Canada’s travel rules unfair for first-year international students, say U.S. parents

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WASHINGTON – Parents de students in the United States, who hoped to begin their university studies in Canada this fall, are desperately trying to convince the federal government to relax the rules that make it nearly impossible for their children to enter the country.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has closed the door on students with study permits granted after March 18, when Canada and the United States announced a ban on non-essential cross-border travel, while students with valid pre-existing permits will be allowed.

Some parents say it discriminates the first year students, most of whom did not have time to get their license approved before the deadline after receiving an offer of acceptance from Canadian schools.

“As it stands, the only ones who can’t enter Canada are freshmen, and that doesn’t make sense to anyone,” said Anna Marti, a New York resident whose daughter s ‘was waiting to launch his post. secondary career in September at McGill University in Montreal.

“They are the ones who will get their study permit after March 18.”

The total name of COVID-19 cases in the United States crossed the 4 million mark on Thursday, with nearly 144,000 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. Some experts predict a death toll of more than 200,000 by November.

Canada, by comparison, has so far reported 112,000 cases and 8,870 deaths.

“There are no measures in place to allow expedited processing of study permit applications,” Canada’s Immigration Department said in an update released last week.

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

Marti and others signed an online petition urging Ottawa to reconsider the study permit rule, arguing that it is unfair to only allow foreigners students with older permits – many of whom spent the summer in the United States, where the severity of the COVID-19 The pandemic has intensified in recent weeks – in the country.

The rule also punishes unfairly students in areas of the country where the virus is less severe, such as Marti’s home in the tri-state area of ​​New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, she said.

New York City was a major epicenter of the initial outbreak in the United States in April, prompting an aggressive response led by Governor Mario Cuomo who helped fend off the virus. People in the state have taken the threat more seriously as a result, Marti said.

“We’ve all been through hell,” she says.

“My daughter hasn’t seen her friends for months. To quote Governor Cuomo, she’s smart in New York – she’s over there with her mask on, always keeping her social distance, and she says to me all the time, “I don’t understand this. There is no way we can be a risk. ”

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

The March 18 threshold for study permits has been in place since the initial border restrictions were imposed, said Kevin Lemkay, spokesperson for Mendicino. Ottawa has since introduced “more flexibility” to students, Lemkay said, including priority processing and a two-step process for students unable to obtain all necessary documentation.

“Our government knows that students bring enormous economic, cultural and social benefits to Canada, ”he said.

“We understand that students and post-secondary institutions were hungry for certainty, and these steps were taken with that in mind. We hope to have more to say soon. ”

The Change.org petition, which has more than 3,000 signatures, calls on the federal government to define all students as essential travelers. It says students unable to enter Canada will lose access to vital educational resources, research facilities and income opportunities, and may not feel safe staying in their home country.

Some McGill employees who expect to be nearby students from the United States next month raised concerns about why the school allows any students on campus when the bulk of coursework can be completed online.

The university says the changes to course delivery are strictly temporary and there will be an on-campus experience for students who can attend in person.

“Although the fall semester may seem somewhat different from normal, the university is working with faculties to develop student life and learning activities on campus, following rigorous security protocols, to students who will be in Montreal in the fall, ”spokesperson Shirley Cardenas said in a statement.

These activities will be “replicated” for students who remain outside of Canada, she added.

“All international students that enter Canada must be quarantined for 14 days and are subject to surveillance, verification and enforcement by public health authorities. Individual accommodations will be available for any student who needs isolation. ”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 23, 2020.

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