The new regulations were announced along with measures for family reunification and entry on compassionate grounds, replacing the previous rules that students could only enter if they had a study permit issued on or before March 18. Health checks and quarantines requirements will remain in place.
International students will be eligible regardless of where they are traveling from or when their study permit was approved.
“Canada’s universities are very pleased that the Government of Canada has amended travel restrictions to allow international students to begin safely entering the country,” said Cindy McIntyre, assistant director, international relations at Universities Canada.
“This is a testament to the critical importance of international students to Canadian communities, and a recognition of the rigorous and comprehensive plans that universities across the country have put in place.”
The minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco EL Mendicino added that “strict but necessary penalties” would be given to those who broke the rules. “Willfully or recklessly contravening” the Quarantine Act could entail a fine of up to CAD$1 million and three years in prison.
“[Plans must] establish protocols for the health of students in the event there are suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases at the school”
Institutions will need to specify “how they will provide information to international students on health and travel requirements before they arrive in Canada, help students with their quarantine plans and provide guidance or assistance in acquiring the necessities of life, such as food and medication, during their quarantine”.
They will also be required to “establish protocols for the health of students in the event there are suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases at the school”.
“This announcement is an extremely positive development for colleges and institutes across Canada and reflects our collective efforts to prepare and plan for the safe arrival of international students,” Colleges and Institutes Canada said in a statement, while CBIE president and CEO Larissa Bezo called the announcement “very welcome news”.
“We know international travel remain complicated and that many Visa Application Centers remain closed, so studying online will continue to be an option for the time being,” Colleges and Institutes Canada President and CEO Denise Amyot said.
“Our members have worked with their respective provincial government and local public health unit to ensure that they provide a safe and welcoming environment for their students, and that international student arrivals can be accommodated safely.”
Tamwood, which runs language centres and other programs across Canada, told The PIE News its planning involved partnering with a specialist in infectious diseases to develop their quarantine protocol plan, as well as consulting with different levels of government.
“The team at Tamwood were just fantastic, working on weekends and editing draft versions of the readiness plans as we learned more,” said president and CEO Matt Collingwood.
“The effort in itself took about about three months of work”
“The effort in itself took about about three months of work if one were to include not just the report writing but the consultative meetings with government and medical advisors.”
Collingwood further added that the company was “excited to welcome the international student community back”.
However, this doesn’t mean that all international students will be able to return to Canada. For students in countries like India, the the major hurdle remains closed visa centres.
Mohammed Danish, a student enrolled at Centennial College in Toronto, told The PIE that travel restrictions and lack of visa services have forced him to defer beginning his studies several times already.
“As far as travelling to Canada is concerned, many students like myself are stuck here even after the relief provided by Canadian government because the High Commission of Canada in India is adamant not to open VAC here in India,” he said.
“These exemptions provided are not helpful to us in any way”
“Until and unless they reopen their visa application centres in India these exemptions provided are not helpful to us in any way.”
According to Universities Canada’s McIntyre, a gradual increase in international students coming to Canada is expected over the next few months, “with a potentially larger cohort arriving in time for the start of the winter semester in January”.
“The ability of students to travel will, however, in many cases still be dependent on the conditions of the pandemic in their home countries,” she added.