Since March, Canada has sought to help international students experiencing disruptions caused by the corona virus pandemic.
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 corona virus 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 diffrences 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.
Canada is helping international students a number of ways such as increasing the number of working hours allowed from 20 to 40 for certain occupations, and opening up the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to them, which provides recipients $2,000 per month. Quebec will automatically extend the Quebec Acceptance Certificates of international students if they are set to expire before December 31, 2020.
Further More ,For those international students who still fall through the cracks, advocates are pressuring the federal government to do more. David Dingwall, president of Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia, recently called on the federal government to open up the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) to international students as well as Canadian students. Introduced in late April, the CESB will provide up to $1,750 in monthly income assistance to eligible students, but international students are excluded from the program.
“Eligibility for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit is aligned with the Canada Student Loans Program in that it is aimed at Canadian citizens and permanent residents,” a spokesperson with Employment and Social Development Canada wrote CIC News in an email.
Though Dingwall’s media release said the student benefit “acknowledges the contributions that [Canadian] post-secondary students make to our country,” he also said “it fails to recognize the contributions that international students make to Canada.”
Nova Scotia was home to 11,817 international students in October, 2019, according to the Association of Atlantic Universities.
“The impact [that international students have] on our small province is enormous,” Dingwall said in the release. “I am confident that Universities Canada and its members will continue to advocate for our international students.”