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Canada backtracks on travel ban exemption for international students

Updated rules mean that some international students may not be able to travel to Canada despite the government’s previous promise that they would not face any travel restrictions. 

All foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada must be coming to Canada for a purpose of travel that is non-optional or non-discretionary. Photo: Andre Furtado/ Pexels

The changes have caused great concern amongst international students

Earlier this year, Canada announced that international students would be exempt from a travel ban as long as they had a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit prior to March 18, 2020. 

“Seeking entry for the purpose of studying in Canada would generally be considered discretionary/optional”

However, these rules have now changed, with the Canadian government now saying that students who had a study permit prior to March 18 will only be exempt from the travel restrictions if they travel for a ‘non-discretionary or non-optional’ purpose

“All foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada must be coming to Canada for a purpose of travel that is non-optional or non-discretionary,” Rebecca Purdy, senior spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency, told The PIE News. 

“Seeking entry for the purpose of studying in Canada would generally be considered discretionary/optional unless there is a requirement for the student to be in Canada,” she said.

Crucially, this will mean that students who can study online in their home country are likely to be refused entry.

The changes have caused great concern amongst international students, who say that studying in their home country is not a feasible option because of time differences and because online study does not provide good value for money.

Many have contacted The PIE via Twitter to voice their concerns. “There is a vast time difference between Canada and India,” related Mohammad Danish, a student who is planning on studying at Centennial College in Toronto.

“You have to wake up late at night to attend these classes… Many students are facing problems. Health-wise it is not feasible to stay up all night and study and then sleep all day.

“IRCC has told [students] that they are exempted from travelling but they are not being allowed into the country, not being allowed to board planes,” he claimed.

Akshay Bhardwaj, another Indian student, explained that many students travel to Canada and chose to study abroad because they live in rural places where internet access is a problem.

“Rural areas in India do not have internet facilities… they often experience power issues,” he said.

The final decision as to whether a student will be allowed into Canada will be made by border services officers and not the IRCC, but guidelines that outline exactly what constitutes non-discretionary or non-optional travel have been published on the Canadian government’s website. 

Border force will consider if students are already established in Canada and returning to their current residence and if their school is re-opening and they’ll be able to start classes after their quarantine period is complete. 

Officials will also consider if a student’s program requires them to study in-person (such as the need for laboratories or workshops), if their program isn’t being delivered online or if they are unable to study online from their home country (including issues with bandwidth). 

They will also consider if a student’s program is being delayed or cancelled, or if they have deferred enrolment to a future date.

“International students continue to be very welcome on Canadian university campuses”

A spokesperson at IRCC confirmed to The PIE, “On March 20, Minister Mendicino announced international students who held a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020, would be able travel to Canada by air or land.

“Since then we have introduced more flexibility for international students.

“This includes, allowing students already in Canada to continue their studies online without affecting their eligibility for the post-graduation work permit, allowing students who are not able to travel to Canada to begin their studies to complete up to 50% of their program online and allowing international students working in essential services to work up to 40 hours per week.”

But at the time of writing, IRCC did not respond directly to student concerns about being turned back at the border.

On July 31, the government announced an extension of travel restrictions to continue until August 31.

The country also recently announced a number of measures to support international students beginning a new program online this fall, including fast-tracking study permit processing and introducing a temporary two-stage process for international students who cannot submit all of the required documentation.

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61 Responses to Canada backtracks on travel ban exemption for international students

  1. Not permitting entry of previously executed international students (prior to March 18 approved study permit holders) is a clear breach of trust on the part of Canadian government. Particularly those deferred their study programs from May intake to September intake feel cheated as they have made arrangements of travel and mandatory quarantine. That is a big investment and taking online programs in India with unreliable internet and power supply at night time is going to be full of hassles. Hope good human sense prevails amongst border force officers.

    • Hey Man sympathize with your situation here, I too was in the midst of applications and had to drop all plans. Would you deferring your intake to sept21? I plan on applying for the 21 intake.

  2. This is all on just a paper, here is my situation: my college sent me letter stating that my presence in Canada is necessary before August 14 to quarantine and start study at scheduled time of college. And for that purpose they not only sent me letter stating essential presence but also sent me letter to fill with my quarantine plans and I have to submit it before 31st of July which I certainly can’t because I haven’t completed my biometrics and I haven’t got my visa stamped so I’m stuck in india with only option to cancel my admission or to defer it to September 2021. So basically here it’s lose for students by far in both money and time which are both essential to me I haven’t just invested 25k CAD to waste em on exchange rates. Neither I selected to study in Canada for online classes I wanted hands-on experience and my college is ready to give me that on time but Gov Canada don’t want International students to be there.

    • Hi there. I had to ask for a deferral, since I had to start on 31st August, but in my country the int’l flights restrictions are still on, more likely until September or even August. As I see on news I really don’t think the local government lift restrictions in the near future, it might be in December. Anyway, the canadian embassy has my passport and there is no answer about the delivery, either the embassy nor the visa operator Vfs, so I can not travel even if the government lifts the lockdown. What is the better option? Without a doubt, asking a deferral for the next intake, on February 2021. God bless you guys and be strong and safe.

    • Same is mine situation, Initially college was telling me to study on-line classes and the course will be start on 8th September. However, college’s authority said they do not have on-line study for my technical course (Aircraft Maintenance). So college give me a couple of Option Differ or Refund. If i go for deffer then it’s next intake Sept-2021. So am confused, because already submitted visa file and waiting for AIP

  3. I get Sw visa on 12 march. College deffer my study may intake to Sept intake. Now my study will start online from 8 September 2020.
    I have network problem,so I can’t study online.
    I can travel to Canada without any problem..send me your opinion
    Thanks

  4. Yes ,very true matching Time with the classes in Canada is quite difficult for indian students and moreover attending classes from a rural areas is the big hindrance in between. Canadian government should look after the reasons for a better future for international students.

  5. Definitely online study is less beneficial for students. Students ,who prefer study in canada not only wanna study there ,but want to enjoy a good city life due to mostly indian students are from rural areas another bug problem is timing which would creates difficulty for students so i think Canadian government must consider these issues fir changing their decision

  6. i just want to say my study is going on i want a visa rebalidate stamping on my passport my study permit till this november. i have no anything valid here.

    • Even more i spent alot of money on my study this is my last program last semester. here is internet problem alot which i am facing I donot why i am facing this i just need my stamping on passport zo that i go back and start to do work. my parents also suffer in this.

  7. Even embassy are not open please give me a way rebalidate stamping on passport so i go back like as me i donot no who r here.

    • Hi , same here , I had hope that I will travel in August but now government of Canada is cheating us , we have not filled our fees for sitting in our country and online classes, even college is not listing to us . What is going on

  8. I’m a student who got visa before 18th march but due to covid 19 i deferred my course with a hope that i will travel in August but now you are saying that you are not eligible. I mean i agree that online class is necessary but i disgree that we start our classes in home country sorry to say but it is not possible .we paid huge amount of money only to study in Canada not from home country.we have visa before 18 march and now we need to prove that our travel is essential or not??Please allow the students atleast who got their visa before 18 march no matter there is online class or hybrid.i got visa after 2 refusals and for deferment to september i have already paid money in june and now you are saying do your study online in your home country.please try to understand we are sitting with a hope never spoil our study. Waiting for your healthier response.
    Thanking you

  9. I’m a student who got visa before 18th march but due to covid 19 i deferred my course with a hope that i will travel in August but now you are saying that you are not eligible. I mean i agree that online class is necessary but i disgree that we start our classes in home country sorry to say but it is not possible .we paid huge amount of money only to study in Canada not from home country.we have visa before 18 march and now we need to prove that our travel is essential or not??Please allow the students atleast who got their visa before 18 march no matter there is online class or hybrid.i got deferment to september and now you are saying do your study online in your home country.please try to understand we are sitting with a hope never spoil our study. Waiting for your healthier response.
    Thanking you

  10. Undoubtedly, online studies are going on. But many of the students, as me living in rural areas, must be facing a lot of interest issues. As a result, we can’t study propely. This is not only the reason for the students to come to Canada. The main reason is that our parents have spent a lot of money on our study, admission and all those purposes to come to Canada. I think that money is just getting wasted as students are not able to study propely. Huge time gap between Canada and India. I request the Government to please resume the flights for international students without ristriction, so that we can continue our studies properly and can more further for our future goals.
    Thankyou.

  11. To the CBSA Ma’am sir, this news greatly saddened us international students who have a visa issued before March 18, 2020. On my part I am living in the southern part of the Philippines in a rural area where internet connection is very poor and bandwidth, most of us are only using a mobile data with limited access. The time zone are different, sudden power interruption from time to time at night.. I have deffered my Intake 2 times already hoping that I could travel this August but then this news?? We international students spend huge amount of money for the tuition fee and visa to study in Canada not in our country. Ma’am sir kindly listen to our plea, with utmost respect and sincerity please allow all international student to enter Canada who have a visa issued on and before March 18, 2020.. thank you.

  12. I got my Visa in January. I deffered my classes from may to September intake now yet I couldn’t receive any mail that my classes will be online or not . I have problem that my Visa will expire in April 2021 I am not understanding what I should do with attend online classes or deffer it . Anyone have any solution

  13. Better let professors give online coaching from.canada in night so that we can learn them I’m a day due to time difference
    Got the rural areas where there internet weak they have to arrange recorded lessons

  14. Can they allowed students that are doing online courses inn when they left ban on international flight ?We are from Nigeria .

    • Hey Bukola,I m Debola,how are u ?hope u gud ,I got admission for October 2019 and it’s to lapse for sept 2021 ,embassy yet to get bak to me on visa .How can I get to differ my admission pls .All sort of help needed .

    • Many of these students have leases that they are responsible for and can’t get out of so they should be allowed to live in the apartments they are paying for or be released from them.

  15. Only Canadian Citizens have the right to enter and remain in the country. An International student does not have that right. They have been approved a study visa and if they meet the exemptions may travel to Canada where they will be examined by a Border Services Officer to determine if they meet the requirements to be issued their study permit. (As you know things change, and surprisingly enough, there are a lot of fake students who just come here to work).
    I live in rural Canada where I use satellite internet, yet I am able to complete my education in the UK online. Time difference and bad internet, but I manage.
    Students need to stop complaining and look at the benefits: you stay at home thus save money on having to pay rent and living expenses. You can work full time in your country but only 20hrs here. You get credit for all your studying abroad for your post grad work permit. After completing 50% of your studies online you can complete the rest here.
    if you don’t like the rules, study somewhere else. Nobody is forcing you to study here.

    • Maybe for you . Not everyone is in the “UK”.The internet services in a lot of countries are terrible. And not even to mention I am unable to get my textbooks, yes not even electronically. The UK is only 4 hrs ahead of Canada, so yeah maybe you can cope, but like I said, not everyone is in the UK. Some are experiencing up to 10+ hrs difference. Yeah maybe you can work in the UK , but guess what? In my home country in Africa where I presently am, I’ll get paid peanuts even if I work every hour in the week. Be considerate about others, numerous international students like myself will benefit nothing from this. Yes I might be saving rent money but I’m paying with a whole year of my life, because I am honestly currently unable to complete my education at the moment. I have no books and have to drop all my classes for the year,because I don’t want to fail because I do need the texts to complete tasks assigned , also, most my required courses are year courses and if I don’t take them this fall term, I can’t take them during winter term even if the let me into Canada by then. A lot of new students are being forced to deffer and cancel their admission due to this circumstance. You might have it easy in the “UK” but remember other students in other less developed countries don’t. Not to mention we’re being charged an increased full international tuition at York University when we’re going to be using our own resources for the online classes . That’s total exploitation. Rethink the situation.

  16. We need to be realistic. We are in the middle of a pandemic. We have had travel bans between provinces and we are still very much struggling to contain the virus. The whole world is in the same boat in regards to the virus. Sad as that may be, we cannot afford the risk of endangering our population even more by allowing students, especially students in countries where the virus is striking or on the up swing. For perhaps the first time in history, we are all on the same footing.

  17. Hello Everyone. I received my visa before 18 march and my course is in Hybrid model. Will I be allowed then? Moreover if I’ll defer my admission to future date it would be to sept 2021 because college offers that particular course only in September and my visa will expire before even starting in September and my admission has been defered twice and for fees my parents have already loaned the fees money from bank and it has been there with college for more than a year. Moreover my IELTS exam scorecard will also expire which is another big problem. Don’t know what to do. Border services should understand the burden our parents will go through.

    • Hey Charles ,how are you?and trust you are keeping safe .pls I got admission into Regina university for October 2020 and it will lapse for sept 2021 ,yembassy still reviewing my docs,pls how can I get to defer my admission?in need of help ,thnks

  18. Even Network Is Not Good Here In Nigeria.. And The Time Here Defers From Canada Time.. Please Listen To Our Cry

  19. Atleast, all those students who received their visa before 18th March should be allowed to travel, whether their classes are online or not.

  20. I have got visa in November 2019 , and my classes deferred to September from may . I was eagerly waiting for going in Canada and for study . But now college is not listing to us and saying that start online classes what is this how you can do that without asking to students. This is not tolerable. Everyone knows how much internet connection is strong in India , we are not even able to fill documents properly online just because of internet difficulties. Government of Canada should think about international students.

  21. Allow us to enter Canada. We spent a lot of money for this opportunity. We have different time zones and I live in Phippines. That’s exactly 12hrs difference in time. We are your future citizens. Please give consideration. Please lift the ban for international students. We are not going to canada for leisure.

  22. I was in canada since may 2019 and i have valid study permit. Fall is my last semester. I have to return to canada for my work permit and concovation. Will they allow the entry?

  23. I already completed my first year study in Canada and moved to the states unfortunately couldn’t retry back due to covid 19 the worst part is the border services have told me not to come unless the college re opens but this seems to be little anticipating

  24. This is for safety for all Canadians and people who are trying to come to Canada we all are in these difficult times but nothing we can do all we can is wait until a vaccine.

  25. This is a surprising state of affairs by Canadian government which is usually joined up and supportive of promoting Canada as a place to study. On one hand the IRCC stated that it will fast track Study Permits and on the other hand , CBSA states you cant come to Canada.
    Mr Trudeau please knock a few heads and make it clear for International students if they are welcome. Its a big world, students will vote with they feet and can and will go elsewhere for their studies to the detriment of Canada.

  26. It is quite hard to attend online classes from my home country because of time zone and issues regarding bandwidth,i got my visa on 8 February and waiting for my flight, now it’s became too hard for me to wait till next intake which is January , i am feeling dippresed ,so please allow us to continue our carrier pathway.

    Thanks

  27. I got visa before 18th march and deferred my course from may to sept now my course chemical laboratory analysis is converted to online as we need lab work eventhough they converted to online i was hoping to travel in aug and prepared everything quarantine plan and staying now i cant travel just as my course is online.

  28. From day one, experts have already told us this pandemic is going to linger for months/years, thus some countries like the UK and Europe are already opening door for those countries that are containing the situation well. I hope Canada can consider the practicality of their border restrictions and strike a wise balance.

    Blanket lifting of restrictions to only international students in the US, for example, does not seem to make sense per principles of equality or risk management (US’s covid-19 outbreak has been much more severe than a lot of countries as of today…) It does not look good on Canadian government’s part if they cannot come up with a rational argument other than preferential treatment for such decision, when even the early batch countries to open border like the UK and EU are excluding the US for fair and rational considerations.

  29. I got my visa in Feb 2020,
    My ticket was on 17 march, I was about to board the flight but few hours before someone from canada called me and said that Canada has closed its borders, so I’ve to cancel my flight
    And I deferred my course to may intake as flights are not ready.
    Now I have a offline course offer letter for September intake
    But now the Canadian gov breach trust, at least they should have allow the entry to the exempted visa holders.
    Ihve proper quarantine plan even booked air bnb also from August 28

  30. I’ve seen someone say how nice it is that we’re getting opportunities to study online and that can save our money and sum. The person also said “if you have so much problems with the rules, study elsewhere”. These dumbass people are the reason why such rules exist. They think everybody comes from places where students are allowed to work. Well to those who think that’s true, you can’t be more wrong. Places like India, doesn’t really allow students to work until you have a degree. So undergraduates who just passed high school are not allowed to work anywhere.
    Another point is, if they are planning to start with online classes, they should decrease the tuition fees because it’s just exploitation on their side to charge us 20-30k just to sit in our home country. Why pay so much if we can’t even experience the environment we thought we’d get for that money? The Canadian government needs to develop some sense and think it from the international students’ point of of view before deciding on decisions like this.

  31. I’ve seen someone say how nice it is that we’re getting opportunities to study online and that can save our money and sum. The person also said “if you have so much problems with the rules, study elsewhere”. These stupid people are the reason why such rules exist. They think everybody comes from places where students are allowed to work. Well to those who think that’s true, you can’t be more wrong. Places like India, doesn’t really allow students to work until you have a degree. So undergraduates who just passed high school are not allowed to work anywhere.
    Another point is, if they are planning to start with online classes, they should decrease the tuition fees because it’s just exploitation on their side to charge us 20-30k just to sit in our home country. Why pay so much if we can’t even experience the environment we thought we’d get for that money? The Canadian government needs to develop some sense and think it from the international students’ point of of view before deciding on decisions like this.

  32. Felling like we all are backstabbed there can another solutions for this like strict quarantine and negative testing for the virus but denying entry to Canada to visaholders is not good as we spend hefty sum of money and most of us are from middle class family .

  33. Here are problems, if Officials are not aware of doing Online education
    1) Day and night cycle is different
    2) Country like India is not privileged to have Electricity supply 24/7. There are cuts each day for hours to save energy and supply to industries in peak hours
    3) Internet connection is either weak or not available
    4) indian currency value is low, working for 20 hours, does not generate fund for following year fee
    5) Absence of social network with people doing same course
    6) year behind in work experience on Canadian soil, inspite of paying cost for it
    7) Even Canadian system is suffering with no students in Lrt and Buses, No buyers in shops, Not many people in restaurants, Student housing are empty nest,
    8) Process of applying and preparing starts 2 year before visa is granted, all that bank loan and interest, that stress, God bless these intelligent students from pressure who believed in your statements during pandemic and hope yo land on Canadian soil in August.

    Please do not back up your decision. Stop tourist, Stop visitors, but education in Canada is more than industry now on which Economic system relies, so allow study visa and students. Motels are dieing. Do mandatory quarantine at reasonable cost of $30 a day, Student will happily pay for it. GET the system going. Virus is here for a while. Dont stretch to the extent that it breaks.

  34. We cannot study online ,its not an option .The Can Gvt has to make arrangements for students .The issue of biomatrics is stressing everyone .I don’t even have strong internet for that matter to do online classes and the time difference so no make arrangements !!! #international students matter

  35. I am from rural area in India. I am writing to you since i have already enrolled for study program of 2 year in canadian college.
    Due to the current situation we students are facing a grave situation of not able to land in canada to attend our classes. If online classes are started in September I will not be able to access it due to the poor connectivity bandwidth and network problem. As a result, we can’t study propely. And another problem is time difference of 12hrs between my country and Canada. I have paid my 1 year fees and I have invested a lot. We paid huge amount of money only to study in Canada not from home country. Online study is less beneficial for students. As my course also have practical labs. We students will personally suffer a lot because of this.
    I would request the honourable minister to kindly consider our concerns and make a decision in favour all of concerned students.
    Appreciate if this can be expedited so we can travel and land in canada in time for our fall semester.

    Thank you kindly

  36. I am from rural area in India. I am writing to you since i have already enrolled for study program of 2 year in canadian college
    Due to the current situation we students are facing a grave situation of not able to land in canada to attend our classes. If online classes are started in September I will not be able to access it due to the poor connectivity bandwidth and network problem. As a result, we can’t study properly. And another problem is time difference of 12hrs between my country and canada. I have paid my 1 year fees and I have invested a lot. We paid huge amount of money only to study in Canada not from home country. Online study is less beneficial for students. As my course also have practical lab. We students will personally suffer a lot because of this.
    I would request the honourable minister to kindly consider our concerns and make a decision in favour all of concerned students.
    Appreciate if this can be expedited so we can travel and land in canada in time for our fall semester.

    Thank you kindly

  37. Hi there. I had to ask for a deferral, since I had to start on 31st August, but in my country the int’l flights restrictions are still on, more likely until September or even Oct. As I see on news I really don’t think the local government lift restrictions in the near future, it might be in December. Anyway, the canadian embassy has my passport and there is no answer about the delivery, either the embassy nor the visa operator Vfs, so I can not travel even if the government lifts the lockdown. What is the better option? Without a doubt, asking a deferral for the next intake, on February 2021. God bless you guys and be strong and safe.

  38. My name is Misba Sanadi

    I am from rural area in India. Due to covid-19 I have not yet received my visa so that I can travel
    to Canada and the college is going to start online classes in September I will not be able to access it due to the poor connectivity and lack of resources. As a result, we can’t study propely. And another problem is time issue. I also paid my 1 year fees and I have invested alot of Money. We paid huge amount of money only to study in Canada not from home country. Online study is less beneficial for students. As my course needs practical hands on experience. We students will personally suffer a lot because of this. Canadian government must consider these issues and make a decision in favour of students.

    Thank you

  39. This is all not fair! The Canadian government is taking this too faar! I have paid HUGE AMOUNT OF FEES to study abroad for the MBA and my program isn’t even more than 6 months !!! Therefore I can’t apply for a study permit and also can’t enter Canada! I’m not paying so much money to sit at home and study here like this is greedy of the government! They want our money but don’t let us study there ?! Where is the sense!? They should ALLOW EVERY INTERNATIONAL STUDENT TO ENTER CANADA !! I mean we can quarantine for 14 days and all good why you making such a big deal ?!

  40. Is this backtrack tied to administrative incompetence? Dept stats reveal a 94% decline in processing from March to April. It seems that IRCC didn’t have a processing plan in place. As a solution, they propose a 2 part processing standard, to encourage students to purchase online studies without clear indication as to whether their SP will be eventually approved. Why should students hold the bag of risk?

  41. What if I complete my education more than 50% in India. Will it affect my PGWP or not. Will I get work permit in Canada?
    What is the probability of starting flights?

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