Last week, on its Facebook page, St. Clair’s Student Representative Council shared a media release from Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) – which, in turn, was passing along an announcement from the federal government: that international students would soon be allowed to travel to Canada to commence or resume their studies.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions, since the beginning of the current 2020-21 academic year, many international students who had secured admission to Canadian postsecondary schools have been stranded in their homelands. Some have been actively enrolled and have been conducting their studies on-line during the current semesters, while others postponed their admissions until they could travel here to launch their studies during the winter semester (beginning in January).
The CICan press release noted:
We are very pleased to share that the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced changes to travel restrictions that will facilitate the entry of international students into Canada:
• Effective October 20, international students – regardless of where they are traveling from or when their study permit was approved – attending a designated learning institution (DLI) that has been identified by their provincial or territorial government as having a COVID-19 readiness plan will be able to enter Canada.
• The list of DLIs with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place will be posted on IRCC’s webpage for international students affected by COVID-19 restrictions and updated regularly.
• The travel of asymptomatic (non-viral) international students, who have the appropriate documents to enter Canada and whose DLI is on the list of institutions with approved COVID-19 readiness plans in place, will be considered to be non-discretionary and non-optional – unless there is evidence that they are clearly coming to Canada for a discretionary or optional purpose, such as tourism.
This announcement is an extremely positive development for colleges and institutes across Canada, and reflects our (CICan’s and all colleges’) collective efforts to prepare and plan for the safe arrival of international students. As always, we continue to work with IRCC, other government departments and stakeholders to advocate on your behalf.
The IRCC announced the international student plan as part of an overall package involving changes to cross-border travel:
On October 2, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco E.L. Mendicino, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that, in addition to the border restrictions that remain in place, the Government of Canada is further strengthening the public health presence at the border and enhancing quarantine monitoring. The government is also increasing the use of digital forms and processes to allow critical information to be shared more quickly with provinces and territories. In addition, a process is being introduced to support enhanced family reunification, including those in long-term exclusive relationships, international students and entry for compassionate reasons.
The government continues to enforce and strengthen travel restrictions and border measures that have been in place since March 2020. The mandatory quarantine measures, which require travellers to quarantine or isolate for 14 days immediately upon entry to Canada (unless they are expressly exempt), have been effective.
Every port of entry has 24/7 access to quarantine officer support through the Central Notification System. The presence of federal public health officers at the border is also being scaled up over the coming months to cover 36 ports of entry that account for 90 percent of all traffic into Canada during normal operations. A total force of 190 public health officials will be deployed across the country by the end of the fiscal year. To improve information-sharing, the Public Health Agency of Canada has deployed digital portals for travellers to share their critical information, including through the ArriveCAN app, so data can be transmitted to provinces and territories quickly and securely.
The government is also strengthening compliance and enforcement efforts. Currently, some 100 designated screening officers at a call centre make approximately 4,300 live calls and 3,500 automated calls daily to travellers entering Canada, for a total of nearly one million contacts since March 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada is working with Service Canada to further increase these numbers.
These calls are followed up by law enforcement if any individual cannot be reached, or if a traveller is suspected of not complying with quarantine requirements. Law enforcement authorities, such as RCMP or provincial police officers, have full authority in jurisdictions that have signed on to the Contraventions Act ticketing regime to issue fines of up to $1,000, and may ticket an individual again in the presence of repeated instances of non-compliance, resulting in multiple fines. Where the non-compliance is not addressed through a contraventions ticket, an individual could face fines of up to $750,000 and up to six months in prison where charges are laid for an offence under the Quarantine Act. Willfully or recklessly contravening the Quarantine Act could also result in fines of up to $1 million and three years’ imprisonment.
With these robust protections in place, processes are being introduced to support greater family reunification, entry for compassionate reasons, and the safe and gradual entry of some international students. More specifically, these processes will provide for the entry of:
• certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents, including those in an exclusive dating relationship of at least one year and their dependent children, as well as adult children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents;
• foreign nationals for compassionate reasons in specific circumstances, such as life-threatening illness, critical injury or death, with potential limited release from quarantine;
• international students, starting October 20, 2020, if they will be attending a designated learning institution that has been identified by their provincial or territorial government as having a COVID‑19 readiness plan in place.
Detailed information on who may qualify as an extended family member and the process and requirements to be eligible to travel to and enter Canada will be available on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website on October 8, 2020. There will be a robust process in place for extended family members, and each traveller will need to apply for and be issued an authorization before they can travel to Canada.
Information on eligibility and the process for travel and entry to Canada for compassionate reasons will be available on October 8, 2020, on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website, canada.ca/coronavirus.
Travellers should not make any travel plans until they have met all requirements and obtained all necessary authorizations to qualify to come to Canada under the new rules.
The government’s top priority remains stemming the spread of COVID‑19 and protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians. These new measures will bolster the effectiveness of Canada’s travel restrictions, while recognizing additional specific circumstances where a foreign national’s presence in Canada will be beneficial and can be safely accommodated. These measures also build on recently announced initiatives for those sponsoring their spouses to come to Canada.
The federal website also provides more detailed information about students under the new policy:
Amended travel restrictions will take effect on October 20, allowing international students to enter Canada if their designated learning institution (DLI) has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place. With primary responsibility for education and health-care, provincial and territorial governments assess COVID-19 readiness plans that schools are putting in place. As part of their plans, DLIs are expected to provide specifics to their provincial or territorial government on how they will provide information to international students on health and travel requirements before they arrive in Canada, help students with their quarantine plans, and provide guidance or assistance in acquiring the necessities of life, such as food and medication, during their quarantine. Readiness plans also need to establish protocols for the health of students in the event there are suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases at the school.
The Government of Canada works closely with provinces and territories on the attraction and hosting of international students in Canada and other issues related to international education. Provincial and territorial partners indicated they would like to see a process that allows international students to begin travelling to Canada again, as long as it is done safely and respects health requirements.
Taking a cautious approach, the federal, provincial and territorial governments have worked together in developing that process. The list of DLIs with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place will be posted on IRCC’s web page for international students affected by COVID-19 restrictions and updated regularly as provinces and territories identify additional schools.
This change to travel restrictions affects all international students, regardless of where they are travelling from or when their study permit was approved. Travellers should not make any travel plans until they have met all requirements and received all necessary authorizations.
The travel of asymptomatic international students who have the appropriate documents to enter Canada and whose DLI is on the list of institutions with approved COVID-19 readiness plans in place will be considered to be non-discretionary and non-optional, unless there is evidence that they are clearly coming to Canada for a discretionary or optional purpose, such as tourism.
With the amended travel restrictions, immediate family members may be able to accompany an international student to Canada if their reason for travel is non-optional or non-discretionary, such as getting established in Canada in support of the principal applicant’s study program. This could include a spouse or common-law partner, a dependant, or in the case of a minor child who will be studying in Canada, a parent or legal guardian.
Like all travellers to Canada, international students and accompanying family members will be subject to all public health measures, including the mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in Canada.
The IRCC’s Designated Learning Institute (DLI) list – schools which are thoroughly prepared to accept international students – has not, as of October 6, been posted on-line, but St. Clair has been working to be included on it.
During the September meeting of the college’s Board of Governors, President Patti France reiterated that both the federal and provincial governments have demanded that postsecondary schools have extensive plans in place to accommodate newly arriving international students. Indeed, such admissions will not be allowed unless the schools have such plans in place.
To-date in the development of its plan in that regard, France said St. Clair has been “able to satisfy all of the provincial and federal governments’ concerns and questions” about how it will handle international enrolment in January.
First and foremost, the college will implement a system to welcome global students upon arrival at airports, temporarily house them during their isolation/quarantine periods, and arrange for their COVID testing before allowing them to make their way to any St. Clair campus.