(International BCIT student Elin Molnaar/Meko)

International students struggle to return home amid COVID-19 outbreak

At the beginning of what is now an international pandemic, the Canadian Government advised residents to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada in order to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. Making it difficult for international students studying in Canada to return to their own country.


“It’s been a struggle in terms of not knowing how next semester is going to be. I either go home and have difficulties returning next fall or stay in Canada and don’t see my family,” says BCIT journalism international student Elin Molenaar.


Based off on Canada’s International Strategy, there were more than 721,000 international students studying in Canada in 2018. Now with the outbreak of Covid-19, that leaves many students worried about their next step in their education.


“The main concerns international students have are if they’ll be able to graduate eventually and if the virus will impact their ability to immigrate to Canada,” says Moving2Canada Editor and Product Manager, Hugo O’Doherty.


Moving2Canada is an online content and information centre that guides new immigrants into making Canada a permanent home. That includes providing any additional information on immigration programs, insurance, and work and study permits.


O’Doherty says many international students who plan to study in Canada envision immigrating long term. This means that they would need a post-graduation-work-permit in order to continue to stay in Canada during the pandemic.


Before the new rules were set in early April, it would have been difficult for international students to stay in Canada to continue their education.


“In order to get that post-graduation-work-permit, you need to graduate from your program. Something you’re not meant to be doing from distance-learning,” says O’Doherty in an interview.


For Elin, she says she has not been advised by her home country to return but is worried the new Canadian Government laws closing the borders off to non-permanent residents, could have a lasting complication on her education.


Students who may have no choice but to return home experience a different problem.


O’Doherty says certain countries around the world have tighter restrictions on international students’ ability to return home.


“The choice might be taken out of their hands. They may not be able to finish their study programs in Canada. That’s not because Canada has done anything, it’s because their own country might re-call them,” says O’Doherty


O’Doherty says he has been happy with how the Canadian Government is changing certain rules to help the international students when it comes to distance-learning.


Those who are travelling will continue to be monitored for any health risks before entering the country and will still need to undergo a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period.