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Canada Announces Major Change To Study Permit To Support International Students

Canada has announced a new major change to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) rules for international students forced to study via distance learning because of the travel restrictions imposed to contained the spread of COVID-19. The change announced mid,2020, allows international students not able to study in Canada to count time spent distance learning towards their Post-Graduation Work Permit eligibility.

Under the change, an international student’s eligibility for the PGWP will not be affected if their fall 2020 courses are held online due to coronavirus. Furthermore, foreign students are to be allowed to complete up to fifty (50) per cent of their program online if they are not able to travel to Canada. Finally, the online part of their studies, up until December 31, 2020, will not be taken away from their future PGWP.

Formerly, the PGWP feature criteria do not encourage distance learning programs. Time spent outside Canada was removed from the length of work permit available. Under exemptions to Canada’s travel restrictions, international students can still come to Canada if they hold a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study visa, before March 18, 2020.

Why This Rule?

Restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic have forced universities and colleges in Canada to conduct classes online.

Thousands of international students were forced to return to their home countries when the virus broke out.

Under previous PGWP rule, time spent outside Canada was deducted and counted against candidates, as well as time spent distance learning.

But, given they presently have no choice but to attend online classes, Canada’s immigration ministry (IRCC) has moved to ensure they are not penalized.

IRCC first moved to make the change for international students already studying in Canada or whose program had a spring or summer starting date.

Now Canada’s immigration department has extended the changes to those starting in the fall.

Who Is Affected By This Change?

The change will, first and foremost, come as a relief to foreign students planning to start or continue classes in fall, with the intention of becoming eligible for the PGWP.

This category of people has had their situations thrown into doubt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new change seeks to reassure international students that Canada still wants them, even though their arrival may be delayed by travel restrictions.

The change is also important to Canada’s Designated Learning Institutions – the universities, colleges, and schools whose classes qualify students for a PGWP.

In the wake of the restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, Distance Learning Institutions will be watching the impact upon their foreign student groups for the 2020-2021 academic year.

A decision that reassures international students will make them more likely to view the crisis as a blip in their plans, instead of a reason to abandon the idea of coming to Canada. International students are essential to the bottom line of universities and colleges.

In a separate decision, Quebec’s immigration ministry has also moved to extend the stay of foreign students whose Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) expired as of April 30, allowing them to apply for extension in the province until the end of 2020.

Quebec international students can now apply to the federal government to have their study permit extended without needing a new CAQ. This means they can continue as a temporary resident of Canada and finish their studies once courses are allowed to resume.

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