Covid-19 challenges faced by international students in Canada

Introduction to Covid-19 in Canada

The pandemic has affected all aspects of our existence, including employment, recreation, education, and training. Many schools have had to change their methods and budgets in order to provide quality education that extends beyond their campuses.

Students from other countries are an important part of our culture and allow us to better understand one another. Almost 600,000 international students have enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges during the past two decades, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).

COVID-19, on the other hand, dramatically altered the course. It has been revealed that the number of student permits awarded from June to August 2020 has dropped by 58% compared with the amount issued in 2019. 2 It was a very different future for overseas students at the beginning of 2020 compared to what they had imagined. Students, instructors, and the federal government all had to consider their alternatives and make decisions.

Students in Canadian universities and colleges encountered significant difficulties when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Students were requested to leave campus dormitories and many lost employment or had their working hours curtailed as a result of the switch to online classes.

Many international students were unable to return to their countries of origin because of the high expense or the existence of border restrictions.

When living with others, it can be difficult for roommates to maintain appropriate social distance. There have been media claims that the epidemic has increased the risk of bad occurrences for international students and that this has created new difficulties for them.

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More international students are enrolling

An increase in the number of foreign students studying in Canadian universities has occurred significantly in the last decade, while domestic student enrollment has remained stable. 142,170 international post-secondary students enrolled in Canada in fall 2010; 388,782 students enrolled in fall 2019. New study permits given by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) fell by 35 percent in 2020, likely due to the pandemic, but the number rebounded to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021, according to IRCC data.

India and China make up the majority of international students, according to IRCC study permit data. Since 2017, India has become the leading source country.

In order to recruit international students, universities and colleges have made a concerted effort to increase the number of international students.

Financial stress


International students had the most severe financial difficulties as a result of the loss of income from parents or spouses, as well as the loss of earnings from off-campus employment.

About 80% of international students said they were worried or very worried about the situation.

Interviews revealed that students felt that they were not getting value for their money, and that this feeling persisted throughout the course of their studies.

International students’ financial precarity emphasises the need for targeted and long-term financial support, including emergency grants and loans and the extending of tuition payment deadlines.

International students who qualified for the $2,000 per month Canada Emergency Response Benefit received no long-term financial support from Canadian institutions and colleges. International students are in a precarious financial position, and receiving assistance now would show that their needs are being met. People who are unable to work due to illness or accident can face financial ruin regardless of the pandemic.

Psychological stress

A total of 55% of our respondents were at risk of depression, and 50% were at risk of a mental health issue. Loneliness, mental fatigue, panic attacks, and social isolation were some of the issues raised by overseas students in interviews.

Counseling centres at students’ schools were said to be difficult to get to, and attempts to schedule appointments were unsuccessful due to the high volume of students seeking help. Appointment times were at best unreasonably long.

Academic stress

Approximately 30% said they had difficulty adapting to online training. The lack of engagement with other students in online courses was cited as the most common complaint by international students.

Two-thirds of those polled mentioned lack of interaction as a barrier to online learning. Most respondents cited a lack of social engagement with their peers as the most significant barrier to their professional success.

A lack of social networks, a lack of access to campus facilities, and an inability to adjust to Canadian culture were all factors that contributed to a poor educational experience for these international students.

Students’ Dilemma

Students considering a trip to Canada had to rethink their plans due to the travel ban that was in effect at the time. Others choose to delay their schooling, while others went to school in their own nations.

Those who had already arrived had to decide if they wanted to stay and pay for living expenses without the benefits of in-class learning, or if they wanted to return to their homes and study remotely. Many of them lost their part-time jobs, which they had taken to help alleviate their financial woes, as a result of the business shutdowns and closures. Furthermore, it was not apparent if the students’ ability to apply for a work permit at the end of their courses was in threat.

Government Policies

The federal government recognizes the cultural and economic advantages of having a large number of overseas students. According to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, “We are making every effort to minimize how present problems impair the goals and dreams of young people seeking a high-quality education in Canada.”

Canada has just modified its international student policy with a new set of guidelines.

A list of recognized institutions, study permit criteria, and COVID-related social limitations are included in this document.

Students from outside the United States are allowed into Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) from October 20, 2020, when the travel ban is abolished (DLI). An accredited DLI is listed in the IRCC’s registry of DLIs, along with the provinces and territories’ unique preparation plans for managing COVID-related risks and adhering to existing public health guidelines. Aside from assisting with quarantine, DLIs are required to help international students navigate the healthcare system by offering information about their insurance plans and connecting them to mental and physical health resources. A potential outbreak at a school necessitates contingency plans for dealing with pupils who become ill or require medical attention.

Graduating students’ were worried about getting work permits were taken into consideration by the government as it developed a comprehensive response to COVID-19. In January 2021, foreign nationals in Canada have extended their permits for  additional 18 months.

New Challenges for students on their way to Canada

The Canadian government stressed the extension of the travel ban in the country until July 21st. The decision was recently made in light of rising and dropping COVID instances around the world, with India being the most affected. While universities in other nations have already begun welcome overseas students on campus, Canada is still working to contain the spread of the disease and safeguard the safety of its residents and the incoming students for the next autumn semester.

Students who had already purchased their plane tickets and made plans to relocate to Canada to begin their studies are reconsidering their plans in light of the numerous limitations currently placed on international tourists. Canadian citizens and nationals of other countries are exempt from certain restrictions on travel to and from Canada. Non-essential travellers, on the other hand, are barred and subjected to a number of limitations.

A COVID test is required for all non-Canadian visitors who aren’t important to the country. They’ll be staying in a hotel room for the next 72 hours while they wait. Even students don’t want to pay for these extra accommodation expenditures, given how much they already have to pay for their education. In the official Government of Canada site, there is no mention of the cost of lodging in a hotel room for three days of quarantine. However, it can cost as much as CAN$ 2,000 to rent.

The Visa and Study Permit Situation

However, the US Embassy has stepped up its process for issuing visas and study permits to students planning to enter the country for the next Fall Semester. Canadian officials appear to be taking a slightly different tack, given their decision to extend travel restrictions for international visitors. Students may have been exempted from the government’s travel restrictions. However, the processing of the Fall Session’s study permission was halted.

International students at UBC (University of British Columbia) have been fighting tirelessly for years to ease restrictions on their travels to and from Canada. University of British Columbia International Student Development Director Michelle Suderman stated that international students are not just tourists; they are here to establish a career and acquire a high quality education. As a result, they hope to aid students in arriving in the country in a safe and timely manner.

The Covid Restriction

  • All colleges and institutions in the country have been asked to arrange vaccination programmes for on-campus events for the benefit of their students. Numerous Canadian colleges and universities have made it a requirement for students to receive the first dose of any vaccine recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the WHO and FDA have not yet authorised the locally derived vaccination formula developed by Indian Pharma company COVAXIN… Covishield is the only option for students from India.
  • The country’s prime leader, Justin Trudeau, stated that visitors would be required to show proof of vaccination status upon arrival. These plans call for a two-phased approach. Uploading vaccination records onto the ArriveCAN app is the first step. The second phase would necessitate that the tourist present a national certificate that may be accepted worldwide.
  • Students were required to submit their acceptance letter from a DLI-registered university, as well as the university’s COVID-19 preparedness plan, in order to obtain a study visa. The students are contemplating cancelling their travel plans to the country because they are concerned about not receiving their study permission or the restrictions imposed, which could result in additional costs associated with quarantining.
  • For the safety of students, many Canadian colleges are attempting to ease their student’s travel restrictions or providing for housing in the event of quarantining on campus. For international students, there is yet to be a restriction on their travel. Things could, however, take a turn for the worst, making life much more difficult for all overseas students.


It would be an understatement to say that the COVID-19 outbreak impacted the education sector. The epidemic had an effect on the entire educational system, from primary and secondary schools to colleges and universities. International students in Canada have been hit hard by the country’s economic downturn. As a result of a steep 17% year-on-year drop of international students in Canada, Canada’s GDP is expected to fall by CAD $5.3B in 2020, due to an estimated CAD $7.3B loss in student expenditures. These losses are enormous and, as the data demonstrate, they are felt unevenly across Canada as well as the sector, with some provinces and some segments/ levels of study bearing the brunt. Aside from provincial/territorial-level economic losses, community-level losses are often more significant because universities and colleges are often major industries at the local level, and these areas are often not economically diverse enough to counteract the contraction of the international student economy.

However, the rise of online/remote learning has been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak year. In order to remain competitive and adapt to the travel limitations and uncertain circumstances faced by their international students, institutions were pushed to hasten this shift as a result of the epidemic. As a result of the COVID-19 health crisis, most long-term student programmes will now be offered in an online version through the end of 2020.

Canadian authorities’ response to this crisis, notably with regard to international students’ secure and orderly entry into the country, was praised around the world despite these difficult conditions. Prospective students, parents, and agents continue to see Canada as a top overseas study destination despite the pandemic’s lengthier-than-expected duration.

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