well.. I supposed to arrived in Canada this Wednesday the 18th, but because the PM just had a speech that saying about the travel ban but also they didn’t leave any information for student/working visa holder I got really confused and decided not to go, my flight was supposed to be the night after the PM speech.
      eventually I have to gave up my ticket (I bought round trip ticket)..
      I hope they will give more information about this

    • Hi , right now m in canada so u will be not allowed to enter here all you need is to w8t until april 15 or u need to defferd ur seat in next semester

    • hii sunny i m also from india my wife is right now in surrey on student visa .we want to meet also booked tickts of 24 mar to india and 11 aprl to canada .Now wht should we do ? travel or cancel

    • Same here.
      Am Jese , got my VISA and was just ready to fly. Thank god didn’t book my flight.
      We all should just wait.
      PM Trudeau will give speech at 11:30 AM(Canada)
      Just wait for decision.
      Anyone can contact me
      Instagram = ijese1

    • I also had flight on 19th march but it was cnclled due covid 19 …now i m planning to travell from india to toronto coz i have my classes on 6th july …but the problem is flights are closed …let me knw when will i travell?

  3. Hey my classes r starting on 27 april .i had booked my ticket on 7 april with air canada ..I am in doubt if i should cancel my ticket or not ???

  4. If someone is having visitor visa of Canada and his son or daughter is in Canada on student visa. Will he or she can travel after 31 march

  5. I m shubh as I got my study visa from Canada nd my classes starts from 27th April. And my flight will be on 16 April. What should I do

  6. Hello i am international student from india . I am planning to fly to canada for September 2020 intake.
    Are there any changes for September , can I continue with my admission process

  7. What should students who r already in Canada do? December2020 intake

    a)Should go back to there home countries? leaveing semester in between.

    b)Should stay there and continue.
    Please answer as i m very much confused

  8. Same facilities Canadian government should give to international students as giving to their citizens and pr residents.

  9. Hi i am kirandeep from india. I entered canada by 14th march. But now because of cronavirus i didnot get any job and college are also close. So should i go back to home or stay here? Tell me plss

  10. I want to ask the students who got there Visa before 18 March 2020 as I got my visa (4 February ) are allowed to enter Canada in April for may intake plzz tell e the whole procedure I am confused

  11. Do International students still need to pay rent to homestay? Especially since it is our parents sending the money here and their country is not affected yet?

  12. Am an international student living in Canada and just wondering what’s gonna happen to us especially when it comes to MSP that the government decided to double the monthly payments plus the rent and the phone bills,not fair that the government is just talking about the Canadians but not considering the fact that we also worked and paid our taxes and we need their support for survival

  13. Hello, I am a international student from India, I have flight on 26 April 2020 to Toronto, from airindia via delhi, please let me know is it open for international students to travel?

    • Immigration is not closed. You can still apply for visa online and it will be processed. No one knows when travel restrictions will be lifted but already they are opening up businesses so I dont see this lasting until October.

  14. We are indian national and my son enrolled in vancouver film school and got admission and also paid GIC and fisrt term fee thorough wireless transactions. Course begin from 26th October 2020. But, not applied for VISA due to corona virus. Canadian imigration closed. We don’t know when it was cleared for applying VISA. Please suitably advise us

    • You cant travel to Canada now, only those that got permit approved before March 18 can travel by plane. You can study from home country up to 50% of your course or you can change intake to September if your school allows, or you can ask for your money back.

  15. Hi Everyone! I’m international student in Canada from Dubai, I’m kinda confused ..
    I have just received my study permit and my classes will start on May. Should I book a ticket? And also the Prime minister said the international airport from Vancouver will be opened so should I book now?

    • I have a homestay student here in Canada who wants to go back home this coming April 13.His dad bought ticket already.We are in Toronto.
      Is anyone knows if he can really go and is there any restriction of coming back to China from Canada.

  16. we got to know that most of the colleges are shifting towards online education,however is it necessary to pay GIC ? if student is not studying in Canada and he or she is pursuing studies outside of Canada

  17. I am a postgraduate student l have got my student visa in July.2019 and my wife open-work permit/visa issued in Oct.2019, seems we have exemption
    Recently some students/relatives were not permitted to get onboard by airlines or could not enter Canada at the entry point while they are granted exemption.

    Please let me know about the status of me and my wife. Are we able to travel to Canada and get our permits currently or not?

    Thank you

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