International students face confusion as Canada announces new Immigration guidance

With the introduction of the new guidance by the Canadian Government, incoming students face another set of limitations that can jeopardize their entry to Canada, if their courses have switched to online mode of teaching. As per the guidelines, students should consider traveling to Canada only if their travel is “non-optional and non-discretionary”.

The catch here is, IRCC has left it to the discretion of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and even the student’s airlines, if the travel can be considered optional or discretionary. The carrier will supposedly determine the student’s ability to travel to Canada while on arrival, his/her entry to Canada will be decided by the CBSA officials.

Post this announcement, there have been reports doing the rounds that there are individual cases where the airline has denied the student to board the flight or they are being asked to return after arriving at the Canadian border. As per IRCC, if the student’s program has transitioned to online mode of teaching, there are probabilities that the travel can be considered optional and discretionary. The authorities will assess the student’s circumstances based on the following conditions –

  • If the student is established and studying in Canada, the return is non-discretionary
  • The studies shall begin after completion of the quarantine
  • Presence in Canada is mandatory to continue the studies (laboratory/workshops)
  • Online studies is not possible from home country (no internet access etc.)
  • Semester is cancelled or the student shall begin studies in the next year

It remains unclear as to how the CBSA shall determine the factors such as internet restrictions, but this has left the Canadian educators as well as the incoming students in a state of uncertainty as their entry is entirely dependent upon the CBSA’s evaluation.

Another setback is the failure to settle to a certain set of process and protocols by the provincial governments to ensure the safety of the international students. To address the issue, second round of discussions are underway which would clarify detailed and comprehensive requirements such as safe arrival of students, pre-arrival requirements, quarantine provisions, student support and measures in place for post-quarantine period. However, it is clear that the consultations may take months and the institutes as well as the international students will get the clearer picture towards the end of the year only.

Undoubtedly, Canada has emerged as a distinguished nation who has taken supportive measures for international students to continue with their Canadian dreams such as entry of students with valid permit as of March 18, online education, relaxation in norms for post-graduate work visa and conditional study permit approvals. However, with the recent development there have been doubts hovering the minds of the international students, if they would be entering the Canada this year as they expected a few months ago.