Last updated: November 30, 2021

International students in Canada and COVID-19

In a normal year, hundreds of thousands of international students come to Canada to pursue their studies. But, as you know, the 2021/2022 school year is not quite back to normal.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to everything international students need to know about study permits and studying in Canada during COVID-19. From travel restrictions, to study permit applications, to post-graduation work permit eligibility. We’ve got you covered. 

Latest COVID-19 news for international students

International students will need to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada: As of January 15, 2022, international students will only be allowed to enter Canada if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Please note that fully vaccinated travellers still have to follow special COVID-19 travel requirements.

In order to be considered “fully vaccinated,” you must have received the full series of one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for entry to Canada (or a combination of accepted vaccines). You must have received your last dose at least 14 days prior to travelling. Canada currently accepts seven vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Covishield, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Covaxin. If you have been vaccinated using a different vaccine, Canada does not consider you fully vaccinated at this time.

Canada’s COVID-19 border measures can change at any time. For the latest updates and for details what what you need to do to enter Canada, please refer to our COVID-19 Travel Updates page.

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What is required for international students to enter Canada at this time?

Fully vaccinated international students are able to enter Canada at this time, although even fully vaccinated travellers have to follow special COVID-19 travel requirements.

Unvaccinated international students are also able to enter Canada, as long as they are attending a school with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan. However, as of January 15, 2022, this exemption for unvaccinated travellers will be removed. This means that only fully vaccinated international students will be able to enter Canada.

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Is Canada still processing study permit applications?

Yes. Canada is still processing study permit applications. However, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has indicated that many immigration applications are experiencing processing delays due to the impact of COVID-19 on the immigration department. Back to top.

How does Canada’s new two-step approval process for study permits work?

Canada’s two-step approval process for study permit applications expired in September, 2020.

What if I can’t get all the documents required for my study permit application?

At this time, study permit applicants must submit complete applications. Earlier in the pandemic, study permit applicants were able to submit incomplete applications, as many documents were delayed or unattainable due to the pandemic.
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Can I still apply for a study permit through the Student Direct Stream (SDS)?

Yes, you can submit an application through the Student Direct Stream (SDS). Your application must be complete to be considered. Back to top.

If I do online studies will I still be able to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)?

Due to the pandemic, you can complete 100% of your study online from abroad and still be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). Any studies completed outside Canada between spring 2020 and August 31, 2022, counts toward the length of a PGWP. This applies even if you’re completing 2 study programs. These loosened requirements apply to “all international students who are enrolled in a PGWP-eligible program, and meet all other PGWP criteria.”  Back to top.

I am in Canada with a PGWP. Can I extend it?

During the pandemic, Canada introduced a new work permit program for international graduates, but unfortunately this program is now closed. The new temporary immigration program enabling certain recent international graduates to apply for an extra open work permit. This program only accepted applications from January 27, 2021, until July 27, 2021. Read our full reporting on this update. Back to top.

What if I submitted my study permit application, but my school in Canada has cancelled classes or closed down?

Earlier in the pandemic, special measures were in place to assist international students whose schools had cancelled classes or closed due to the pandemic. At this time, Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiology remains relatively stable and most educational institutions are operational. Back to top.

I am a study permit holder in Canada. Can I work more than 20 hours per week during COVID-19?

A temporary measure was in place until August 31, 2020, enabling international students working in essential services or functions to work beyond the weekly limit of 20 hours per week as indicated on their study permits. This measure is no longer in place. Back to top.

I applied for my study permit outside Canada, but I’m inside Canada with an approval letter. Can I activate my study permit?

A temporary process had been introduced during the pandemic allowing permits to be activated from inside Canada — this was in place until November 22, 2021. This process may be further extended — refer to this page for the latest details.

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