As the highly infectious Omicron variant spreads worldwide, the federal government is urging that all Canadians avoid any non-essential travel outside of the country, as to not accelerate the transmission of the variant. This entails that stringent COVID-19 precautions will be enforced for international travellers arriving at Canada’s border.
Following the new advisory, international students once again now face an array of uncertainties.
“Since there are all kinds of possibilities that Ontario might move towards a lockdown, as a newcomer to Canada, there is a certain anxiety amongst every student,” says Hiral Shah, a student in the digital and content marketing post-graduate program. Among Shah’s concerns is the current pandemic’s impact on learning delivery and financial stability for students.
Online learning has been the sole option for many of Canada’s international students. With the rise of Omicron cases, many are now grappling with the implications it may have on their education. “University experience is very important to shape our future, and in-person classes are therefore of utmost importance for someone who doesn’t come from this country,” Shah continues.
“What is more concerning is that as an international student, you make your ends meet in the city by the support of your earnings through part-time jobs. Since we are moving towards a possible lockdown, and with people already laid off from work to maintain 50 per cent capacity, there is a lot of concern stressing on the fact of how we will get jobs to survive in the city,” Shah adds.
Khush Kajaria, a first-year financial and business economics student at York, shares similar uncertainties. As many Canadian universities prepare for online learning in the upcoming semester, many international students have voiced their concerns that this form of delivery will hinder their learning.
“The impact this would cause on learning ahead of that point is yet to be seen and depends on the government’s actions regarding international travel moving forward and the subsequent response to that from the university,” says Kajaria.
Moreover, concerning the current travel advisory, Kajaria claims that international students face numerous challenges: the detailed questioning process, the quarantine requirements upon arrival, and the issue of approving vaccinations. “I have heard stories where students had to travel through multiple countries and quarantine just to enter Canada.”
HuffPost reports that many international students in Canada feel under-supported by the government. However, the government of Canada claims they intend on easing the process for international students.
Geneviève Tremblay, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, assures that they are continuing their “dedicated efforts to safeguard the safety, health and well-being of all Canadian citizens and residents, including international students.”
As of January 15, 2022, international students 18 years or older will need to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada.
Tremblay continues, “In light of the continuing pandemic, Canada has implemented flexibilities in the Post Graduate Work Permit Program (PGWPP), allowing all online study at a Canadian institution from spring 2020 to August 31, 2022, to count towards the length of a Post Graduate Work Permit. The PGWPP also now allows 100 per cent of total studies to be done online from outside of Canada.”