COVID-19 Information for Incoming International Students

Last updated: January 14, 2021 at 6:15pm

If you have been offered admission to a uLethbridge program for the Fall 2020 term or an upcoming term, you no doubt have many questions. Please review these FAQs for answers to the most common questions. If you have a question that isn't answered here, please let us know.

For general information for the uLethbridge community, please review the uLethbridge COVID-19 Response page.

If you are a current international student, you'll find more answers here: COVID-19 Information for International Students


Upcoming Webinars and Drop-in Sessions

Drop-in Session

9 - 10 a.m. MST | January 27, February 24, March 31, April 28

If you are planning to begin your studies in an upcoming term, join this monthly drop-in session to have your questions answered by the International Student Advisors.

 

Applying for a Study Permit

Yes, we recommend that you apply online for your study permit as soon as possible.  You should expect processing delays.  IRCC is currently unable to provide accurate processing times for study permit and other types of applications.

There may also be delays in your ability to provide biometrics due to the temporary closure of many Visa Application Centres (see below). You may also experience delays due to the availability of an IRCC panel physician to conduct your medical exam, if required.  However, you can submit your application for a study permit prior to completing biometrics or a medical exam.

You should apply for your study permit immediately.  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is recommending that you apply as soon as possible for your study permit, even if you are not able to provide all required and/or recommended documents.  If there is a document you are unable to obtain because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you should include with your application a note of explanation as to why you have not be able to access that document, and if possible, a timeline for when you will be able to.  Once you are able to access the document, you should provide it to IRCC to be considered with your application by using the IRCC Webform. This will allow IRCC to process study permit applications more efficiently. 

All students (except U.S. citizens) who apply for a study permit are required to provide biometrics (i.e. fingerprints and photo). Usually, this is done at a Visa Application Centre abroad. However, many Visa Application Centres are temporarily closed.  

After submitting your study permit application online, you will receive a biometrics instruction letter, with a deadline of 30 days or 90 days. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) your application will not be refused or closed if you cannot provide biometrics due to COVID-19 service disruptions.  When the VAC closest to you re-opens for biometrics appointments, you can use the same Biometrics Instruction Letter you received, even if it has "expired".

 

In July 2020, IRCC announced a temporary measure of a two-stage approval process for study permit applications made outside of Canada. This new two-stage approval only applies to applications submitted:

  • before September 15, 2020,
  • for programs beginning Spring, Summer or Fall 2020.

The two-stage application process is not available for Study Direct Stream applications.

Here is a brief description of the two stages:

Stage 1: IRCC will review your application for eligibility for a study permit.  They will require the following documents to determine eligibility:

  • a letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution
  • proof that you have enough money for tuition fees for one year, living expenses for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada and return transportation for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada
  • any family ties you may have to Canada, as well at ties to your home country
  • evidence that you will leave Canada when your authorized stay comes to an end

If you are deemed eligible after stage one, you will receive “approval in principle”.  This will come in the form of a notification letter from IRCC in your online account, indicating that your application has moved to the next stage.  If you are not eligible, you will receive a refusal. Most refusals of study permit applications occur at the first stage.

Stage 2: IRCC will review your application for admissibility to Canada, including:

  • a medical exam, if required
  • police certificates, if needed
  • your biometrics
  • any information that changed after you received first stage approval

Even if you received “approval in principle” after Stage 1, there is no guarantee your application will be approved at Stage 2.  There are risks to beginning your program without approval of your study permit.  The risks are greater if you have not received first stage approval of your permit.

Risks

  • If you receive a refusal, there may be impacts to the length of post-graduation work permit you may be eligible for upon completion.
  • If you receive a refusal, you may be unable to complete your program, as we do not expect to offer programs online indefinitely. 
  • No refunds will be issued for term tuition and fees for any student registered past the extended drop deadline for the term in question.

We do not recommend beginning your program from outside Canada if you have not yet received either final approval or first-stage approval of your study permit application.  If you have not received a positive response from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) by the add/drop deadline for your first term of study, you should drop all your classes and if possible, defer to the next possible intake. 

If you have received first stage approval from IRCC, but not final approval, you will need to decide whether you are comfortable with taking on the risks associated with starting your program. This is because a first stage approval is not a guarantee of final approval.

Risks

  • If you receive a refusal, there may be impacts to the length of post-graduation work permit you may be eligible for upon completion.
  • If you receive a refusal, you may be unable to complete your program, as we do not expect to offer programs online indefinitely. 
  • No refunds will be issued for tuition and fees for a term for any student registered past the last day for cancellation of course registration (extended drop) for that term.

If you have recently completed another post-secondary program in Canada, make sure to apply to extend your stay in Canada as a student within 90 days of completing your previous program.  This applies to students completing high school as well.  Please reach out to us for advice on the application to extend your stay in Canada as a student.

If you are transferring to uLethbridge, but haven’t completed a program at another institution, you must notify Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) of the change in your institution.  You can find instructions here

If you haven’t already, please send a copy of your current study permit (and if applicable, proof of your application to extend) to us for our records at international.new@uleth.caIt is important that you register for your first term classes as soon as your registration window opens, or as soon as possible, if you haven’t done so already.  

Travelling to Canada

As of October 20, 2020, changes have been made to travel restrictions for international students. 

You can now travel to Canada if:

  • Your Designated Learning Institution has a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by the provincial authority (you can find uLethbridge on the list here)
  • Your study permit is valid, or your application to study in Canada has been approved, and you have a valid Letter of Introduction indicating that approval, along with the required entry document: TRV or eTA (U.S. citizens do not require an entry document)

Travel to Canada to attend the University of Lethbridge (or any school on the approved list) will be considered non-discretionary or essential, and additional letters or documents will not be required to indicate essential travel. Travel to Canada for other reasons (example, for tourism) will not be considered essential.  Students should plan their arrival date accordingly.

All travellers to Canada are required to present a detailed quarantine plan upon arrival. Please see here for guidance on creating your quarantine plan.

If you do not have a valid study permit or final approval of your application for a study permit, you cannot travel to Canada at this time.

We only recommend booking your flight if you meet the requirements to be able to travel to Canada (see above).

If you have not received final approval of your study permit application, you should not book flights.

We ask that you please contact our office so we can review your quarantine plan before you make plans to travel to Canada.

Yes, all international travellers are required by law to quarantine for 14 days after arriving at their destination.  This means having a plan in place for where you will safely quarantine and minimizing all contact with others en route to your location of quarantine. 

You should take into account the quarantine period when booking your flights. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will look to see that you either have time to quarantine before the start of any in-person classes, or that you will be able to study online during the quarantine period. Read about the University's plan to offer classes maily online with an increase in in-person classes for the Spring 2021 term here.

Please review our Quarantine Requirements page for further guidance and instructions on creating your own quarantine plan. You can also find more information on quarantine requirements from the Government of Canada here. 

When you travel to Canada, you should bring the following documents:

  • Your valid study permit or letter of introduction from IRCC indicating approval your study permit application
  • Your valid passport that you used to apply for your study permit (and temporary resident visa, if applicable)
  • Your quarantine plan
  • Your Letter of Acceptance to uLethbridge
  • A Verification of Enrolment from the Bridge showing your full-time registration at uLethbridge
  • Proof of finances, demonstrating that you have sufficient resources to support yourself and any family members accompanying you to Canada

The Canada Border Services Agency always make the final decision on who is permitted to enter Canada.

  • They may be able to travel to Canada with you, but will need to demostrate that their reason for travel is non-discretionary (essential).
  • They may be able to travel to Canada to join you if you are already here, but may need to have authorization from IRCC.
  • They may not travel to Canada before you do.

In all cases, your accompanying family members will need to have their applications to come to Canada (either as a worker, student or visitor) approved by IRCC before they travel.

See here for additional details. Contact your International Student Advisors if you have any questions.

Once you have determined that you are eligible to travel to Canada, you should consider your arrival date.

If you have any in-person classes or labs, you should plan to arrive in time to complete your 14 day quarantine period prior to the start of classes.

You should plan to arrive no earlier than 3 - 4 weeks prior to the start of classes, which should be sufficient time to complete your 14-day quarantine period, and take care of essential settlement tasks such as finding a place to live, opening a bank account, registering for Alberta Health Care, etc. 

If the border services officer determines that you are entering Canada for any reason other than to study (for example, for tourism), you may be refused entry to Canada.

If you are planning to begin your studies in the Spring 2021 term, you may have two options:

  • To begin your studies in the online format, from your home country, or
  • To defer your offer of admission to the next available intake, if possible. For additional information, see here for undergraduate students and here for graduate students.
    • In many cases, undergraduate students are eligible to defer their admission one time.  Contact admissions@uleth.ca for details.
    • Deferal of admission for graduate programs, where possible, is determined on a case-by-case basis. Please contact sgs@uleth.ca if you have questions.

If you have already begun your studies online from abroad, you can choose to continue to study online from your home country. 

Campus Questions

Yes!  You’ll find lots of valuable information and the online application at the Housing Services website.  On-campus housing is in-demand and we recommend applying as soon as possible. 

 

Access to the Main Campus in Lethbridge is currently limited.

  • Learn about what is accessible in Anderson Hall, the Students' Union Building and the 1st Choice Savings Centre for Sport and Wellness, as well as about accessing outdoor spaces: Fall 2020 Updates
  • Find out about accessing other parts of campus.

The Calgary Campus remains closed.

Most classes and services for students are still being provided virtually. See this directory for Fall 2020 hours of operation and contact information for many student services.

What to Expect

Fall 2020

On May 19, 2020, the University of Lethbridge announced that Fall 2020 classes will be delivered primarily online.  Some experiential components may still be offered in-person.  A list of in-person Fall 2020 classes and labs can be found here.

Additional details about what to expect in the Fall 2020 term can be found here.

Spring 2021

On September 24, 2020, the University of Lethbridge announced that Spring 2021 classes will be delivered in a combination of online and in-person modalities. Additional details are expected to follow.

Most uLethbridge students are enrolled in programs that are a minimum of two years of study. 

For most students, time spent studying online from outside Canada will count towards PGWP eligibility if you:

  • have a valid study permit, study permit approval or applied for a study permit prior to the start of your program (and your study permit application is eventually approved) and
  • complete at least 50% of your program from inside Canada (studies outside Canada are permitted to count towards the PGWP up until April 30, 2021).

Students in short-term programs (12 months or less) or taking two back-to-back programs of study should review this information provided by IRCC.


If you choose to begin your study online prior to approval of your student permit application, you are doing so at the risk of:    

  • Sacrificing your PGWP eligibility, or the length of PGWP you would normally receive after completing your program.
  • Being refused a study permit after already completing some courses or portion of study online. No refunds will be made to students in this situation after the last day for cancellation of course registration (extended drop) for the term.

Yes, there will be an online New Student Orientation for the Spring 2021 term, including specific sessions for international students.  Attending New Student Orientation is a wonderful way to learn what to expect, to gain valuable information and to set yourself up for success in your studies.  

Details on how to register and participate will be provided closer to the start of the Spring 2021 term.

You may choose to register as a part-time student. However, we recommend always registering as a full-time student (at least 9.0 credit hours, usually 3 classes for undergraduate students) in every Fall and Spring term, beginning with your first term.  In order to be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit, you must be a full-time student for the duration of your program. This is true even for online classes.

Graduate students are considered full-time students in every Fall, Spring and Summer terms as long as they are registered.

Once you enter Canada and your study permit is issued, you will be eligible for a Social Insurance Number, provided your study permit indicates you are able to work in Canada. 

Admission

The content of this FAQ has been prepared by a Regulated International Student Immigration Advisor (RISIA).

Important Links

Quarantine Requirements

All travellers to Canada are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival

Pre-Departure Information

Review general pre-departure information for when you are able to travel to Canada

International Student Guide

Learn about what to expect as a student at the University of Lethbridge