International students will be exempt from Canada’s travel ban as long as they have a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit prior to March 18, when the travel restrictions took effect. This travel exemption for international students officially came into force on 26 March. The Canadian government has confirmed that international students who have had to transition to online study as a result of the COVID-19 crisis may still count those courses toward a Post-Study Work Permit application.
In March 2020, Canadian higher education institutions closed campuses and transitioned to deliver some or all of their programs online. Many seem likely to continue to do so through spring and summer, and are planning for contingencies for the 2020/21 academic year. By the end of 2019, there were nearly 643,000 visa-holding international students in Canada.
Canada effectively closed its borders to international travellers in a phased closure between 16 March and 18 March, and those travel restrictions remain in place today. However, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced that the exemptions to the air travel restrictions will apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying, or making Canada their home, and travel by these individuals will be considered essential travel for land border restrictions. The exemption applies only to international students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on 18 March. The exemption will not apply to those whose study permit applications were approved after the border closures fully came into effect on that day.
Those travelling by air will need to undergo a health check conducted by their airline before boarding a flight to Canada. Their health will again be assessed on arrival in Canada, and all incoming students will be required to self-isolate for 14 days immediately after arrival.
That the travel exemption is now officially in place is only the first step in welcoming new or returning students to Canada in the coming weeks and months. Restrictions on travel remain in place for many sending markets as well and flight capacity is greatly reduced. Newly arrived students will also need additional support for settlement and housing, both during their initial quarantine period and after.