Canada grants an exception to U.S. students planning to study north of the border

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WASHINGTON – The federal government appears to have loosened restrictions on the Canada-U.S. Border that would have made it impossible for first-year students from the United States to enter the country. An update to government guidelines for international students, released on Friday, now indicates that a student from the United States may no longer need a study permit issued on or before March 18, the day the border restrictions were first announced.

New York resident Anna Marti, whose daughter plans to attend McGill University in Montreal this fall, said she was part of a “group effort” of parents across the United States who lobbied on their Senators, Members of Congress and Richard Mills, the Acting US Ambassador. in Canada, to ease restrictions.

The rule would have made it nearly impossible for U.S. freshmen to enter Canada, while other final year students with pre-existing student permits could cross the border easily – even after spending the summer in the south of the border, where the COVID -19 pandemic has been increasingly severe for months.

Marti said she was informed by Mills that the issue had been raised during ongoing discussions in Washington about restrictions on the Canada-U.S. Border – and that her pleas, as well as media coverage of the plight of American parents, “helped to put a ‘face’ on the question. ”

Citizenship, Refugees and Immigration Canada now states that border officials will accept a “letter of introduction at the point of entry” stating that the student has been approved for a study permit, instead of a permit approved before the 18th. March. The exception, however, only applies to students from the United States.

“We celebrated, although we won’t fully celebrate until she is in Montreal,” Marti said, noting that the family – and many others – must now wait for those introductory letters and permits. studies are coming.

She is also well aware that students hoping to travel to Canada from countries outside of the United States are still bound by the March 18 restriction.

“I just hope someone will continue to address the issue for all international freshmen,” she said. “International students who quarantine aren’t the real danger. ”

Other parents in the United States remain wary of the border, as the rules require anyone seeking entry into Canada to travel for “non-discretionary or non-discretionary purposes” – a description that could exclude students whose courses take place entirely online.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, increasing by tens of thousands of cases per day, hit 4.4 million on Monday, with more than 150,000 deaths to date. Premature reopenings, an uneven and cavalier approach to physical distancing in parts of the country and a partisan division over mask requirements have helped fuel a surge in cases.

Canada, by comparison, has so far reported 114,000 cases and nearly 8,900 deaths.

“No measures are in place to speed up the processing of study permit applications,” Canada’s Immigration Department said in an update earlier this month.

“Foreign nationals whose study permit applications were approved after March 18, 2020 … cannot be exempt from the travel restrictions (and) they should not plan to travel to Canada until the travel restrictions are in effect.” not lifted, because they will not be. be authorized to travel to or enter Canada. ”

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced last week that the government will prioritize study permits for students who have submitted full applications online. Students will also be able to apply the time spent studying online to obtain a work permit in Canada, provided that at least 50 percent of the program is completed in Canada.

Ottawa has also implemented a priority processing system and a two-step process for students who are unable to obtain all the necessary documentation.

A spokesperson for Mendicino did not respond to media inquiries on Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 27, 2020.

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