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Home International Student Corner New measures in place to support international students starting a program online this fall

New measures in place to support international students starting a program online this fall

New measures in place to support international students starting a program online this fall

International students beginning a new program online this fall, will have priority study-permit processing, if they have submitted a complete application online. They will also be allowed to count the time spent pursuing their studies online abroad toward their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit, if they have submitted a study permit application and if at least 50% of their program is completed in Canada.

The Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) is also implementing a temporary 2-stage approval process for international students who cannot submit all of the documentation needed to complete processing of their applications, and who choose to pursue programs through distance learning.

These measures are meant to support international students starting a program online this fall, if their institution offers the program online.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino says, “The pandemic has had a significant impact on international students and the Canadian institutions and communities that host them. 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 minimize how current challenges affect their plans and dreams for the future.”

Since the onset of COVID-19, IRCC has put in place several temporary policy changes to reassure international students and learning institutions. 

What to remember

  • The international students must get an ‘approval in principle’ prior to starting their programs online. To be approved, the students must show that they have been accepted at a Canadian learning institution, have the available funds and are otherwise eligible for the study permit. 
  • 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.

In 2019, Canada hosted over 650,000 international students at the post-secondary education level. More than 58,000 former international students have become Canadian permanent residents.


With these measures, there is an assurance that once travel and health restrictions in Canada and their own home countries are eased, international students will be more certain of entering Canada. As services begin to reopen, applicants will be required to submit remaining documents and receive an approved study permit before being allowed to travel to Canada.

This process is available to students starting a program in the fall semester who submit a study permit application before September 15, 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 Ministry, however, gives no guarantee that prospective students commencing their studies online from abroad following approval-in-principle of a study permit application will receive a full approval of their study permit application, or be authorized to pursue their studies in Canada. It is still possible that an applicant could receive a negative final decision on their study permit based on factors such as inadmissibility for criminality or security reasons, and the inability to predict how the COVID-19 situation and any associated travel restrictions will evolve.

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