Canadian immigration officials share operational updates

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • A recent conference presentation by IRCC officials highlighted a number of important changes in policy and procedure for this year
  • These include an expansion of biometric requirements and updated guidance for students transitioning among levels of study or from one Canadian institution to another

Officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shared a number of important operational updates for Canada’s study permit (student visa) programme this week at the 2019 conference of the Canadian Bureau for International Education in Winnipeg.

The IRCC panel highlighted a number of important changes in policy and procedure that will come into effect in the coming months, including an expansion of biometric requirements, changes in electronic applications for students already in Canada, study permit issuance for pre-requisite studies, and updated guidance for students transitioning between secondary and post-secondary programmes in Canada.

Biometrics for students already in Canada

Throughout 2018, Canada’s immigration ministry expanded its use of biometrics for applicants for visitor visas, work permits, study permits, or permanent residence. As of 31 December 2018, nearly all visa applicants filing from outside of Canada were asked to supply fingerprints and a photo as part of the application process.

There has, however, been an exemption in place for those already in Canada and eligible to apply for a visa or visa extension within Canada. The IRCC panel announced this week that that exemption will end later this year. The date will be officially announced on the IRCC website in the near future but for the moment this much is clear:

  • The exemption for in-Canada applicants will end in December 2019.
  • IRCC has entered into a partnership with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) for the collection of biometric information.
  • Applicants will be required to provide their biometrics at one of 56 designated Service Canada locations across the country – these centres are operated by ESDC.
  • In-Canada applicants will continue to file their study permit applications online with IRCC. On filing an application, they will then receive additional instructions from IRCC as to how and where they can provide their biometric information (at an ESDC-operated Service Centre) to complete the application process.

The exemption remains in place for any in-Canada applicants that have previously filed biometrics with IRCC within the last ten years.

Mandatory online filing

As of 12 June 2019, IRCC expanded its use of online visa application processes. This means in effect that the following types of applications must now be filed online:

  • Applications for extensions of temporary resident status made from within Canada
  • Applications for study or work permits made from within Canada
  • Applications for renewals of study or work permits made from within Canada
  • Applications for restoration of status made from within Canada

Some exemptions to this online filing requirement remain in place as follows:

  • Post-graduation work permits for clients applying on a visitor record
  • Post-graduation work permit extensions, where the full work permit length was not previously issued due to medical or passport conditions
  • Post-doctoral fellows and award recipients
  • Medical residents and fellows

Guidance for pre-requisite studies

The IRCC panel also clarified current guidance with respect to study permits for students pursuing pre-requisite studies in preparation for further studies in Canada.

IRCC advises that study permits will be issued for successful applicants for pre-requisite studies for the length of the student’s planned pre-requisite programme plus one year.

The department cautions, however, that students cannot work off campus while completing pre-requisite courses. They must complete any such preparatory courses and begin their further programme of study before being eligible to work off campus.

Transition between levels of study

IRCC has also updated its guidance for students transitioning between levels of study, particularly those moving from primary to secondary grades or on to post-secondary programmes.

Students transitioning between levels of study are no longer required to apply for a new study permit, so long as their current study permit remains valid.

However, students changing level of study within Quebec, or moving to a new programme of study in Quebec from another location in Canada, will still need to obtain a new Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ, or Quebec Acceptance Certificate). (The CAQ is an additional study authorisation – that is, additional to the Canadian study permit – required for foreign students who have been admitted for studies in Quebec.)

The IRCC panel also confirmed that students changing from one Designated Learning Institution (DLI) to another in Canada now no longer need to obtain a new study permit. However, students making such a change are required to inform IRCC of their new institution.

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