COVID-19 Information for International Students

Last updated: October 16, 2020 at 3:03pm

We know that as a current international student at the University of Lethbridge, you may have additional questions about how the evolving response to the COVID-19 pandemic will affect you.  Please review these FAQs for more information. If you have a question specifically related to your status as an international student that isn't addressed here, please let us know.

If you are an incoming international student for Summer 2020 or Fall 2020, you'll find your answers here: COVID-19 Information for Incoming International Students

For general information for students and the uLethbridge community, please continue to monitor the uLethbridge Covid-19 Response page and Student FAQ.


Your international student advisors will be working from home until further notice, but they will still be available to you by email and using Skype or Zoom. You can contact your advisors by emailing international.advice@uleth.ca, or by logging on to Skype and reaching out to us at uleth.international.advice during our regular drop-in hours of 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

NEW: If you wish to set up a Zoom appointment with an international student advisor, please email international.advice@uleth.ca from your uLethbridge email address with the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Your uLethbridge ID number
  • The reason for your appointment
  • The days and times you would be available (The advisor will choose one of these, and email you an invite to a Zoom meeting for that time.  Please only provide times from Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 1 - 4 p.m., when the advisors are available.)
Weekly Zoom Sessions to Support You!

Immigration Questions with Claire

Tuesdays | 10 - 11 a.m. (New time!)
This weekly session is designed to give you the opportunity to have your immigration questions answered by a RISIA, in a group drop-in session.

International Student Support Group

Thursdays | 10 - 11 a.m. (New time!)
This weekly session is designed to give you the opportunity to connect with other international students through Zoom video.

Virtual Play Café

Every other Friday | 10 - 11 a.m. (New time!)
Join in for a fun time to share a laugh playing virtual games!

October 9 & 23
Nobember 6 & 20
December 4

Immigration

Yes, as long as you maintain your legal status in Canada, as always.  You should verify the expiry date of your study permit now.  It is very important that you apply to extend your stay in Canada before your permit expires, so that you are able to stay in Canada.

If you are no longer studying in Canada, you must still apply to extend your status before the expiry date of your permit, either as a visitor, or as a worker, if you are eligible.

If your study permit expires, and you have not applied to extend it, you will need to apply to restore your status.  You may not study or work after your permit expires, until you are notified by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that your status has been restored.  You have 90 days after the expiration of your study permit to apply for restoration.  If you find yourself in this situation, contact your International Student Advisors immediately for guidance.

Yes! You must ensure that you maintain legal status in Canada.  We typically recommend applying to extend your study permit at least 3 months prior to the expiry, although you can apply up to the expiry date.  As long as you apply to extend your study permit prior to its expiry date, when your permit expires, you will benefit from implied status.  Implied status means that you can continue to study and work according to the conditions of your study permit until you receive a decision on your application from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

We will not have in-person advising until further notice, but will be able to assist you over email, or via Skype. Please reach out to us at uleth.international.advice during our regular drop-in hours of 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Yes.  The International Centre is still here to support you with applications and to provide advice. Although you have 180 days to apply, we suggest applying as soon as possible, certainly within 90 days of completion, or before the expiry date on your study permit, whichever comes first. If you are not able to apply within the recommended timeframe, you will need to make sure to apply to extend your status in Canada as a visitor.

We will not have in-person advising until further notice, but will be able to assist you over email, or via Skype. Please reach out to us at uleth.international.advice during our regular drop-in hours of 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has provided the following update:

"If your in-class courses are being moved to an online-only format because of COVID-19, your eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program won’t be affected."

The Government of Alberta is recommending against travel outside Canada at this time, to minimize health risks.

The Government of Canada has announced travel restrictions that apply to temporary residents. International students holding a valid study permit as of March 18, 2020, have been added to the list of people exempt from air travel restrictions.  Temporary foreign workers have also been added to this list of exemptions. A valid entry document will still be required. Anyone entering Canada is now required to isolate for a period of 14 days. 

Although you may be allowed to enter Canada if you leave, you should keep in mind that with air travel being significantly reduced, it may be difficult to book flights to return to Canada. Because of this, you should consider that leaving Canada at this time may affect your ability to continue your studies.  A break in studies (for example, not being able to study in the Fall 2020 term) could affect your eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit. 

We encourage you to seriously consider the personal and public health risks to travelling at this time. 

IRCC has recently announced a temporary exemption to the biometrics requirement for all in-Canada applications.  This applies to all new and previously submitted applications for study permits or extensions, work permits or extensions, temporary resident visas, restoration of status or applications to remain in Canada as a visitor. 

If you have already applied and paid the biometrics fee, IRCC will be refund you the $85 fee after your application has been processed.

If you have not yet applied, be aware that the online system will still indicate that you must pay the $85 biometrics fee.  However, you are not required to pay this.  You can also expect to receive the biometrics instruction letter (BIL), but you can ignore it, as long as this exemption remains in place.

You can find more details here.

 

Working in Canada

Spring 2020 classes have been moved to an online delivery format as of March 18.  If you are a full-time student for the Spring 2020 term, you may continue to work on-campus, and up to 20 hours a week off campus until the end of term. April 18 is the last day of the Spring 2020 term for undergraduate and graduate students.

Undergraduate students

The summer is considered a scheduled break for undergraduate students at uLethbridge, as registration is optional. This year, the break begins on April 19 and ends on September 8.

You may work full-time in the summer if you were a full-time student before the break (Spring 2020) and will be a full-time student after the break (Fall 2020). This is true even if you choose to take classes in the summer term.

If the Summer term is your final term of study, it is not considered a scheduled break, and you may not work full-time.  You can work a maximum of 20 hours a week off-campus (see below for temporary exceptions).

  • As of April 22, IRCC has announced that students who would normally be restricted to just 20 hours of work a week off-campus while studying will be permitted to exceed that limit if they are working in an "essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods."
  • "International students and their employers should consult Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada’s Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Outbreak to determine if the work the student is doing would allow them to work more than 20 hours per week during the academic session."
  • "This temporary rule change will be in place until August 31, 2020."
  • Source: IRCC News Release

Graduate Students

Graduate programs at uLethbridge require full-time registration in each term, including the Summer term. Therefore, summer is not considered a scheduled break for graduate students. During the term, graduate students can work on-campus (if work is available) and a maximum of 20 hours a week off-campus (see below for temporary exceptions).

  • As of April 22, IRCC has announced that students who would normally be restricted to just 20 hours of work a week off-campus will be permitted to exceed that limit if they are working in an "essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods."
  • "International students and their employers should consult Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada’s Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Outbreak to determine if the work the student is doing would allow them to work more than 20 hours per week during the academic session."
  • "This temporary rule change will be in place until August 31, 2020."
  • Source: IRCC News Release

Scheduled breaks for graduate students include breaks between terms and term breaks (reading weeks).  For specific dates, see the Academic Schedule.

If you have questions about your ability to work at any time, contact your International Student Advisors.

Normally, to extend your Social Insurance Number (SIN), you would visit a Service Canada Centre.  However, Service Canada Centres have been temporarily closed to divert resources and protect public health.

Service Canada now allows the option to apply for a Social Insurance Number online.  You can find the online application here.  As usual, in order to be issued a SIN, your study permit must include remarks stating that you can work in Canada.

There is also the option to apply by mail. To apply to extend your SIN by mail, you must:

  • Complete and print the application form (NAS-2120) and sign in blue or black ink.
    • The NAS-2120 form does not allow you to save as a PDF.  Complete the form in its entirety, then use the "Print to PDF" function to save (Select Print, then choose the printer name "Print to PDF")
  • Mail the completed and signed application form along with your study or work permit (photocopies are not accepted) to the following address using Canada Post or a courier service:

Service Canada
Social Insurance Registration Office
PO Box 7000
Bathurst NB  E2A 4T1
Canada

For additional information on the application for SIN, see here.

 

Health Care

Your Alberta Health Care card will normally expire on the same date that your study permit expires.  In order to ensure that you continue to have Alberta Health Care coverage, please call the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan to request an extension of your coverage while your wait for a decision from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. 

Once your new permit is approved, you will need to apply to extend your Alberta Health Care coverage to the expiry date of your new permit. Normally, you would do this at a registry agent. If you are not able to visit a registry agent, please call the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan for instructions.

Financial and Tax Resources

Scholarships and Bursaries

When applying for scholarship and bursaries, always take time to complete the application thoroughly and accurately. There will likely be a large demand for these funds, so your clear communication of your particular situation will help the administrators of the awards allocate funds.

  • Continuing undergraduate students are encouraged to submit the scholarship and awards application before May 15, 2020 for Fall 2020 awards. Apply via the Bridge under the Student tab.
  • Graduate students are encouraged to submit the scholarship and awards application by May 15, 2020 for Fall 2020 payments. Apply via the Bridge under the Student tab.
  • The International Student Emergency Bursary, along with other emergency bursaries and loans, is administered by the Scholarship and Student Finance office. If you find yourself in urgent need, please contact the office at awards@uleth.ca for more information on the application.

Food Banks

Students requiring short-term assistance with food are encouraged to contact local food banks:

Employment Insurance

International students may be eligible for Employment Insurance. You must have worked the required number of insurable hours of employment for your region (between 420 and 700 hours) within the last 52 weeks, as well as meet all other eligibility requirements.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The Government of Canada clarified on their website that international students may be eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

If you have lost income because of COVID-19, the CERB can provide you with temporary income support. The benefit is only available to individuals who stopped work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19. You will NOT qualify for the benefit if:

  • you are looking for a job, but haven’t stopped working because of COVID-19
  • you quit your job voluntarily
  • you are a student who had a job last year and were planning on working this summer

Eligibility

The benefit will be available to workers:

  • Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
  • Who have stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits;
  • Who had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application (The income of at least $5,000 may be from any or a combination of the following sources; employment; self-employment; maternity and parental benefits under the Employment Insurance program); and
  • Who are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period. For subsequent benefit periods, they expect to have no employment income.

Note: Workers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents – including temporary foreign workers and international students – may be eligible to receive the benefit if they meet the other eligibility requirements, reside in Canada, and have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Please see this link for more details, or review information and FAQs about the CERB in ten different languages here.

The Government of Canada has pushed the 2019 personal income tax filing date to June 1, 2020 (instead of April 30, 2020). This means you have some more time to figure things out. If you do not owe the government money (most students do not), then you can file later than this with no penalties. However, you may wish to file sooner rather than later, because if you are owed a refund, or you qualify for a GST credit or other benefit, you'll receive it sooner. 

Here are your options for filing taxes:

  • You can file your taxes by yourself online using a free software program. Canada Revenue Agency recommends a few different platforms you can use, here. These programs will walk you through the information you need to provide.
  • You can use the services of an accounting business, such as H&R Block and have their accountants file for you. This will cost a fee. Basic student taxes at H&R Block start at $48.98, however the cost increases with the complexity of your situation. As everyone’s situation is different, you will not likely know how much it will cost you until an H&R Tax Expert reviews all of your documentation and provides you a quote. There are several H&R Block locations in Lethbridge and more in Calgary. Give them a call for more information on how they are handling tax filing in the current situation.

Regardless of which option you choose you will need to make sure that you have all of your relevant documentation compiled. Please review our Finances Guide to find out what information and forms you need to gather.

Housing

The University of Lethbridge is closing its residences. Residence students have been notified by email and phone message of the requirement to move out and the timelines associated with this decision. Details have been posted on the U of L’s Housing website.

International students, and those without safe alternative housing options, may be permitted to stay, however they must notify Housing Services immediately at housing@uleth.ca and receive permission to do so. There will be limited capacity available and the University will no longer be offering services for those in residence buildings.

Further, for those permitted to stay in residence beyond March 24, they will be required to adhere to a new policy of social distancing. There will be a zero-tolerance approach to enforcing this policy and individuals in breach will be immediately removed from campus.

These measures are meant to reduce the number of people on campus and to further reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. The U of L recognizes this is a significant and disruptive change and academic accommodations will be considered for students adversely affected. Students seeking accommodation should contact instructor if required.

Further information can be found on the U of L’s Housing website.

 

Mental Health Resources and Staying Safe

There are a variety of mental health supports you can access, both through the university, and from the community.

University of Lethbridge Resources

Mindfulness for Pandemic Care: During this global crisis we all need pathways to calm, clarity, and openheartedness. Mindfulness and compassion practices can help us find an inner refuge while inviting a new appreciation of our interconnectedness.

  • Join Counselling & Career Services for 6 weekly sessions of mindfulness.
  • Each session consists of breath-work and grounding practices, a meditation, and resources for daily practice.
  • Tuesday, April 14 to Tuesday, May 19 : 9 – 9:45 am
  • Email counselling.services@uleth.ca for more information.

Zoom Pandemic Support Group: Join Counselling & Career Services for an online support group during the Pandemic.

  • Every Wednesday from 3 - 4 pm.
  • Ongoing registration accepted. Registration is required for this group. Please e-mail counselling.services@uleth.ca to register. All sessions will be conducted via Zoom.

Counselling & Career Services is offering tele-counselling services as an alternative to in-person sessions in the form of Zoom and phone sessions

Therapy Assist Online (TAO): Think of TAO as an online library of engaging, interactive programs to learn life skills and to help you bounce back from disappointments or stumbling blocks in life.

  • Check here for more information and how to log in.

Community Resources

  • Alberta post-secondary students across Alberta can text STUDENT to 211 or visit www.ab.211.ca and click “live chat” anytime 24/7 to reach a live person – a community resource specialist – who will listen and connect you with the most appropriate on-campus and community resources.
  • Mental Health First Aid Self-Care and Resilience Guide

We have heard several reports of scams targetting international students. Unfortunately, in times when we feel vulnerable, there will be unscrupulous people who try to take advantage of us.  It is especially important to continue to use critical thinking skills when interacting online, on the phone and in person.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has posted a list of scams to watch out for.  In particluar, they advise to beware of:

Unsolicited calls, emails and texts requesting urgent action or payment and/or offering medical advice, financial relief, or government assistance and compensation

  • If you didn't initiate contact, you don't know who you're communicating to
  • Never respond or click on suspicious links and attachments
  • Never give out your personal or financial details

You should also beware of fraudulent offers of employment. The Balance gives the Top 10 Job Scam Warning Signs, like being offered a job you didn't apply for, and being asked to transfer money, or purchase something.  This Global and Mail article from December outlines common job offer scams.

Online Course Delivery

Online Learning Success Workshop Series!

The Student Success Centre is offering 3-part virtual workshops to improve your online learning success. Learn how to set up a study space, keep up with coursework, stay motivated, improve your study skills and ace your online exams. The 3-part workshop will be offered via Zoom from 12-12:50 p.m. during the following dates:

  • August 12 – Setting up a study space, online basics and where to find help
  • August 19 – Time management and how to stay motivated
  • August 26 – Study skills for online courses and strategies for writing exams online

To register, visit the Events and Workshops calendar on the MyExperience platform: https://myexperience.uleth.ca/home.htm

Once you have registered, you will be provided with the Zoom link and password. Students who attend all three workshops will have this added to their experiential transcript.

Can’t attend these dates? A second workshop series will be offered on August 13, 20 and 27 from 10-10:50 a.m., and September 1, 2 and 3 from 10-10:50 a.m.

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