USA and international students

Last updated: November 10, 2020

How can I contact an International Student Advisor?

International Student Advisors offer non-academic advising to students from international pathways. Our office space is currently closed due to COVID-19 safety measures; however, we are still available to support you remotely via LiveChat, phone, and email.

To learn about the advising options and how to contact us, please visit the Contact Us page.

How can I stay informed on the COVID-19 pandemic?

You can get answers to frequently asked questions and SFU’s response to COVID-19 on the SFU website.  You can access the most up to date information concerning travel restrictions and immigration-related updates on the Government of Canada website:

There is so much information out there about COVID-19.  How do I know which information I can trust?

We understand the volume of information available right now is overwhelming and it can be difficult to know which sources are credible.  If you are seeking information about SFU’s response to COVID-19 and the latest SFU-related updates we recommend visiting the SFU website.

If you are seeking COVID-19 related information or resources on a provincial, national or international level, the below resources are recommended:

I am an international student and would like to complete my Spring courses from abroad.

For information on Spring term completion, please see the Withdrawal/Grading Policies page.

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 concerns about their applications currently being processed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), or about applications they will make in the near future, may refer to IRCC’s special measures to help persons affected by COVID-19. 

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 to discuss your options.

Now that SFU is delivering courses online, will there be any impact on my study permit or future post-graduate work permit?

IRCC has confirmed via their program delivery instructions that courses of study being delivered online on an exceptional basis due to COVID- 19 will not affect eligibility for a post-graduation work permit. Please visit the IRCC website for more information.

I heard that Canada is going to suspend all existing visas and I am worried. Is this true?

According to IRCC , "There is some misinformation circulating about the Government of Canada’s response to the evolving COVID-19 situation, including false messaging about changes to Canadian visa validity." See official information about Canada’s COVID-19 response.

I am outside Canada and want to return to Canada.  Can I return to Canada if I have a valid study permit?

Although there are travel restrictions in place, IRCC has announced that study and work permit holders will be exempt from the air travel and border restrictions and will be allowed to enter Canada by air or land. The most up to date information, including when this exemption will come into effect, can be found on the IRCC website

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.

My government, home institution or parents have requested that I return to my country. What should I do?

SFU has discontinued any in-person teaching as of Tuesday, March 17, including in-person exams. Students should check their SFU email accounts and CANVAS course pages for information from their instructors about how their individual classes will be proceeding.

We are aware that some international and exchange students are considering an early departure on the advice of their home institution/government or their own concerns with the current global situation surrounding COVID-19. We are here to support you as you make decisions in line with the direction you have been provided, and that prioritize your health and well-being.

We recognize that for some international students, returning home is not a feasible option at this time. For students who live locally or choose to remain, we want to reassure you that you continue to be welcome and supported here. For students who choose to return home to other parts of the region, country, or world, we are working hard to ensure accessibility to courses and student supports.

What if I’m living in Residence?

With SFU discontinuing all in person teaching and exams, Residence and Housing strongly encourages those who are able to move out to safe and comfortable accommodations early to do so. For those who move(d) out between March 13, 2020 and March 27, 2020 Residence and Housing will:

  • Automatically apply a credit of $500 to your account in GoSFU once move-out is complete to assist with moving expenses (e.g. storage, travel, etc.)
  • Pro-rate residence fees and meal plan fees based on a daily rate from the day the you move(d) out

Moving out of Residence helps all of us to follow recommendations of the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) for social distancing and self-care and allows the residence community to keep students who require housing in the community even safer. We strongly encourage you to consider supporting us by moving out at this time.

Please note, we recognize that not every student is able to relocate on short notice. If you are unable to leave Residence, we want to reassure you that you are welcome and supported here. Students who remain are asked to practice social distancing and other precautionary measures as advised by the PHO. Be aware that department and campus services will be restricted and limited.

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. 

For more information, please see:

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 July 28

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 must 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 and continue studying (and working, if eligible) under implied status until IRCC has made a decision with respect to your application, even if your study permit expires while you await processing.

On July 15, 2020, IRCC announced a temporary exemption from the biometrics requirement for applicants in Canada. This means that effective immediately, if you are applying from within Canada, you do not need to give biometrics in order for your extension application to be processed. This applies to new applications as well as applications that are already in progress. For details on the biometrics exemption during COVID-19, visit the IRCC website.

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 July 16

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 may 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 the following:
    • why you have not been able to renew your passport
    • when you are expecting to receive it (if known)
    • state your intention to provide a copy of the new passport 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
  • any documents that could serve as evidence of your inability to renew your passport at this time (such as correspondence you have received from your home country regarding suspension of services, embassy closures etc.)

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 July 28

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 an SFU Co-op work term or SFU-approved internship, you will require a valid co-op work permit in addition to your study permit.  

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 - POLICY EXPIRED AUGUST 31

From April 22-August 31, 2020 IRCC implemented a temporary policy 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. This temporary policy expired on August 31. Click here for archived information on this topic.

Updated November 10

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. Visit the IRCC website for more information.

Updated April 22

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

IRCC's Client Support Centre has resumed regular hours of operation, although call volumes are high and technical difficulties may occur, which could make reaching an agent more challenging than usual. 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.

Tips when contacting the IRCC Client Support Centre by phone

  • Navigate through the automated system by pressing 3-4-1-0 to speak to an agent
  • Agents are available 8am-4pm local time. Calling early in the morning may help to reduce wait times
  • You may need to make several consecutive attempts in order to be placed in the queue to speak with an agent -- if the lines are very busy you might not be placed in the queue on your first try
  • Once you are in the queue, be prepared to wait on hold for some time
  • Take detailed notes of the conversation, including the name and agent number of the person you speak with and the advice you receive, for your records

Updated September 16

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 a SIN, please visit the Service Canada website. You can also refer to the SIN handout on our Instruction Guides page for guidance.

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 July 28

I am a current SFU student in Canada and my study permit has already expired. What should I do?

If you applied to extend your study permit before it expired

As long as you applied to extend your study permit before it expired you can remain in Canada and continue studying (and working, if eligible) under implied status until IRCC has made a decision with respect to your application, even if your study permit has expired while you await processing.

If you did not apply to extend your study permit before it expired

If your study permit has expired or become invalid and you did not apply to extend it before the expiry date, you must apply to restore your status in Canada. Normally an application for restoration must be submitted within 90 days after you lost legal status; however, under IRCC's newly-announced public policy in response to COVID-19, individuals whose status expired after January 30, 2020 are not subject to this 90-day limit and can apply for restoration until December 31, 2020. Despite this, if your study permit has expired and you wish to remain in Canada we recommend that you apply for restoration as soon as possible. 

To apply for restoration, you must pay an additional fee and provide an explanation. You are also not permitted to study or work in Canada until the application is approved. Please review our website for information on the process.

Students in Canada who are applying for restoration of status are currently exempt from providing biometrics under IRCC's temporary public policy for in-Canada applicants.

Updated July 17