International students are extremely important to Canada’s society and economy. The 640,000 international students in Canada help to create a vibrant learning environment on campuses across the country. They also contribute some $22 billion to the economy each year which supports around 200,000 Canadian jobs.
Recognizing that international students have also been impacted by COVID-19 disruptions, Canada has announced a variety of special measures to help the international students already in the country, plus international students who would like to come to Canada in the near future.
Current and former international students (e.g., a former international student who now holds a Post-Graduation Work Permit) who need to extend their stay in Canada during the coronavirus pandemic may be eligible for implied status.
Such individuals may benefit from implied status while Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reviews their work/study permit extension application, and hence, they may continue studying or working in Canada as per the conditions of their original permit while IRCC makes a decision on their pending application.
International students are usually restricted to working no more than 20 hours per week while class is in session. However, IRCC recently lifted this restriction. As a result, international students working in 10 priority sectors that are helping to fight COVID-19 are able to work more than 20 hours per week until August 31. These 10 sectors are:
The federal government has launched the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to provide income support to those in Canada who have been negatively affected by COVID-19. The CERB offers $500 per week for up to 16 weeks to eligible workers. International students who meet the CERB’s eligibility criteria may receive such income support.
In recent years, more international students have transitioned to permanent residence. International students possess the key human capital characteristics that federal and provincial governments look for when selecting immigrants. They are young, have high levels of education and English/French proficiency, and possess Canadian experience. Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, both levels of government have issued more invitations to apply for permanent residence to those with Canadian experience.
IRCC has also become more lenient towards immigration applicants, given that the coronavirus may impact their ability to submit a completed application. IRCC has stated it will not refuse incomplete applications and will provide applicants affected by COVID-19 with an additional 90 days to complete the missing steps.
The Post-Graduation Work Permit is critical to helping former international students gain the Canadian work experience that they may need to transition to permanent residence. In early April, IRCC announced that international students who were approved for a study permit to begin their program in Canada in May or June will be able to begin their program online without affecting their eligibility to eventually apply for a PGWP. In addition, the PGWP eligibility of international students already in Canada will not be affected by the online courses they are taking in the absence of in-class instruction.
Canada’s response to the coronavirus has been impressive, as it has gone above and beyond to accommodate immigrants, international students, and temporary foreign workers. Canada’s efforts to accommodate foreign nationals highlights significant differences between it and other countries, such as the United States.
One of the key takeaways since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis is that Canada has constantly sought new reforms to accommodate foreign nationals. The measures discussed above were not all rolled out at once, but rather, were gradually announced as IRCC and other Canadian government authorities considered how they can help foreign nationals in need.
As such, it is safe to say that the Canadian government will be open to introducing more help for the likes of international students if and when it is necessary.
Kareem El-Assal is the Director of Policy & Digital Strategy at CanadaVisa.
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