Immigration FAQs

Important Update

University of Alberta International continues to work on the many issues impacting international students, including obtaining clarification on immigration and other policies. International students can connect with an International Student Advisor for help with any questions or concerns.

If you have received your study permit approval please refer to our Travel to Canada page to understand what to expect. You are also encouraged to utilize our Welcome Services if you will be entering at a time these services are available.


Frequently Asked Questions: Immigration

A. How and when do I start my study permit application?

You will need to have your official offer of admission before you can submit a study permit application. You will then be required to apply online by creating an account with Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC). To avoid delays in getting the decision on your study permit application you are advised to submit your application as soon as you receive your offer of admission.  IRCC usually accepts conditional offers of admission in support of the study permit applications with the exception of study permit applications submitted in India. If you are applying for your study permit in India, you must use an unconditional offer of admission letter.

Applicants must submit requested information/documents (biometrics, medical, or any additional information) to IRCC within the deadline provided. If you are unable to submit requested information within the timeframe provided, contact IRCC to request an extension with a reasonable explanation and proof prior to the deadline. 

Learn more on the IRCC website. You can also watch our instructional video to help you prepare your application.

B. I am a new student and my study permit has been approved. What should I do next?

Ideally you want to plan to enter at least 2 weeks before the start of classes to allow you to get settled. When to enter Canada will depend on flight and accommodation availability.

To better prepare for your entry to Canada, we recommend you read our Travel to Canada information and read IRCC's Study permit: Prepare for arrival.

C. Do I need a study permit to start my courses online?

If you are physically outside Canada, you do not require a valid study permit or study permit approval to start your program online.

Note: If you are physically inside Canada (either on a Visitor status or a Worker status), you are not authorized to start studying until you possess a valid Study Permit even if the courses you are enrolled in are offered online.

Even if you are eligible to start your program online before a decision has been made on your study permit application; please note:

- Starting your program before receiving final approval will not guarantee that your study permit application will get full approval.

- Should your study permit application get refused, you will have the option to re-apply for the study permit after addressing the grounds for refusal. There are no guarantees that you will be approved the second time.

-  Once your online study options are concluded, a study permit is required to complete in person components of your program. If you are not able to obtain a study permit you will need to withdraw from your program.

- Students enrolled in courses will follow University of Alberta tuition payment policies and deadlines, regardless of outcome of study permit application. 

- Students who have applied for a study permit by August 31, 2022 and who study online from abroad between September 1, 2022 and August 31, 2023 can continue to maintain eligibility for the Post Graduation Work Permit. Additional eligibility criteria include maintaining full time registration and no more than 50% of the total program can be completed outside Canada.

To learn more about IRCC’s announcement regarding the extended distance learning measure click here

D. What can I do if I don’t get my study permit/visa approval in time for the scheduled start of my program?

Students who do not have a final decision on their study permit application in time for their program start date should seek alternate options. Please be aware of registration and tuition payment deadlines as you consider your options.

Graduate Students: contact your department/program coordinator to understand the process and deadline to request a deferral of the start of your program or to inquire about online options.

Undergraduate Students: Contact the Student Service Centre for available options for students in your program of study 

We also advise students whose study permit application has exceeded the posted processing time, to submit an IRCC web form to inquire about the status of their application.

Students who have the option to start their program online from outside Canada in recommended to maintain full time registration. 

If you have any questions about tuition fee refund for tuition fee payments, please contact the Student Service Centre

Please contact University of Alberta Residence Services at housing@ualberta.ca if you need to cancel your housing offer or to update your application for your new planned arrival.

E. Can the University of Alberta contact IRCC to help expedite the process of my Study Permit application?

Unfortunately, the University of Alberta is unable to contact IRCC on behalf of individual students to expedite the processing of their application; however, we continue to actively advocate on behalf of all students who are affected by these delays to IRCC.

We also advise students whose study permit application has exceeded the posted processing time of 12 weeks to submit an IRCC web form to inquire about the status of their application.
F. If I defer my start date, do I have to let IRCC know?

Graduate Students: if you deferred to a later start date and your study permit application is still under process, you are advised to upload a copy of your updated admission letter to IRCC via an IRCC web form to update your Study Permit application. If your deferral is processed after your study permit application has been approved, you do not need to inform IRCC; however, you will be expected to have your updated offer of admission at the time of entry to Canada.

Undergraduate Students: if you receive a request from IRCC to provide an updated Offer of Admission (Letter of Acceptance), ensure you are registered in Winter 2023 classes and request a Verification of Enrollment through BearTracks.

G. Can I come to Canada before the start of my program as soon as my study permit is approved even if I will not have any course registration at the time of entry?

There is no set time frame for you to arrive in Canada before you begin your studies. However, you should just arrive to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare before you start your program. 

You are not allowed to work on or off campus until you begin your studies in Canada. Students will still need to provide evidence to demonstrate that they have the means to support themselves as a temporary resident in Canada.

To better prepare for your entry to Canada, we recommend you read our Travel to Canada information and IRCC’s “Study permit: Prepare for arrival”.

H. I started my program online for the fall 2022 term while my study permit application was in process. IRCC has requested an updated Letter of Acceptance, what should I do?

If you receive a request from IRCC to provide an updated Offer of Admission or Letter of Acceptance, we advise you submit a Verification of Enrollment Letter (can be requested through Bear Tracks) to show your Fall and Winter course registration along with a Letter of Explanation drafted by you to explain that the University of Alberta cannot issue an updated Letter of Acceptance to students who have already started their program remotely from outside Canada. 

Please ensure that you provide these documents to IRCC before the deadline given to you.

I. My temporary residence status in Canada is about to expire. What should I do?

If you are a temporary resident in Canada and wish to extend your legal stay beyond the expiry date of your current status, , you are advised to apply for the extension online prior to the expiry date of your status (for example, before the expiry date on your current study permit).

When applying to extend your stay, you can include a brief explanation letter to clarify the reason why you need to extend your stay in Canada and provide all other required documents as noted in your online document checklist. 

For information on extending your student status, you can visit our Study Permit Extension page.

J. I am in Canada and my temporary residence status expired less than 90 days ago. What should I do?

You can apply to restore your status.

When you complete the application form, make sure you do all of the following:

  • Select Restore my status under section 3 at the top of page one of the applicable form.
  • Include a note explaining the reason you need to extend your stay and the reason your status expired.
  • You must also pay the restoration fee in addition to the study permit processing fee.

If your temporary resident status is restored, you'll receive the appropriate permit by mail, which will outline the conditions of your stay in Canada. Your temporary resident status in Canada will be extended until a specified date.

Note: students in Canada with expired student status must stop studying until their status is restored.

Learn more on how to restore your status.

K. I am in Canada and my temporary residence status expired over 90 days ago. What should I do?

If it has been more than 90 days since your status expired, you are not eligible to apply to restore your status from inside Canada. If you are in this situation, you must leave Canada immediately and apply for and get approved for a study permit outside Canada before you can return back to Canada.

Learn more on how to restore your status.

L. Can I work over 20 hours/week off campus under the new public policy that IRCC announced?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced the temporary lifting of the 20-hour-per-week off-campus work limit for certain international students during the time period November 15, 2022, to December 31, 2023. 

During the specified time period, certain international students who have a study permit that allows them to work off-campus and who meet the eligibility requirements to engage in off-campus work will be eligible to work any number of hours off-campus during regular academic terms. 

  • Click here to find out if you qualify to work over 20 hours/week under this public policy.

View more information on working off campus and this new public policy.

M. How can I connect with an advisor for my immigration questions?

International students not currently in Edmonton can book an online advising appointment or ssubmit their inquiry through our service portal. 

If you are in Edmonton, visit the International Services Centre (142 Telus Centre) to speak with an International Student Specialist during drop-in advising hours (from September 1 onwards, drop-in advising hours are 10:30 am - 12:00 pm (except for Wednesday) and 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm, Monday-Friday).

Updates

Immigration

A. Online Program Delivery and Immigration Implications

Updated August 26, 2022

Current Students in Canada:

International students whose programs moved to online delivery due to COVID-19 and maintained a valid study permit, were allowed to continue online in their program without any negative implications on their study permit and/or eligibility for the Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) if they were physically in Canada during the online study period.

Note: If in-person courses are now available, students must enroll in the in-person courses to maintain eligibility for the PGWP program.

Students Outside Canada Who Started or Were Studying Online Between Spring 2020 and Summer 2022:

Students who started their program of study online while outside Canada or were studying in their program online anytime between March 2020 and August 2022 while residing outside of Canada due to the pandemic will have the online portion of studies completed outside of Canada between spring 2020 and August 31, 2023 count towards PGWP eligibility if they meet all other PGWP requirements.

If the above applies to you, you can complete 100% of your studies online from outside Canada up to August 31, 2023, and still have that time count towards the length of the PGWP.

New Students Outside Canada Admitted For Fall 2022 or Winter 2023:

Please note, IRCC’s special measure which allows for the online studies completed from outside Canada to be counted towards PGWP length will end after August 31, 2023. 

Students who have applied for a study permit by August 31, 2022 and who study online from abroad between September 1, 2022 and August 31, 2023 will remain eligible for a PGWP as long as they meet additional PGWP eligibility criteria including maintaining full time registration and their outside Canada study component not exceeding more than 50% of their program.

To learn more about IRCC’s announcement regarding the extended distance learning measure click here

Important Note: Starting online studies while your study permit application under process does not guarantee a study permit approval. Students who start online and remain enrolled past September 15, 2022 (Fall add/drop deadline), will be required to pay their Fall tuition fees by the Tuition Payment deadline, regardless of the outcome of their study permit application.

Learn more

B. Medical Exam Requirement for First Time Entry to Canada

Updated August 26, 2022

Students who have been approved for a study permit outside Canada and are planning to enter Canada for the first time are required to have a valid medical exam and the other required documents upon entry into Canada for the first time. 

If your medical exam expires before your scheduled entry to Canada, you must re-take your medical exam by completing an upfront medical with a Panel Physician.

Once you complete your medical exam, you will be given an e-Medical form by your Panel Physician. The Panel Physician is responsible for sending your medical exam results to IRCC directly. Once your medical exam results are received by IRCC, you will see an update regarding this in your IRCC account.

Returning students who hold a valid study permit and visa and have been living in a designated country for more than six months in the past 12 months may be exempt under a recently announced IRCC temporary public policy from needing to do another  medical exam before their proposed travel to Canada. To find out if you are exempt from needing to do another medical exam under this public policy click here.

For more information on documents to have upon entry and other relevant information, visit Travel to Canada.

C. Biometrics Exemption for Temporary Residence Applicants in Canada

Updated August 26, 2022

As a temporary measure, all in-Canada temporary residence applications are currently exempt from the biometrics requirement. 

Students who have never provided biometrics to IRCC in the past 10 years will be asked to pay the $85 biometrics fee when they submit an in-Canada online application (the online system has not been updated to reflect the biometrics waiver). Once the in-Canada application is approved, students who paid this fee at the time of application can expect to get a full refund.

Click here for more information.

D. Post Graduation Work Permit eligibility for International Students Affected by COVID-19

Updated August 26, 2022

Usually, to meet the Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) requirements, students must continuously study full-time throughout all academic terms (except scheduled breaks and final academic term), and at least 50% of their program must be completed in person. However, the IRCC has taken into account the possibility of disruptions to students' studies during COVID-19 during Spring and Summer 2020.

As such, interruptions in current students' full-time study status (i.e., part-time status or no enrolment), which were a direct result of COVID-19 during the Spring or Summer 2020 terms, will not affect the student's eligibility for the PGWP. So long as they maintain a valid study permit and meet all other program criteria. For situations where the student could not maintain full-time registration status due to COVID-19 during this period (spring/summer 2020), a letter of support from their faculty confirming this is needed.

As of Fall 2020, all international students are required to maintain full-time registration status to maintain their PGWP eligibility.

For detailed information, please review the information posted on the IRCC website.

Employment

A. SIN / EI / Tax Filing

Updated August 18, 2022

Social Insurance Number (SIN): In-person services are available at Service Canada Centres. To apply for your first SIN or to extend or renew your SIN, you can apply online, in-person or by mail. If your SIN application meets the requirements, you will be sent a letter with your SIN by mail within 20 business days, from the date the application is received.


Employment Insurance (EI): International students are eligible for the Employment Insurance (EI) providing all eligibility criteria are met. Eligibility and application information is available on the Employment Insurance website. You are eligible for EI Regular Benefits if you:

- Were employed in insurable employment

- Lost your job through no fault of your own

- Have been without work and pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks

- Have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter

- Are ready, willing and capable of working each day

- Are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them)


Tax Filing: The annual deadline for individuals to file taxes is April 30. Students can file taxes at no cost using UFile Online service. ISS is providing online video tutorials, watch now How to File Your Taxes Online.

B. Graduate Students and GRA, GTA and GRAF

As per the Graduate Research Assistantship Collective Agreement, GRA and GTA are both considered an employment relationship between the student and the supervisor; whereas the GRAF is not considered an employment relationship. Please refer to the information below that highlights this difference between GRA and GRAF as per the Graduate Research Assistantship Collective Agreement:

Graduate Research Assistantship (GRAs)

- The duties of a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) are primarily in support of a faculty member's academic research. Such duties may include, but are not limited to: collecting/coding/analyzing data, literature reviews, library research, writing reports, designing conference presentations, and preparing materials for submission to funding agencies. A GRA's duties are to help prepare the Graduate Assistant for further academic and professional opportunities (Article 9.01).

- The relationship between the Graduate Assistantship Supervisor and the GRA is an employment relationship. (Article 9.03).

Graduate Research Assistantship Fellowships (GRAFs)

- Graduate Research Assistantship Fellowship (GRAF) is a form of financial assistance provided to graduate students to focus on their education and training, related to their own thesis or directed research project. (Article 10.01).

- The relationship between the Assistantship Supervisor and GRAF is not an employment relationship. (Article 10.02).

C. Off-Campus Work in Essential Services

Updated August 18, 2022

Between April 22 and August 31, 2020, you were temporarily allowed to work more than 20 hours per week during an academic session if:

  • you worked in an essential service or function, and
  • you had a valid study permit that allowed you to work off-campus

Students should note that this measure no longer applies.

If, at any point, IRCC asks you about work you performed off campus over the 20-hour limit during the above noted time, you can provide more information about the essential service or function you did and include a letter of support from your employer confirming this.

Find out if your work was considered an essential service or function.

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