COVID-19: A Guide for International Students in Canada

Published on: April 2nd, 2020

There’s no denying that right now is a difficult time to be an international student. With the interruption of classes, student residencies shutting down, an overwhelmed social system and forced self-isolation, we know that this must be an especially trying time for those who are far from home. We have created this guide in hopes of helping international students living in Canada keep up to date and navigate the support systems available to them.

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Coming to Canada as an International Student

The initial threat of COVID-19 saw Canada shutting its borders to all non-essential travel. However, shortly thereafter the government announced that borders would remain open for international students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020. 

In addition to their study permit, international students will still need to obtain valid travel documents in order to enter Canada, such as a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA).

*Important update: As of October 20th, travel restrictions for certain international students will be lifted. In order to enter Canada, your designated learning institution (DLI) must have an approved COVID-19 plan in place. 

Your DLI must:

  • Have a plan to distribute necessary information to international students regarding health and travel requirements before they arrive in Canada
  • Make sure that students have a plan to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada
  • Guide students in acquiring necessities, such as food and medication during their quarantine
  • Establish protocols to protect the health of students in the event that there are cases of COVID-19 at the DLI

International students are being urged not to make any plans until they have met all requirements and received the necessary authorization. 

Traveling Outside of Canada

The Canadian government is advising people to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country. 

International students wishing to return home may do so but should consider whether their home country will allow them to enter, whether they will be able to re-enter Canada in the future, and how this may affect their eligibility to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit.


Student residences across the country have closed down in an effort to protect the student population and flatten the curve. Some residences may make exceptions for international students, or help you to find other accommodations.

Some hotels are reserving rooms for those who need to self-isolate. In most cases, the hotel guest must stay inside the room for 14 days without going into the hotel hall, lobby or any public spaces. Food and fresh linens are being left outside the room door.

Provinces are ramping up regulations to prevent landlords from evicting tenants during this time.


While schools across the country are closed for the foreseeable future, most colleges and universities are planning to finish up the winter semester through online courses. Students should get themselves set up technologically with a laptop and strong internet connection and prepare for all of their learning to take place online until further notice. 

Many have cancelled final exams and have altered the grading scheme in light of recent circumstances. Check with your specific institution for more details about how the crisis will affect your academic year.

Most universities and colleges have closed their international centres, but continue to help international students by phone, email and through video conferencing. Most administrative offices, such as registrars, are also closed.


International students may continue to work according to the conditions listed on their study permit, although it may prove difficult to find jobs at this time. Half of Canadian households are currently reporting job loss, and provinces are shutting down all non-essential businesses. 

In general, full-time students may work 20 hours a week off campus during the academic term and full-time off campus during holidays and regularly scheduled breaks. If classes have moved online, a student may continue to work 20 hours a week.

Post-Graduate Work Permits

Students may continue to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) after completing their studies at a Canadian school. 

In normal circumstances, taking too many classes online, missing a term of school or studying part time can disqualify an international student from obtaining a Post-Graduation Work Permit after graduation. The IRCC has stated that students who are now forced to take all of their classes online will remain eligible to apply for a PGWP. 

Extending Your Stay

Due to extenuating circumstances, you may not be able to return to your home country at this time. If your status as a student has expired or is about to expire, you must apply to extend it

If you are an international student in Canada and have exceeded the expiry date of your status, contact us today. We can help guide you through the process of restoring your status and allow you to remain in Canada legally.

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