Earlier this year, Canada announced that foreign students would be exempt from a travel restrictions as long as they had a valid study permit or had been issued a study permit before March 18, 2020.
However, new rules mean that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is only letting students into the country if their travel is ‘non-optional or non-discretionary’.
Confusion over these travel restrictions have led to some Indian students being turned away from flights by airlines companies even though they have purchased tickets, have study permits and believed they were eligible to travel.
“When I reached the IGI Airport in New Delhi, I was trying to board a plane, but the staff of Air India was preventing me from boarding the plane,” Ramanpreet Kaur, an international student who has a place at Lambton College in Sarnia, said in an interview.
“They confirmed all my documents and requested for the Port of Entry letter, in which my school mentioned that my presence in Canada is essential.
“I was stuck there and arguing with the airline officials for several hours. I explained all my situations to them and showed all my documents which I had but they refused me from boarding,” Kaur said.
Kaur said that eight other Indian students were turned away at the airport, one of whom was taking a hybrid program at a Canadian university.
A statement on the Canadian government’s website said that prior to the boarding, airlines were instructed to conduct an assessment of foreign nationals’ ability to travel to Canada based on CBSA guidelines for the travel restrictions.
However, the decision to allow entry into Canada is the sole responsibility of CBSA officers.
“CBSA continues to disseminate guidance to airline stakeholders, in the context of our role to provide guidance to air carriers on persons appropriately documented to wish to fly to Canada,” a spokesperson said in a media briefing.
A journalist asked Air India exactly how it applies this guidance to assess whether a student is qualified to travel to Canada but did not receive any reply at the time of publication.
CBSA said in a statement that between March 22 and July 22, 235 foreign citizens travelling trans-border by air were not allowed to enter into Canada. It did not say what number were international students.
The changes in rules around foreign students having to have a ‘non-optional’ reason to enter the country has caused serious concern for some Indian students.
“We students are facing a lot already whether it’s mentally or financially,” said Ruhani Thakur, an Indian student who plan to study at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
“[The government of Canada should understand the ground problems of Indian students.
If we wish to study online and in our home country then why have we invested such enormous amount [of money] in Canada, while we can support our own nation rather than supporting Canada for their economy?” she said.