IMMIGRATION AND TRAVEL FAQ ON COVID-19 FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

Last updated: July 10, 2020

June 1, 2020: Colleges and Institutes Canada, Universities Canada, and the Canadian Bureau for International Education have compiled a summary of policy and procedure updates provided by IRCC related to COVID-19.

Read the document >

View Frequently Asked Questions for:

Newly Admitted Students

Travelling to Canada

Current Students

General information and updates

Recent updates:

July 10:

- Added General information and updates section

- Removed May 14 IRCC announcement from top of page (information still available in FAQ)

- Added link to Self-isolation guide to FAQs on travel impacts and arrival information

June 18:

- Updated page title from "Immigration" to "Immigration and Travel"

June 15:

- Added information on non-discretionary travel requirement to questions on travel restrictions/exemptions for new and current students, and updated information on recommended documents for entry

View all updates >

NEWLY ADMITTED STUDENTS

I am an international student and have questions regarding my immigration status (eg, study permit, work permit, visa). Who should I contact?

SFU international students, recent graduates, and newly admitted students who have questions about their immigration status in Canada, about applications currently being processed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), or about applications they will make in the near future, can contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist by live chat, email or phone for assistance.  

If you are in Canada and unable to go home, because of concerns related to COVID-19, you must maintain your legal immigration status in Canada (eg, study permit, work permit, visitor). Please contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist at International Services for Students (ISS) to discuss your options.

Updated April 22 

I am an incoming student living outside of Canada.  Can I still apply for a study permit?

If you have been accepted to SFU and have a SFU letter of acceptance you should apply for a study permit as soon as possible.  You can find general information about applying for an initial study permit from outside of Canada on the ISS websiteIRCC advises all applicants outside of Canada to apply online for a study permit.  

If you have questions about applying for a study permit please contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist for assistance.

Updated April 22

I need to give biometrics as part of my study permit application but see that biometrics appointments in my country of residence are cancelled until further notice.  What should I do?

You are required to provide biometrics if you have not done so for an application to come to Canada in the past 10 years (unless exempted).  For more information visit the IRCC website.  You can check to see if you already have valid biometrics on file by visiting the IRCC website

Many Visa Application Centres (VACs) and Application Support Centres (ASCs) are temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.  If you are required to provide biometrics, you can still submit your study permit application and pay the biometrics fee even if the VAC/ASC in your area is temporarily closed.  IRCC has confirmed that biometrics collection has now been automatically extended until the sites in your area reopen. Your application will not be refused or closed if you are unable to meet the biometrics collection deadline. 

IRCC recommends to visit their website for updates on when biometrics collection will start again. You should schedule an appointment to give biometrics as soon as the biometrics collection centres resume normal operations.  For more information about biometrics enrollment in Canada amid COVID-19, please visit the IRCC website

Updated May 28

I have been accepted to SFU to start in the Summer 2020 or Fall 2020 term and my courses will be online because of COVID-19. I’m unable to travel to Canada now - can I start my program online from my home country?

You can begin your program of study online from outside of Canada without a valid study permit.  You will however require a valid study permit for all in-Canada components of your program of study.  For more information please visit the IRCC website.

IRCC has confirmed that current study permit holders and those approved for a study permit to begin a program of study in Summer or Fall 2020, whose courses have been moved to an online-only format because of COVID-19 and who are unable to travel to Canada at this time, may begin their classes while outside of Canada without any impact on their post-graduation work permit eligibility or length. In this case, students may complete up to 50% of their program from outside of Canada should they not be able to travel to Canada sooner. This measure is in place until December 31, 2020. For more information please visit the IRCC website as well as the May 14 announcement regarding the extension of this measure for the Fall 2020 term.

If you begin your studies from outside of Canada in Summer 2020 and you have not been approved for a study permit yet, the time you take online courses outside Canada will not count toward your eligiblity for the post-graduation work permit and it may impact the length of your post-graduation work permit (note: IRCC has not yet confirmed whether this will also apply to students who start in Fall 2020). For more information, please visit the IRCC website. If you would like to discuss possible post-graduation work permit impacts with regard to beginning your studies online without having been approved for a study permit or having a valid study permit, please contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist.

Updated June 5

I am an international student living in Canada and transferring to SFU.  My study permit is expiring soon. Can I apply to extend my study permit from within Canada?

If you are transferring to SFU from another Canadian post-secondary institution you must submit your study permit extension application before your study permit expires in order to begin your studies at SFU.  As long as you do this you are allowed to remain in Canada and continue studying until IRCC has made a decision with respect to your study permit extension application under implied status.  

If you plan to work on or off campus during your studies at SFU and you were not previously authorized to do so you must apply to change the conditions of your study permit to have the appropriate work authorization remarks added.  To review IRCC’s work eligibility requirements for study permit holders please visit the IRCC website

Note that if you are transferring to SFU from another Canadian post-secondary institution you are required to notify IRCC by completing the online designated learning institution (DLI) transfer.  For instructions on how to complete this process please visit the IRCC website.  

For instructions on how to extend your study permit or to change the conditions of your study permit please visit the ISS website.  If you have questions, you can contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist.

Updated April 22

I am an international high school student living in Canada and will join SFU in September. Should I apply for a new study permit?

If you are joining SFU from a Canadian high school, you are not required to apply for a new study permit, provided that your current study permit remains valid. However, if your study permit will expire soon, please ensure that you will submit an application to extend your study permit within Canada before its expiry date. As long as you apply to extend your study permit prior to its expiry date, you can continue to remain in Canada and start your studies at SFU under implied status while waiting for a decision to be made on your application. 

If you plan to work on or off campus during your studies at SFU, you must apply to change the conditions of your study permit with the proper work authorization imposed. You can’t start working until your study permit has been issued with the appropriate work authorization and you must meet other eligibility requirements.

Updated May 14

Where can I find information on processing times for immigration applications (e.g. study permit, temporary resident visa, work permit)?

You can find information about estimated processing times on the IRCC website. However, due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, the posted processing times are no longer accurate. If there is a delay in submitting your biometrics or undergoing an immigration medical examination, there may be an increase in the processing time of your immigration applications.

Updated April 22

I need to give biometrics as part of my study permit extension application but see that all in-Canada biometrics appointments are cancelled until further notice. What should I do?

You are required to provide biometrics if you have not done so for an application to come to Canada in the past 10 years (unless exempted).  For more information visit the IRCC website.  You can check to see if you already have valid biometrics on file by visiting the IRCC website

The most important thing will be to submit an application to extend your study permit before your current study permit expires. If you do this you will be able to remain in Canada and continue studying under implied status until IRCC has made a decision with respect to your application, even if your study permit expires before you can give your biometrics for the application you have submitted.  

While in-Canada biometrics collection has been suspended until further notice, IRCC has confirmed that biometrics collection has now been automatically extended until the collection sites reopen. Your application will not be refused or closed if you are unable to meet the biometrics collection deadline indicated in your biometrics instruction letter. You should schedule an appointment to give biometrics as soon as the biometrics collection centres resume normal operations.  For more information about biometrics enrollment in Canada amid COVID-19, please visit the IRCC website

Updated May 28

TRAVELLING TO CANADA

Will my upcoming travel plan to Canada be impacted by the current travel restrictions?

To manage the outbreak of COVID-19, Canada has implemented travel restrictions to stop non-essential travel to Canada by most foreign nationals with only a few exemptions. For more information about the travel restrictions and exemption, please visit IRCC’s website

As an international student, you may be exempt from the travel restrictions with a valid study permit or if you have been approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020. You must also demonstrate that you are travelling for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose.

If your study permit is approved overseas after March 18, you are expected to receive push notifications with up to date information on when you can travel to Canada. 

As of April 20, new measures have been introduced that all international travellers must use non-medical masks or face coverings to cover their mouth and nose during travel. 

When you arrive in Canada, you will go through a health screening check before you are allowed to leave the port of entry (e.g. airports). You are also required by law to isolate for 14 days even if you have no COVID-19 related symptoms. In addition, all international travelers returning to BC must submit a self-isolation plan for approval prior to their return or upon arrival to BC. For detailed information about self-isolation, including information on accommodations and available supports for SFU students who need to self-isolate, please review our Self-Isolation Guide

Depending on how COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the current travel restrictions may be lifted, changed, or extended further. Due to the fluidity of the pandemic, it is strongly recommended that you closely monitor these in preparation of your arrival in Canada. 

Updated July 10

What should I expect when I first arrive in Canada given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?

Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has put in place an emergency order under the Quarantine Act.  If you are exempt from the travel restrictions, upon arriving in Canada, you are required to isolate for a period of 14 days even if you have no symptoms related to COVID-19.  More information about the isolation requirement can be found on the Government of Canada website.  

The Government of BC also requires that all international travelers complete a self-isolation plan prior to or upon their arrival. It is strongly recommended that you complete and submit the self-isolation plan online prior to your arrival in BC. Information regarding additional screening measures taken at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) can be found on the YVR website.

For more information about what to expect at the Canadian port of entry (airport or land border crossing), please visit the CBSA website. You can also find some general arrival information on our International Student Advising and Programs website.

For detailed information about self-isolation, including information on accommodations and available supports for SFU students who need to self-isolate, please review our Self-Isolation Guide.

Updated July 10

What documents should I carry when I travel to Canada?

General information can be found on the IRCC website. You should always carry your SFU Letter of Acceptance and/or Confirmation of Enrollment letter for entry to Canada.

You must carry supporting documentation to help demonstrate that your purpose of travel is essential (non-discretionary)*, for example:

  • proof that you are already established, residing and studying in Canada
  • evidence that your SFU courses are being offered in person (if applicable)
  • valid job offer or proof of employment requiring your physical presence in Canada

If you are not sure whether your travel is considered essential or non-discretionary, contact the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) prior to travelling.

If you are travelling from a country other than the United States, in addition to the above you will also need to demonstrate that you meet one of the exemptions to the travel restrictions, by carrying one of the following:

  • a valid study permit, or
  • a letter of introduction (also known as a study permit approval letter) issued on or before March 18, 2020

Be prepared to demonstrate that you are exempt from the travel restrictions and are travelling for an essential purpose both at the airport in your departure country and when entering Canada.

For more information about what to expect at the Canadian port of entry (airport or land border crossing), please visit the CBSA website. You can also find some general arrival information on our International Student Advising and Programs website.

* Exception: immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents may enter Canada for an optional or discretionary purpose, provided they will stay in Canada for at least 15 days. Visit the IRCC website for details.

Updated June 15

What about transportation services from the airport?

Travelers arriving to BC by air who are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 are allowed to travel via public transportation to their place of isolation. It is required to practice social distancing at all times and make no additional stops along the way. Visit our Arriving in Vancouver page for an overview of your transportation options.

Note that travelers displaying symptoms of COVID-19 after arriving in Canada are not permitted to use public transportation (bus, train, taxi, subway or ride-sharing service) to travel to their place of isolation. If you have symptoms that may be due to COVID-19, you are only allowed to take private transportation (e.g. a personal vehicle) to get to your place of isolation. More information can be found on the Vancouver International Airport website

Updated April 22

CURRENT STUDENTS

I am a current SFU international student who is outside of Canada.  Can I still travel to Canada?

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has implemented a set of travel restrictions.  You may be able to return to Canada if you meet one of the exemptions to the travel restrictions.  Exemptions currently include international students who have a valid study permit or who were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, and who are travelling for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose.  

Note that depending on your country of citizenship you may require a valid temporary resident visa (TRV) or electronic travel authorization (eTA) in addition to your study or work permit in order to travel to Canada. For more information please visit the IRCC website.

The most up to date information concerning travel restrictions to Canada can be found on the Government of Canada website.

Updated June 15

I am a current SFU student in Canada and my study permit is expiring soon.  Can I still apply to extend my study permit from inside Canada?

If you are remaining in Canada you will need to be sure to maintain valid immigration status at all times.  You are required to submit an application to extend your study permit before it expires in order to remain in Canada as a student and continue studying at SFU.  As long as you apply to extend your study permit before it expires you can remain in Canada until IRCC has made a decision with respect to your application.  Please visit the IRCC website for more information. 

For instructions on how to extend your study permit please visit the ISS website.  If you have questions, you can contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist.

Updated April 22

I need to extend my study permit but my passport is about to expire and I can't obtain a new one in time. What should I do?

You must submit an application to extend your study permit before it expires in order to maintain valid legal status in Canada, even if this means applying with a passport that is also about to expire. Although your study permit cannot be extended beyond your passport expiry date, submitting an extension application within Canada will allow you to benefit from implied status while you await processing, which means you can remain in Canada and continue studying (and working, if eligible) until you receive a decision. It will take a few months to process your study permit extension application, which will give you some extra time to obtain a new passport in the interim.

If you are submitting your extension application with a passport that is about to expire, you should include an explanation detailing why you have not been able to renew your passport along with any documents that could serve as evidence of this (such as correspondence you have received from your home country regarding suspension of services, embassy closures etc.). Include information about when you are expecting to receive your passport (if known), state your intention to provide a copy to IRCC when you receive it, and ask that the processing officer contact you in the event you have not submitted your new passport by the time your extension application is being processed.

When you receive your new passport, immediately submit it to IRCC via their web form and request that it be attached to your study permit extension application.

Updated May 6

As a study permit holder, can I enroll part time or take the term off in Summer 2020? If so, will that impact my study permit, work eligibility, and/or my eligibility for a post-graduation work permit?

Undergraduate students

From an immigration standpoint, an undergraduate student must maintain full-time enrollment in each Spring and Fall term throughout their program of studies at SFU in order to meet the eligibility requirement to apply for the post-graduation work permit (PGWP). As an undergraduate student, your enrollment status in the Summer term should not impact your study permit, work eligibility, or your eligibility to apply for the PGWP upon completion of your studies. 

Graduate students

Graduate students at SFU are normally considered to have an ongoing, full-time relationship with the University. As such, when you need to interrupt your studies, you must apply for a leave of absence as per Graduate General Regulation 1.4.5.  The Summer term is not a regularly scheduled break for most SFU graduate students.

From an immigration perspective, taking a leave of up to 150 days that has been authorized by SFU should not impact study permit compliance. For more information about taking leave from studies, please visit the IRCC website.

If you were forced to drop to part-time enrollment or take a compassionate leave due to COVID-19 in Summer 2020, IRCC has recently announced that this will not impact your eligibility to work on or off campus. See "Does COVID-19 impact my eligibility to work in Canada?" for more details.

We also anticipate that IRCC will take into consideration the impacts of COVID-19 when assessing post-graduation work permit eligibility for students who took a compassionate leave for this reason in Summer 2020. Please make sure to retain all documentation relating to the impacts of COVID-19 on your studies as you will need to include this with your work permit application.

If you have questions about how taking a term off may impact you, please contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist.

Updated May 6

Does COVID-19 impact my eligibility to work in Canada?

In order to work on or off campus in Canada you will need to ensure that you meet IRCC’s requirements for working on and/or off campus.  If you are currently pursuing a co-op work term you will require a valid co-op work permit in addition to your study permit.  

IRCC has now officially confirmed that international students who were eligible to work on or off campus can continue working even if they have been forced to drop to part-time studies or take a break in studies due to COVID-19. Keep in mind that you will still be subject to the authorized number of work hours you would have been permitted had you been a full-time student*.

You must have met the eligibility requirements to work on and/or off campus immediately before COVID-19 impacted your enrollment in order to maintain your work eligibility under the above exception.

You will also be required to provide documentation of the impacts of COVID-19 on your studies in future applications to IRCC. Please retain all documents related to this, including any correspondence from SFU, as you will need them later. In addition, you will need a letter of support from SFU if IRCC asks you for more information when processing a future application. We are aware of this requirement and are working with the relevant units at SFU to ensure this letter will be made available to students who need it. We will share more information on how to access a supporting letter once details are confirmed.

Undergraduate students

You may work full time in Summer 2020 if:

  • you were enrolled full time in the Spring 2020 term (even if you were forced to drop to part-time studies or withdraw due to COVID-19), AND
  • you will enroll full time in Fall 2020

Graduate students

You may work off campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week* and/or work full time on campus in Summer 2020 if:

  • you are on a compassionate leave for Summer 2020 due to COVID-19, AND 
  • you were enrolled full time in Spring 2020 (even if you were forced to drop to part-time studies or withdraw due to COVID-19)

You may work full time in Summer 2020 if:

  • you were enrolled full time in Spring 2020 (even if you were forced to drop to part-time studies or withdraw due to COVID-19), AND
  • you will enroll full time in Fall 2020

The above exception only applies to students whose enrollment was impacted by COVID-19. In all other cases, please review the typical eligibility requirements for working on and/or off campus as a study permit holder on the IRCC website

If you have questions concerning the eligibility requirements to work in Canada as an international student please contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist

* Restriction to off-campus work hours temporarily removed for essential service work

On April 22, 2020 IRCC introduced a temporary rule change removing the 20 hour/week restriction for international students who are working in an essential service or function off campus during a regular academic session. International students who are providing an essential service and who are eligible to work off campus are temporarily allowed to work more than 20 hours per week effective immediately and until August 31, 2020.  

To see whether your work is considered an essential service or function please visit the Government of Canada website.

Updated May 6

Since SFU is delivering courses online, will taking distance learning courses online adversely impact my eligibility for the post-graduation work permit?

IRCC has confirmed that courses of study being delivered online on an exceptional basis due to COVID- 19 will not impact eligibility under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.  Please visit the IRCC website for more information.

Updated April 22

Can I go to the border (flagpole) to apply for a study permit or a post-graduation work permit?

Given the current travel restrictions in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all non-essential travel between Canada and the United States is suspended. As per the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website, you can not travel from inside Canada to a port of entry to submit an application at this time. Students inside Canada can apply to extend their study permit or apply for a post-graduation work permit online from within Canada.

If you have questions about the above please contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist.  

Updated May 15

I have submitted an application within Canada. How can I reach IRCC with questions?

Currently, IRCC's Client Support Centre is operating at reduced capacity with limited hours and fewer agents available to answer calls. You may still access pre-recorded information and check application status using the automated phone services via the Client Support Centre. 

You may also continue to contact IRCC using their online web form for case-specific enquiries.

Updated April 29

My SIN is already expired and my study permit has just been extended. How can I apply to renew my SIN? 

You must have a valid study permit or work permit to apply for a SIN. In-person services including SIN applications are not available at Service Canada; however, you may apply to renew your SIN either online or by mail. For more information about how to apply for SIN, please visit the Service Canada website.

Please note that you may continue to work with an expired SIN while holding implied status (e.g. you applied to extend your study permit or work permit prior to its expiry date and you are waiting for a decision from IRCC on your application).

Updated April 22