The University of Regina is in session, but many U of R international students are facing difficulties getting their studies started right now.

Many fresh international students are not able to register for classes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship, Canada (IRCC) has been delayed in approving study permits and visas.

Bisi Oladele is a regional editor at The Nation newspaper in Nigeria and was granted admission into the University of Regina’s Master of Journalism course.

He applied for a study permit in mid-June. On average, Bisi Oladele says applications from Nigeria typically takes four (4) to six (6) weeks to be processed and approved.

Until now, Oladele still has not heard back about the status of his application.

“We all understood that the COVID-19 is likely responsible for the delay we’re experiencing in the processing of our visas,” Oladele uttered.

“But to a great extent we really do not know what’s going to happen. We were supposed have fully linked up with the student community at the U of R as of now.”

Oladele says there is no option to follow up with IRCC.

“We were told not to call or email, but to wait for communication from IRCC … If not for the show of understanding and good communication from the University of Regina, we would have been fully frustrated.”

The Master of Journalism program has a Majority of international students

There are thirteen (13) students in the Master of Journalism program of 2020 academic session, eight (8) of whom are international students.

Mark Taylor, the head of the department at the School of Journalism, said enrollment in the program in 2020 is the highest it’s been in seven years. The Master of Journalism program’s newest set of students is the biggest the school has ever had.

“But that’s if they can arrive here. Even virtually get here,” Taylor said.

Taylor said this problem is not unique peculiar to the journalism school. It’s a problem facing many international students seeking to study in Canada.

Oladele said the study permit delay is causing him a lot of concern and stress.

“For me to leave my job and pursue the program I need to give atleast one month notice … but already the program has kicked off You can see the challenges that I have,” Oladele said.

Drop-out deadline looms

Ngozi Attah, a TV radio presenter also from Nigeria, was granted admission into the Master’s program last year but was denied a study permit at the time.

Attah said she wasn’t given sufficient reasons for the denial but was asked to reapply. So she had to defer her admission for another year.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit and embassies closed, Attah said she delayed reapplying because she was uncertain about the situation around COVID-19 concerned about spending the money when things were so unsettled.

She is currently waiting to see what happens with other international students’ applications.

“We want to improve ourselves. We need create awareness. The international students need to express themselves and let the embassy understand that this is what we’re facing,” Attah said.

Taylor said the school has come up with a work-around plan to help foreign students while they wait.

“The one thing we can do is let students participate in these classes, even though they’re not fully registered officially, in hopes that if and when everything is processed, they can just keep on rolling and they are not behind a month.”

If international students want to begin studying, they have to register for classes online and pay tuition fees.

Taylor said September 16, is the drop deadline for international students to get 100 percent of their tuition refunded. September. 30 is the deadline to get a fifty (50) percent refund.

If the U of R international students has to drop the program, that will take away seven-five (75) percent of the school’s graduate class.

“I feel for the international students most because they are the ones in limbo. But it is frustrating for us,” Taylor said.

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