Quebec Introduced Major Policy Change Allowing International Students Study From Abroad

The Quebec provincial government has introduced a major policy change that will make it possible for international students, who are forced to stay in their country of origin due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions, to meet program conditions if they begin their studies abroad.

According to Radio-Canada, Quebec’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEES) said international students will be allowed to begin their studies online in the province this fall.

This announcement is a delight to the over 60,000 international students who come to Quebec every year and who, until now, do not know if they could meet the required criteria to register for the fall 2020 or winter of 2021.

Under previous criteria, foreign students had to settle in Quebec to be allowed to study in the province. Universities and colleges in Quebec also receive funding from Quebec only if that condition is met.

However, because of the special measures put in place to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that the borders are still closed, the arrival of these international students in the coming weeks is uncertain.

As a result, post-secondary institutions in Quebec were not sure whether they would get government funding to cover their operating costs and continue to be able to process foreign student registrations and offer all their programs.

Quebec’s decision and policy change to relax the rules follows a broad public outcry from affected international students who are determined to study in Canada as well as colleges and universities in the province.

Many feared students could choose other countries as their study destinations and that regulatory changes would not happen soon enough for September registration.

“Foreign students make their decisions in May or early June. If they [can’t come] to Quebec, they will go somewhere else,” Pierre Cosette, president of the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire (BCI), declared a few weeks ago.

Both the federal governments and Quebec have shown a willingness to temporarily remove some of the more restrictive policies that could have barred many previously eligible students who wish to study in Canada.

Two weeks ago, Canada’s immigration ministry announced a major reform of the Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). Foreign students will now be able to complete fifty (50) per cent of their programs while abroad and still be able to obtain the work permit to work in Canada after they complete their studies. Typically, online programs do not count toward the study requirement for a PGWP application.

Just about the same time, Quebec also announced it would extend the validity of Certificate of Acceptance of Quebec (CAQ) that were about to expire.

International students are now able to apply to the federal government for an extension of their study permit without having to lodge a new CAQ, which will enable them to maintain their temporary resident status and complete their course of study.

Both federal and provincial governments have a special interest in supporting foreign students because they make a significant contribution to the growth of the economy.

According to federal government estimates, international students contribute over $22 billion to Canada’s GDP every year. In Quebec, where the population of international students is very high, their contribution is estimated at $3 billion in addition to providing 25,000 jobs on an annual basis.