Immigration, Travel, and Employment 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 contact advising@ualberta.ca to contact an International Student Advisor for help with any questions or concerns.

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Updates

Immigration

A. 2-Stage Study Permit Approval Process to Facilitate Online Learning
Updated January 11, 2021

IRCC now has a new two-stage study permit process for students starting in winter 2021 to allow students to begin studies online, even if you have not been able to submit all documents due to COVID-19 related closures. You will first get an approval-in-principle, then a final approval after you can submit all remaining documents.

To qualify for a study permit approval-in-principle, you must:
  • Include a letter of acceptance from UAlberta
  • Have submitted your application before December 15, 2020, and
  • Included proof of sufficient funds to cover the cost of studies, living expenses, and transportation (without working in Canada)], including funds for return transportation

To qualify for a final study permit decision, you must:

  • Submit remaining required documents when services reopen, such as biometrics, medical exams, police certificates, or your passport, and
  • Be admissible to Canada, and
  • Satisfy the visa officer that any information which changed after you received an approval-in-principle does not impact your eligibility
You will be notified of an approval-in-principle in your online IRCC account. An approval-in-principle is not a guarantee that you will receive a final study permit approval. Approval-in-principle is not an authorization to travel to Canada.

Learn more
B. Biometrics Exemption for Temporary Residence Applicants in Canada

Updated July 15, 2020

As a temporary measure, all in-Canada temporary residence applications are now exempt from the biometrics requirement. This applies to all new applications and well as applications already in progress.

Students who were issued a Biometrics Instruction Letter in the past but haven't provided their biometrics due to Service Canada closures can now disregard this request. They can also expect IRCC to process a refund of the $85 biometrics fee already paid once their application has been processed.

Students who are submitting a new application won't have to pay the $85 biometrics fee even if the online system asks for it. Students who pay this fee anyway can expect to get a full refund after their application has been processed.

Click here for more information.

C. Work Authorization for International Students Affected by COVID-19

Updated October 22, 2020
Usually, to meet the Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) requirements, students must continuously study full-time and in-person throughout all academic terms. However, the IRCC has taken into account the possibility of disruptions to students' studies during COVID-19.

As such, interruptions in current students' full-time study status (i.e., part-time status or no enrollment), which may have happened as a direct result of COVID-19 during the spring or summer 2020 terms, does 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, a letter of support from their faculty confirming this is needed.

D. Online Program Delivery and Immigration Implications

Updated February 24, 2021

Current Students:

International students whose programs have moved to online delivery due to COVID-19 and maintain a valid study permit, can 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 are physically in Canada during the online study period.

If you are doing your program's online component while residing outside of Canada, the online portion will not affect your PGWP eligibility. If you meet all other PGWP requirements and:

  • have been in a program that was in progress in March 2020, and
  • have a valid study permit during your online studies
The online portion you completed outside of Canada between spring 2020 and December 31, 2021, will count toward your PGWP. 


New Students:

To reassure students that they can enroll and begin their studies online, IRCC has confirmed that students who have been approved or applied for a study permit before the start of their program that starts in fall 2020, winter 2021, or fall 2021 but cannot travel to Canada due to travel restrictions are eligible for the PGWP. To be eligible, you must meet all other PGWP requirements and:

  • have started or will start a program between spring 2020 and fall 2021, and
    • you have a study permit, or
    • you’ve been approved for a study permit, or
    • you applied for a study permit before starting your study program
      • your study permit must eventually be approved

If the above applies to you, you can complete 100% of your studies online from outside Canada up to December 31, 2021, and still have that time count towards the length of the PGWP.

Important Notice

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

- You will be expected to pay your tuition fees regardless of the decision on your study permit application.

- Starting your program will not guarantee that your study permit application will be approved.

- 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.

-  If your second study permit gets approved after the refusal of the first, the time studying online before your second study permit application gets approved may not count towards PGWP since your second application would have been submitted after the start of your program.

- You will not be able to continue in the program once in-person program delivery resumes unless you get full approval on your study permit application.

Travel

A. Travel Restrictions and Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Holders

Updated January 6, 2020
The current travel restrictions do not apply to international students who hold a valid study permit or have been approved for a study permit and are current UAlberta students. Additionally, current travel restrictions do not apply to Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) who hold a valid job offer and will be able to work once they enter Canada.

For students who hold a valid Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) or have been approved for a PGWP outside Canada, please note the following to determine whether entry to Canada is deemed “essential/non-discretionary” or “discretionary”:

Example of non-discretionary travel: A student who applied for and was approved a PGWP in Canada then travels outside Canada. If the foreign national has a valid work permit and ordinarily resides in Canada, whether the foreign national’s employment still exists or if they are currently laid off is not determinative in this case. What is determinative is that the foreign national’s primary residence is in Canada (suggesting their travel is not optional).

Example of discretionary travel: A student who leaves Canada and applies for and gets approved for a PGWP outside Canada. A foreign national who is issued a letter of introduction because they submitted their PGWP outside Canada but has not secured a job contract in Canada and wants to enter Canada simply to search for work opportunities. In that case, their travel is deemed discretionary (non-essential).

As such, students are advised to apply for the PGWP in Canada before leaving. To confirm their exemption from the travel restrictions upon entry, students need to have a valid PGWP and show that they are established and ordinarily reside in Canada. Examples of documents to support their establishment in Canada may include:

- Letter from the bank confirming when they opened their account

- Lease/rental agreement

- Transcript/ Letter of Completion

- Tax documents such as the Notices of Assessment

- Birth certificates of children who were born in Canada when applicable

Important note:At the port of entry, a government representative makes the final determination regarding access based on the information presented to them at the time of entry into Canada. Unless you have a valid offer of employment at the time of entry, entry into Canada as a PGWP holder is not guaranteed.

Students who have applied for and were approved for a PGWP outside Canada and wish to re-enter Canada may not be eligible to re-enter under the current travel restrictions if they do not have a current or active employment offer. A student in this situation who decides to travel back to Canada anyway needs to consider the possibility that even if they provide documents that support their establishment in Canada, they may be denied entry.

For more information on this, visit:

IRCC Travel Restrictions Measures Web page
IRCC Non-Optional and Non-Discretionary Travel Web page

B. Travel Restrictions and Dependent Family Members of International Students

Updated October 22, 2020

IRCC defines Immediate family members as:
- Spouse or common-law partner
- Dependent child
- Parent or step-parent
- Guardian

As such, travel restrictions do not apply to spouses or common-law partners of students and their dependent children.

The IRCC confirmed, a foreign national whose travel to Canada is authorized in writing by an officer where applicable for the purpose to reunite with an immediate family member, who is currently a temporary resident in Canada, is exempt from current travel restrictions. See Family reunification

What family members need to show to support their exemption depends on whether they are travelling with you or at a later time.

If they are travelling with you:

They don’t need a written authorization from the IRCC to travel with you. However, they need an approved immigration application (work or study permit and/or visa/eTA), and they need to show that their reasons for travel are non-discretionary. For example, they will help you get established and support you in Canada.

If they will join you later:

If you are already in Canada or plan to travel to Canada by yourself first, and your family plans to follow you later; they still need an approved immigration application (work or study permit and/or visa/eTA) and need to meet one of the following criteria:

- If a family member is travelling from the US: they don’t need written authorization from IRCC; however, they need to show that their reasons for travel are non-discretionary. For example, they’ll help you get established and support you in Canada.

- If a family member is travelling from a country other than the US: they will need to have written authorization from IRCC to fly to Canada. Family members are advised not to book a flight to Canada before they receive written authorization. Learn how to request written authorization from IRCC.

To be able to board a flight to Canada, immediate family members need:

- a valid visitor visa or eTA
- a valid passport
- to tell the airline that they’re exempt from the travel restrictions
- to show an immigration officer that they’re coming for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose, such as to live with their spouse, common-law partner or family member

-An officer can refuse authorization if the family member is travelling for an optional or non-essential (discretionary) purpose, such as tourism, entertainment or recreation.

- to have their health checked by airline officials to confirm that they don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, cough and difficulty breathing

- Anyone showing symptoms will not be allowed to board a flight to Canada.

Visit Travel to Canada During COVID for more information on what to consider when preparing to travel to Canada.

View additional travel-related information:

Get the Latest Information on Travelling to Alberta

Read Alberta's Provincial Requirements for Self-isolation

Take the Government of Alberta Isolation Questionnaire for Returning Travellers

Learn more about travel restrictions and on the quarantine requirement for travellers into Canada.

IRCC Travel Restrictions Measures

IRCC Non-Optional and Non-Discretionary Travel

C. When and How to Contact IRCC to Request Written Authorization for the Purpose of Travel

Updated October 22, 2020
If you are a foreign national wanting to reunite with an immediate family member residing in Canada who is NOT a Canadian or PR (study permit and work permit holders) and you are coming from a country other than the US, you will need to request written authorization from IRCC for the purpose of travel.

When requesting written authorization, you need to provide evidence that you are eligible to travel as an immediate family member of an international student/worker. Documents to use in support of this include:

- proof of your relationship with an immediate family member in Canada
- immediate family member’s status in Canada (copy of their study permit or work permit)

Please see which of the scenarios below applies to your family member that wishes to travel to Canada for the purpose of accompanying you:

If your immediate family members have a valid visitor visa or an application in progress:

Follow the instructions for What to do if you’ve already applied for a visitor visa. The IRCC will assess your family members’ reasons for travel and decide on your written authorization.

Remember to submit evidence to show your family members’ eligibility to travel. Along with their visitor visa application, the evidence includes:
- proof of a relationship with an immediate family member in Canada
- immediate family member’s status in Canada (copy of their study permit or work permit)

If your immediate family members need a visitor visa but haven’t applied for one yet:

Follow the instructions on How to apply for a visitor visa. The IRCC will assess your family members’ reasons for travel and decide on their visitor visa and written authorization requests at the same time.

Remember to submit evidence to show they are eligible to travel at this time.

If your immediate family members have an eTA or need one to travel:

If your family members have an eTA, or they are applying for one, contact IRCC through their Web Form to inform how your family members meet the eligibility requirements to travel at this time. The IRCC will assess reasons for travel and decide on the eTA if your family members don’t have one yet, and the written authorization request at the same time.

View instructions for eTA applicants.

Remember to submit evidence to show you’re eligible to travel at this time.

If your immediate family members don’t need a visitor visa or eTA (for example, US citizens):
Suppose your family members don’t need a visitor visa or an eTA to travel to Canada and are from any country other than the US. In that case, they still require written authorization to unite with an immediate family member who is in Canada temporarily.

Note: If your family members are coming from the US to unite with an immediate family member, who is in Canada temporarily, you do not need written authorization.

Written Authorization Process:

Send your request for a written authorization to this email address: IRCC.COVID-TravelExemptions-Exemptionsdevoyage-COVID.IRCC@cic.gc.ca.

Make sure to include the following information about your immediate family members who wish to enter Canada to accompany you:

- full name
- date of birth
- passport number
- detailed reason for travel (to be deemed essential, reason has to be “to support an immediate family member in Canada” and not for tourism)
- planned travel dates
- current country of residence
- your supporting documents to show eligibility to travel to Canada at this time:
- proof of relationship with an immediate family member in Canada and
- copy of immediate family member’s status in Canada (copy of their study permit or work permit

IRCC will usually respond within 14 business days of getting your complete request. If your request is missing required information, it may take longer to respond.

If IRCC approves your request for a written authorization, they will send it to the email address used to contact IRCC.

Employment

A. SIN / EI / Tax Filing

Updated April 29, 2020

Social Insurance Number (SIN): In-person services are currently unavailable at Service Canada Centres.To apply for your first SIN or to extend or renew your SIN, you can apply online 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 deadline for individuals to file tax has been extended to June 1, 2020. 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 October 8, 2020

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

This change no longer applies.

If, on a future application, an officer asks you about work you performed during this time, let them know what essential service or function you worked. You could ask your employer for a letter of support to confirm this.

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

View the Government of Alberta list of essential business/services/functions to determine whether a specific job or service is deemed essential.

Frequently Asked Questions: Immigration

A. How do I start my study permit application? Are they still processing applications even though Visa Application Centres are closed and I can't provide my biometrics?


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). IRCC continues to process study permit applications during COVID. Learn more on the IRCC website.

Now that many Visa Application Centres and Panel Physician Offices abroad have resumed services during COVID-19, IRCC has returned to pre-pandemic processing. As a result, the automatic 90-day extensions given when students submitted their study permit applications with missing documents (such as their biometrics) due to COVID-related closures will cease.

All applicants will now have 30 days from receiving biometrics notification to provide their biometrics. Applicants who have a reasonable explanation why they need an extension beyond the 30 days can contact IRCC to request an extension during the 30 days given.

Click here for more information.

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

You do not need to have a valid study permit or have been approved for a study permit to start your program online in the Fall.

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

- Any period of online study time spent after submitting your online study permit application will be considered when assessing your eligibility under the PGWP up to 100% as long as you had applied for the study permit prior to the start of your program and the online study period outside Canada was completed between spring 2020 and December 31, 2021. 

- Starting your program before an Approval-in-Principal or 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.

- Suppose your application is refused after you start your program and you decide to re-apply. In that case, the time already spent studying may not be considered under the PGWP program since your second application will not have been submitted before the start of your program.

- You will not be able to continue in the program once in-person program delivery resumes unless your study permit application has received final approval.

Please note, that students are expected to pay tuition fees when they start their program regardless of whether their study permit is approved.
C. If my study permit is approved, can I come to Canada even if my classes will continue to be delivered online?

As long as you have been approved for a study permit or have a valid study permit and visa upon entry, you can enter Canada.

When to enter Canada will depend on flight availability and when you can have the necessary arrangements in place, allowing you to meet the mandatory travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

That said, now is not the best time to be travelling. You may wish to consider postponing your travel to Canada during this time unless there are compelling reasons requiring you to enter Canada, given that IRCC has expanded the PGWP COVID measures. These measures now allow students to complete 100% of their programs online outside of Canada until December 31, 2021, while still having this time count towards eligibility for the PGWP.

If you plan to come to Canada, you should not plan to enter too soon before the start of your courses if your entry will be when you do not have any course registration.

More importantly, when planning for your entry to Canada, make sure that you review our Travel to Canada During COVID pages to learn more about the travel restrictions that apply to you.

It is important to note that you will be required to follow and pay for the new travel restriction requirements in place upon entry, including the new three-day mandatory hotel quarantine requirement.

Read Travel to Canada During COVID for more information.
.

D. When I submitted my study permit extension application in March, I got a Biometrics Instruction Letter (BIL). It has been over 90 days with biometrics services closed in Canada; what do I do?
As of July 15, 2020, IRCC has confirmed that all new and in progress application for extension of temporary residence status in Canada (study or work permit extension, TRV, PGWP applications, etc.) are now exempt from the biometrics requirement.

If you have already paid the $85 biometrics fee, you can expect a refund. For students submitting new applications, you are no longer to pay the $85 biometrics fee when you apply online even if the system asks you to pay it. Those who pay it anyway can expect a refund for that amount from IRCC.

This temporary measure only applies to IN-CANADA applications. All applications submitted outside Canada are not exempt from the biometrics requirement.
E. My temporary residence status in Canada is about to expire, but I cannot leave due to the current travel restrictions; what should I do?

If you are a temporary resident who is unable to leave Canada and your status has not yet expired, you can apply online to extend your stay in Canada.

If you are a visitor, you can apply to extend your stay as a visitor in Canada.

If you are a worker or student, you have a few options:
- If you are no longer working or studying, you can apply to change your status to "visitor," as long as your study or work permit has not expired
- If you want to continue working or studying, you may be able to extend your work permit or study permit if you're eligible.

In both cases, when you apply, make sure you include a note explaining the reason you need to extend your stay in Canada.

F. 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.
- You must also pay the restoration fee.

If your temporary resident status is restored, you'll receive the appropriate permit, which will outline the conditions of your stay in Canada. Your temporary resident status in Canada will be extended until a specified date.
G. My temporary residence status expired over 90 days ago, but I cannot leave Canada due to COVID-19. What should I do?

Even if it has been more than 90 days since your status expired, you have until August 31, 2021, to apply to restore your status if

- you had valid status on or after January 30, 2020, and

- your status expired on or before May 31, 2021, and
H. How can I make sure that I can access all the relevant updates and information during the COVID-19 pandemic?
International students should register with their home country's government. This ensures you receive relevant updates from your consular services representatives in Canada.

Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is responding to the many issues that are arising as a result of Canada's response to COVID-19.

IRCC policy updates are posted online, see:

- How COVID-19 is affecting immigration, refugees, citizenship and passport services

- COVID-19: Visitors, foreign workers and students

Read information for travellers entering Alberta from outside Canada.

Read the University of Alberta's COVID-19 updates.

Questions? Email advising@ualberta.ca with your concerns.

I. What do I need to be able to work on- or off-campus in Canada?
Once you are able to travel to Canada, you will need to get your study permit issued upon entry with the required work conditions that clearly state your eligibility to work on- and off-campus. You will then be required to apply online for a Social Insurance Number (SIN). You will need to have your passport and your study permit with the required work conditions to apply for a SIN.

You should be aware that you will need to maintain full-time registration during academic terms and not work more than 20 hours/week off-campus during academic terms. There is no limit to the number of hours you can work on-campus.
J. If I am studying online while in Canada, will I be eligible to work on- or off-campus?

Program delivery is now being offered online due to the current COVID-19 situation. As a result, if you meet the following requirements, you will be eligible to work during your online studies:
- Hold a valid study permit with required work authorization remarks,
- Hold a Social Insurance Number (SIN) and
- Meet all the other conditions for working on- and off-campus as per Immigration

Refugee Protection Regulations 186(f) and 186(v) which include:
- Full-time registration
- Registered in a degree-seeking program
- Work no more than 20 hours/week during academic terms

K. I applied for a co-op work permit; however, I may not get the co-op work permit in time for the start of my work placement due to the current COVID-19 processing delays. Can I begin my co-op placement if my co-op work permit has not been issued by then?

In normal circumstances, international students must have a valid co-op work permit when they start their co-op placement. 

However, the Government of Canada announced temporary measures that provide students with the opportunity to begin their co-op work placement before their co-op work permit has been issued.

The measures differ depending on where the student will be when starting their co-op placement.

Students Who Will be Outside Canada:

If the student is outside of Canada at the start of their co-op placement, they can start their co-op placement if both their school and employer agree.

They can either:

  • accept a Canadian work placement and begin working remotely from their home country
  • work for a company in their home country
Students Who Will be Inside Canada:
Students who are already in Canada, and have applied for a co-op work permit, may start their co-op placement using their on-campus and off-campus work authorization, provided they meet all the eligibility requirements.

On-Campus Co-Op Placements: Students may start working full-time if their co-op placement is on campus and they are a full-time student as per [R186(f)].

Off-Campus Co-Op Placements:
Students may start working a total of 20 hours per week during Fall and Winter terms as per [R186(v)]. While working a total of 20 hours/week during the co-op placement, the student should not have any other off-campus employment.

Students may start working full-time if their co-op placement takes place during regularly scheduled breaks.

Important Note: If the co-op application is refused, students must stop their co-op work immediately.

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

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