Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, countries (including Canada) have limited non-essential international travel. The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) states that until further notice, you might not be able to travel to Canada, even if you have a valid visitor visa or electronic travel authorization. However, some travelers are eligible to travel to Canada if they are:
- exempt from the travel restrictions and
- traveling for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose
Currently, the exemptions for international students stand as follows:
“If you’re an international student who has a valid study permit, or were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, you’re exempt from the travel restrictions.”
However, we urge the Canadian government to open its doors to all international students, including those who were approved for a study permit after March 18, 2020, into the country for the Fall 2020 semester as their purpose of travel is essential/ non-discretionary. For some students, not being in Canada may limit our learning experiences for several reasons, namely:
- Students may not have access to proper resources in order to begin or continue their education (ie: high-speed Internet, labs, research libraries, censorship of certain information in some countries, etc.).
- Time zone differences may affect the ability of students to actively participate in classes.
- Research/ Graduate students may not be able to conduct their research or have access to resources that allow them to conduct said research. Additionally, it will be impossible for students to participate in select experiential activities that are not easily adaptable to a remote delivery format such as labs, studios, and clinical placements offered in-person.
- Some students risk losing their funding if they are unable to begin their degree studies in the Fall. Under Canadian law, universities are not able to provide any employment wages until students are able to be present in Canada with their TRV, study permit, resident social insurance number, address, and bank account. However, if travel restrictions are lifted and a student is able to arrive in Canada for the Fall term, then they will be eligible to begin employment as a Teaching Assistant, Research Assistant, or Graduate Assistant as their Program has designated.
- Some students feel unsafe in their homes and/or countries. Such places may not be conducive to learning. Being away at school grants them that safety and security, be it physical safety or mental health. Feeling unsafe may limit one’s ability to learn.
All students arriving in Canada must follow the emergency order under the Quarantine Act, which includes a 14-day self-isolation requirement. Canada is well-known for welcoming immigrants, international students, foreign workers, and visitors from some 200 countries each year. We hope that in this difficult time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco E. L. Mendicino, remain committed to serving the needs of all international students.