Canada and the U.S.: Divergent Attitudes Towards International Students


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As US President Donald Trump moved to clamp down on international students affected by the coronavirus crisis, the numbers of study permit arrivals in Canada remains strong.

The US announced on Monday that foreign students whose classes have been moved online for the fall semester would either have to transfer to another school or have their visas cancelled.

Meanwhile, 67,000 international student arrived to study in Canada in 2020, including 19,000 in April, as the numbers remain high despite the coronavirus crisis.

On December 31, 2019, Canada recorded a record total of 642,480 valid study permit holders, a figure that has almost doubled in five years and increased from 568,130 in 2018.

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Despite coronavirus travel restrictions, Canada moved quickly to put in place a slew of temporary policies to benefit international students.

The foremost of these was to exempt from travel restrictions international students approved for their study permits on or before March 18, 2020.

Many international students who had already been offered places for the fall semester have therefore still been able to travel to Canada, provided they quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Post-Graduation Work Permit

Canada has announced new Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) rules for international students forced to study via distance learning because of restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The change announced on May 14, 2020, allows students unable to study in Canada to count time spent distance learning towards their PGWP eligibility.

Under the change, a foreign student’s eligibility for the PGWP will not be affected if their fall 2020 courses are conducted online due to COVID-19.

Furthermore, international students are to be allowed to complete up to 50 percent of their program online if they are unable to travel to Canada.

Finally, the online portion of their studies, up until December 31, 2020, will not be deducted from their future PGWP.

Essential Workers

International students considered coronavirus essential workers in Canada are exempted from the 20 hours of work per week limit usually applied to study permit holders when classes are in session.

The exemption, in place until August 31, 2020, covers those working in ‘health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods’ according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

It means they are free to help in Canada’s effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quebec Response

In Quebec, the immigration ministry has moved to extend the stay of international students whose Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) expired as of April 30, allowing them to apply to stay in the province until the end of 2020.

The move is aimed at those who had their courses interrupted by efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus in the French-speaking province.

Quebec foreign students can now apply to the federal government to have their study permit extended without requiring a new CAQ. This means they can continue as a temporary resident of Canada and complete their program once courses are allowed to resume.

Canada Covets International Students

Canada views international students as blue chip new permanent residents.

It launched the Student Direct Stream in 2018, providing expedited processing for international students from key markets: China, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan, Senegal and Morocco.

International students attending eligible institutions also qualify for the PGWP, allowing them to stay and begin their careers here after graduation and then use the experience gathered to support a permanent residence application.

Given their age, Canadian education, Canadian life experience and language ability, foreign students are seen as strong candidates to quickly integrate into Canadian society.

IRCC tweaked the Express Entry System in November 2016 to introduce more points for international graduates from Canadian universities.

What are the Extra CRS Points For Canadian Education?

Education Level Number of Points
High school 0
One or two-year post-secondary 15
Three-year post-secondary, master’s, professional degree or doctorate 30

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