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Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
15th Jul 2020

Canada announces conditional student visa approvals for students beginning studies online

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Canada’s immigration ministry has established a new two-stage approval process for new study permit applications
  • The process effectively provides for a conditional approval which allows students to begin their studies online while still abroad, and then to complete the application process as visa processing services are more fully restored worldwide

Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced new visa policies and services this week that are designed to ease international students’ transition to study in Canada in the coming months.

These new measures include:

  • Providing priority study permit processing for applicants who have submitted a complete application online
  • Allowing students to count time spent in online studies abroad toward their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit, so long as (i) they have submitted a study permit application and (ii) at least 50% of their programme of study is completed in Canada
  • Implementing a new two-stage approval process for students who cannot submit all of the documentation needed for a complete study permit application (for example, any biometric requirements)

Each of these is significant, but the last item is especially noteworthy as it effectively introduces a conditional approval process for new applicants to help reassure students that they are on track to pursue studies in Canada once visa processing services are fully restored, travel restrictions ease, and international flight services are re-established.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) explains this new two-stage approval process as follows:

  • “Applicants who pass the approval-in-principle stage — which includes showing that they have been accepted at a Canadian learning institution, have the available funds and are otherwise eligible for the study permit — will be notified of a first-step approval.
  • Once the approval-in-principle is issued, applicants can begin studying online abroad and have that time count towards their post-graduation work permit, provided they meet other criteria and that they eventually receive full approval of their study permit.
  • An applicant will receive final approval once they have met all eligibility and admissibility requirements, including submitting biometrics and necessary documents such as an immigration medical exam and a police certificate. Only once a final approval is received will an applicant be able to travel to Canada.”

The conditional approval process also sets up a new type of timeline for the students’ studies in Canada. It allows study permit applicants to count time spent studying online (while still outside Canada) towards post-graduate work permit eligibility once they have the conditional approval (“approval-in-principle”) from the first step of the approval process. The idea being that as more visa services reopen, applicants will then submit any remaining documentation required in order to secure their final, second-stage approval for the study permit and, subsequently, travel to Canada to continue their studies.

The IRCC statement on this new policy adds, “This process is available to students starting a program in the fall semester who submit a study permit application before 15 September 2020. This measure will reassure students that they can enrol and begin their studies this fall online, even when they are not able to submit all required documentation due to pandemic-related closures.”

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on international students and the Canadian institutions and communities that host them,” added Minister Mendicino. “This is why we have implemented a series of measures to support them. We value the contribution of young people seeking a high-quality education in Canada, and we’re making every effort to minimise how current challenges affect their plans and dreams for the future.”

This week’s announcement follows another important IRCC bulletin from 30 June in which the ministry announced the resumption of some visa processing services. As of 1 July, IRCC began again to process online applications for visitor visas and electronic travel authorisations (eTAs). Processing has also resumed for online applications for study permits and work permits.

While paper-based applications are not being accepted at this time, IRCC notes that some visa application centres (VACs) have begun to reopen. Applicants are advised to check the IRCC website for the current status of VACs in their local area.

IRCC cautions as well that, “Due to current travel restrictions, applicants should keep in mind that, even if they apply and get a visitor visa or eTA, most people will not be able to travel to Canada at this time…Those who are eligible to travel to Canada at this time must have a plan to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in Canada. This is mandatory, even if they have no symptoms. Those who don’t have a plan should not travel to Canada.”

For additional background, please see:

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