Most colleges, worldwide, have cancelled in-person, on-campus modes of teaching and learning, turning as much as possible to online courses to help their students continue on their study paths.
In Canada, international students who must usually take in-person classes to maintain visa status will soon be allowed to take more online classes. Additionally, the Canadian Government has announced financially support for international students enrolled in the country’s colleges and universities. The programme provides emergency funding of CDN$500 per week for up to 16 weeks.
As of 6 April, the Government of Canada has begun to accept applications for the newly announced Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The government has confirmed that international students can be eligible for the CERB if they meet the following programme requirements:
*They live in Canada, and are at least 15 years old;
* They have been forced to stop working because of COVID-19;
* They had income of at least CDN$5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and
* They expect to be without employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial 4-week period.
The previous-income requirement, however, disqualifies many student employees. Plus, students who rely on summer jobs to subsidise their schooling have seen most of those jobs disappear as the unemployment rate skyrockets. All of this leaves the student population facing a dire financial situation over the next several months. However, international students who have been in Canada, and working in the range of the allowed limit of 20 hours per week during their studies over the past year, may well meet the minimum income threshold for CERB.
IRCC advises that many Canadian Visa Application Centres (VACs) are closed or operating under reduced hours at this time. New applicants for Canadian study permits are advised to apply online wherever possible, and to at least check on the current status of their local VACs before trying to apply in person. IRCC further notes that, “If your VAC is closed and you need to contact us urgently, use the web form. Do not go to a visa office.”