Amended travel restrictions may improve difficult situation for international students

New amendments will streamline a process currently fraught with delays. (Courtesy of Unsplash / Edited by Bhabna Banerjee)

International students who wish to return to Canada for the fall 2020 or winter 2021 terms face an uncertain future with reports of significant delays. As of October 4, travel restrictions still remain in place that could potentially deem international student permits “non-discretionary” and deny them entry. However, the Government of Canada has recently announced plans to begin making this process easier, which will start in late October.

Current travel restrictions have been in place due to COVID-19 since March 18 when the border closed. Under these restrictions, entering the country as an international student is not guaranteed. Even international students with valid permits that were approved prior to March 18 will be scrutinized, with potential to be turned away.

“To determine if an international student’s travel is essential (non-discretionary), border services officers will consider their specific circumstances before making a final decision on whether they can enter Canada,” says Nancy Caron, spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

If the reason for entering the country is deemed “discretionary” by border services officials, international students can be denied entry, regardless if they have all the necessary documentation.

    If the reason for entering the country is deemed “discretionary” by border services officials, international students can be denied entry, regardless if they have all the necessary documentation.

“I think it’s hard enough to go through the process of getting permits and it’s frustrating if after all that, they can still turn me back,” says Ali Hussain, a third-year political science student currently studying in Pakistan. “I don’t know what I would do in that circumstance, to be honest I’m totally unprepared for that.”

Moreover, students currently attempting to obtain a visa or documentation now, post March 18, face potentially extreme delays. CBC reported that students have experienced delays of 27 weeks for processing their applications. 

Caron acknowledges that COVID-19 restrictions have extended processing times and says the IRCC is extending deadlines in lieu of this. However, how long it will actually take still remains unknown.

“We have implemented adaptive measures to extend submission deadlines for clients who face delays due to COVID-19 restrictions, which will further extend processing times,” says Caron. “Because there are so many different variables involved, we are unable to provide specific timelines at this time.”

However, the government just announced future changes that may significantly improve the situation for international students overall.

“Amended travel restrictions will take effect on October 20, allowing international students to enter Canada if their designated learning institution (DLI) has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place,” stated the update on October 2nd.

    Starting October 20, all international students with appropriate documentation coming to attend DLIs will automatically have their travel considered “non-discretionary and non-optional.”

The changes to travel restrictions are specifically tailored to the needs of international students, and may address the concerns of students with and without study permit approval. 

Starting October 20, all international students with appropriate documentation coming to attend DLIs will automatically have their travel considered “non-discretionary and non-optional.” This is a striking and welcome contrast from students being turned away.

A list of DLIs will be made available on or around October 20. Whether or not York makes the list remains to be seen.

Additionally, immediate family members may be able to accompany the international student to Canada, under the amended travel restrictions.

“Learning institutions whose COVID-19 readiness plans have been approved by their provincial or territorial government will soon be able to welcome more international students back to their schools,” the IRCC stated.

About the Author

By Sakeina Syed

Former Editor

Sakeina is in her third year at York University studying public administration and creative writing. She is committed to learning and writing about critical issues and uplifting marginalized stories. Outside of Excalibur, you'll most likely find her reading a book or collecting funny cat videos.

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