Summary of Policy Updates in Support of International Students during Covid-19

With the start of the fall term for post-secondary educational institutions across Canada, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international students has become even more apparent. At present, only international students who currently hold or were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, or are coming from the United States can enter Canada and in response to these necessary but strict travel restrictions, the Canadian government has implemented a number of policy reforms to ensure that the country continues to be a viable option for international education during this worldwide pandemic.

Two-step study permit process

With the ongoing situation making it hard for international students to obtain the necessary documentation required to study in Canada, a two-step study permit process was implemented with the aim of allowing international students to get pre-approved so that they can start studying online, after which they would be allowed to enter Canada as long as their complete study permit application gets approved and the respective travel restrictions are lifted. This means that students will likely be approved for a study permit under the first stage as long as they have satisfied conditions such as providing a letter of acceptance as well as proof of funds etc. Students would be expected to provide biometrics, police background checks and undergo a medical examination etc. once they are able to enter Canada under the second stage. This process has been substantiated with immigration minister Marco Mendicino noting that as of September 22, 2020, Canada has issued 56,000 approvals at the first stage.

Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)

With distance learning not being allowed to counted towards PGWP eligibility before the pandemic, another measure was put into place to allow students to count their online studies overseas until April 30, 2021, toward a PGWP as long as at least 50% of the program is completed in Canada. Students enrolled in 8-12 month programs that began between May and September of this year will also be allowed to apply for a PGWP even if their whole program is completed online from abroad. Lastly, students enrolled in programs that began between May and September of this year and study online up to April 30, 2021, and who graduate from more than one eligible program of study, may be able to combine the length of their programs of study when they apply for a PGWP in the future, as long as at least 50% of the program is completed in Canada.

Students in Canada

Students that are already in Canada for the winter, spring and summer terms are now able to obtain a PGWP even if they are required to complete over 50% of their program online, have to reduce their studies to part-time or take a break from their studies due to the limitations on in-class learning as a result of the pandemic.


The federal government in conjunction with Health Canada are still working with universities, colleges, and other educational institutions to identify how they can continue to welcome more international students within the coming months in the safest manner possible. All things considered, it is evident that Canada is aware of the significant impact of international students to the country’s culture and economy an as such, is taking the necessary steps to ensure that these individuals can meet their education and immigration goals without added hindrances.

To discuss the details of your situation, please reach out to our office and we will gladly assist you. Please also refer to our LinkedIn page to get access to online webinars or articles posted on the most recent Canadian immigration updates.


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