July 20, 2020

Universities and COVID-19: What to Expect for the Fall Semester

Posted by Legal Team - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors have warned of a second wave of infections, predicted to hit Canada sometime in Fall 2020.[1] For those like me who are currently in the process of completing a University degree, this raised several questions on how the 2020-2021 academic year would unfold. In March 2020 when the virus first began spreading within Canada, many Toronto-based universities made the decision to move the remainder of classes online. Lectures and tutorials were administered virtually, and grading requirements were amended in order to allow students to complete assignments and tests from home. These same universities have now announced that academic programming will continue to be administered primarily online.  Shifting to a remote learning format ensures that universities comply with any public health and governmental directives, including in particular physical distancing requirements.[2]

Despite this move to a primarily online format, these same Toronto based universities will be offering courses with in-person components, such as labs and tutorials.[3] This raises several questions for international students hoping to begin or resume their studies in Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has now advised that students who were approved for a valid study permit before or on 18 March 2020 will be allowed to travel to Canada in order to begin their studies in Fall 2020.[4]  As such, these students will not be negatively impacted should their desired courses require in-person learning.

What about students who did not receive a study permit by 18 March 2020? Will they be allowed to commence their study, including online?  These questions are particular relevant to undergraduate and graduate students entering their first year, given that results for applications to Canadian universities are generally not released until March at the earliest, with most students receiving their acceptance in April and May.[5]  IRCC states that it is continuing to process study permits, and has developed a two-stage process to allow students who were not issued study permits before or on 18 March 2020 to begin their studies online.[6] Following first stage approval, students will be assessed for eligibility and admissibility, which requires submissions of biometrics, an immigration exam and a police certificate. If final approval is granted, IRCC states that the applicant will then be allowed to travel to Canada.

Students who do receive first stage approval and who are hoping to take courses with in-person components should contact their universities for further information on how their learning will be accommodated during these unprecedented times.

If you are hoping to apply for a student permit, please contact office for further information.