Some U.S. students will be allowed to enter Canada for the fall 2020 semester even if they acquired their study permit after March 18.

New guidance released on the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) last Friday on July 24 announced U.S. students as the third group of students who can enter Canada:

  • Foreign students with a valid study permit, or
  • International students accepted for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, or
  • International students arriving from the United States

Prior to Friday’s addition, only the first two groups of international students were exempted from the travel restrictions Canada first imposed on March 18 to help curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, U.S. students are required to successfully meet certain requirements to gain admission into Canada.

Canada’s immigration departments states that upon arrival to Canada, students will be assessed by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer on the following grounds:

  • Proof the student is exempt from the travel restriction and is travelling for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose.
  • If the student is already residing in Canada (Note: It is not important for a student to be living in Canada, but it can help to show their entry into Canada is for a non-optional reason).
  • If the student is able to complete a fourteen (14) day quarantine period the moment they arrive to their destination in Canada. Under Canadian law, self-quarantine is compulsory for all travelers entering the country.
  • Whether the student will start studying after they complete the quarantine.
  • If the student needs to be in Canada for their program (e.g., for laboratories or workshops).
  • If the student’s colleges or universities does not offer them the option to pursue their courses online or if it is not possible for the student to study online from their country of origin due to internet restrictions or bandwidth issues.

Documents Required

IRCC advises international students to bring the following documents with them upon arrival to Canada:

  • A valid study permit, or
  • At the port of entry, to present letter of introduction that demonstrate they were approved for a study permit if they are arriving from the United States, or
  • A port of entry letter of introduction that indicate they were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020 if they are coming from another country other than the United States.


International students offer significant socio-economic benefits to Canada. At the same time, Canada continues to have strict travel measures in place to limit coronavirus pandemic, which will see far fewer international students enter the country this fall than what is usually the case.

Despite the cordial relationship between Canada and the United States, American students are also to a great extent affected by these travel measures. The Canada-U.S. border was first shut down on March 21 and this border closure has been extended every thirty (30) days since then.

In light of the high levels of COVID-19 in the United States at the moment, it seems unlikely that the two north american nations will lift these restrictions when they are about to expire once again on August 21.

In the meantime, Canada has introduced many accommodations for foreign students such as a two-step study permit process and the ability to commence online studies and have that time count towards the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

The benefit of the post-graduation work permit is it enables students to get professional work experience in Canada which they can then use to pursue Canadian permanent residence through the country’s over 100 immigration programs.

About 7,000 new U.S. students enter Canada each year. In 2019, Canada was home to 15,000 students from the United States, which represented about two (2) per cent of the over 640,000 international students in the country.

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