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Canada extends remote learning at ‘last-minute’ as visa delays continue

International students at Canadian universities can continue to study remotely without jeopardising their chances of working in the country after they graduate, the government announced in August.

June saw a visa backlog of 2.1 million applications, causing chaos among students bound for Canada. Photo: Pexels

The government has also hired 1,250 new employees and expanded its online services

Although Canada is keen for foreign students to return to in-person learning, the country’s immigration services have implemented a “transition period” for distance learning following a summer of visa processing delays, extending measures put in place during the pandemic.

June saw a backlog of 2.1 million applications, causing chaos among students bound for Canada.  

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, which is responsible for processing visa applications, said that it has prioritised study permit applications for students whose courses begin in September but admitted that some applications have not been processed in time for the new academic year. 

Students who are already studying online from outside Canada, or those who submitted a study permit application before August 31, will be able to complete their entire program online without affecting their eligibility for post-graduate work permits. 

Those starting a course or applying for a study permit between September 1 2022 and August 31 2023 can complete 50% of their program from outside Canada without affecting their PGWP eligibility. 

“The news came out much too late and was not well communicated”

From September 2023 onwards, all study time completed outside of Canada will be deducted from the length of a graduate’s work permit. 

“Overall it is a feeling of welcome relief for many students who have been stressed about the start to their term,” said Philipp Reichert, global engagement director at The University of British Columbia.

“However the news came out much too late and was not well communicated given that it could have relieved a lot of stress much earlier.

“This late announcement has left many institutions across Canada scrambling at the last minute to provide online classes and for some fields of study this last-minute change may not be possible, and as a result students may have to defer to January 2023 or to September 2023, if that is an option for them.” 

The government has also announced additional measures to tackle the ongoing backlog, including hiring 1,250 new employees and expanding its online services to most permanent residence applicants. 

India’s acting high commissioner to Canada, Anshuman Gaur, spoke on CBC News on September 3 about the issues facing some of the 75,000 Indian students who have applied to Canadian universities. 

“The students are not very clear about how and when they’re going to get their visas and whether they can begin their semesters in time,” he said. “Most of these people have taken loans, and they’re losing money on that, paying interest for an education that they’re not getting.”

IRCC said it has seen “unprecedented interest” in Canada and had finalised almost 360,000 study permits up to the end of July this year, compared to approximately 306,000 in the same period in 2021.

The department also blamed delays on ageing technology and the need to respond to humanitarian crises. 

“We are hopeful that processing times are able to catch up and that many students who may not be able to join for the fall term will be able to join at a later date,” Reichert said. 

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