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CanadaVisa and IDP IELTS - Updates on Canadian Immigration and IELTS Availability in Canada - September 4, 2020

 

 

On Friday, September 4th, we held another live webinar with Monica Aguirre, IDP IELTS Stakeholder Relations & Business Development Manager and her guest, Christopher Collette, Senior Lawyer at CanadaVisa.com - Campbell Cohen Canadian Immigration Law Firm.

CanadaVisa.com and IDP IELTS presented the most recent updates on Canadian Immigration & IELTS availability in Canada and answered questions.

A transcript follows the video.

 

 

Transcript of the Webinar

Monica 0:07
Thank you very much for joining us today. If I may ask you to please mute yourself if you're not muted right now so that we can start this webinar hopefully without any interruptions.

Thank you very much for muting yourself. Okay, so, at the start with my name is Monica Aguirre. I am the stakeholder Relationship Manager for IDP IELTS, and I'm joined today by Christopher Collette senior lawyer at Campbell Cohen. Today we're gonna be giving you some updates on the latest immigration and IELTS news. So this is our agenda for the day. First of all, we're going to talk about IELTS and what is new in the world of IELTS, and then I'm gonna pass on the microphone to Christopher, who is going to give you a recap of the latest immigration news here in Canada, and we will be answering some of your questions.

I want to thank you for those who have sent your questions. We have received many of them. Some have been very specific to personal cases. So we're not going to be able to answer those questions. However, we're going to be trying to answer as many questions as possible, that are relevant for the majority of people joining us today, and seeing this webinar later on because we are recording this webinar, just so you know so that we can share it later with those who were not able to attend today. So let's start with the information.

So first of all, I want to introduce IELTS an IDP team. We are one of the proud co-owners of the exam IELTS and IELTS, is the International English Language Testing System, which is recognized by more than 10,000 organizations around the world, including the Government of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, universities, colleges, employers and professional associations, also recognize and accept the IELTS test. Now, I am in Canada, so I'm going to talk a little bit about Canada. We do have more than 150 test locations around the country. We also have test locations around the world.

Right now because of COVID, unfortunately, you know in March, we had to close down the majority of our test centers worldwide. But now that we are opening up again around the world. The test centers are also available to welcome back our test candidates and test-takers. So, now, we have more than 91 countries that have resumed in person, testing. In Canada, we are already testing in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia. Around the world, besides, Canada, we're also testing in China, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the UAE. If you need to find out more information about where we're open, I invite you to visit www.IELTS. That's IELTS.com, or www dot IELTS dot org, for you to be able to find out a test center in your country that is open and accepting test takers.

Now, just a little bit about IELTS, and immigration citizenship. This is one of the questions that we get a lot. What type of IELTS is accepted for immigration purposes? Well, if you are applying for a student visa from a country that allows you to go through the SDS, the student-directed stream, you need to take an academic IELTS. If you're applying for anything else for immigration, then it has to be the general IELTS. Now, please remember that there are two ways you can take IELTS at a test center, you can take it on paper, or on a computer. Both are valid, and both are recognized by Immigration Canada. So, the computer-delivered IELTS does not mean online IELTS, it only means that you go to a test center, and you take the IELTS on the computer you write it down on the computer. Now, if it's also academic IELTS for your SDS or if you're taking it to apply to a Canadian college or university or professional association. It might be the academic IELTS, which is also available on computer and on paper. So please do remember that computer-delivered IELTS, as accepted as recognized by Immigration Canada as well.

If you are waiting to take your test, and you want to study, while you are waiting in order to make sure you have the best scores possible, I recommend you visit our website where you can find many of our paid, and free practice resources. One of those resources is the IELTS Progress Check, which is approximately 60 Canadian dollars and is available in many countries. And this practice test is an online practice that you take from your home. It does not have any time. And once you finish the practice test, you're going to receive an indicative band score that will allow you see where you are, if you were to take the IELTS at a test center that day. It will also provide you with feedback from a recognized IELTS examiner. So, that way you know exactly where you can improve and where you have to focus your efforts in order to get a better score. Now, for those of you who are in Canada, and are looking to continue their education in Canada.

Maybe you are on a visitor's visa, maybe you already have a study permit but you want to continue your education you don't know where to go, my colleagues at the IDP counselling, they can help you out for free to extend your stay in Canada. You know, inform yourself about longer work permits. Finding a school that is accepting different candidates right now. Transfer your institution, change your career and we'll provide the information at the end of this webinar where you can contact the IDP Canada onshore team.

So right now we're going to pass it on to Christopher, who is going to tell you about the latest immigration updates so Chris, I'm gonna stop my share right now and I'll let you share.

Chris 7:43
Thank you, Monica. Let me just set this up.

Okay, so, first of all, thank you very much Monica and to IDP IELTS for having us on again it's always a pleasure to be here with you and to be talking to the viewers about the latest developments in immigration. We really appreciate the opportunity. So I'm just going to jump right into it. Suffice it to say we are still experiencing the effects of the pandemic in the field of Canadian immigration.

There have been a lot of developments since the travel restrictions were initially introduced in March, including several over the past month since the last time we did this talk. I'll go through focusing mainly on study permits for today but I'll also briefly touch on permanent residents, work permits and a few other topics. And as Monica mentioned at the end of the brief presentation, we'll be answering some questions. If anybody here has a question that they are unable to ask during the talk, or that involves specific information to their case.

You are always welcome to email us, our, we've set up a special email for viewers of this talk, and it is ielts@canadavisa.com. So if you want some advice specific to your case, feel free to email us we'll get back to you as soon as possible. Otherwise, just to reiterate, there have been travel restrictions in place right now since the pandemic really started. As of March 16 2020, and there are, like I mentioned, new developments happening, special policies and programs, changes to processing standards that are being announced almost on a weekly basis at this point. We have centralized a lot of the updates on our news website at CICnews.com. And I'm just going to run through. We'll do a recap of some of the recent changes and I'll run through a few of the very recent changes for study permits and postgraduate work.

Okay, so first things first, all of the most of the new developments can be found at this link when it comes to the effects of the pandemic on IRCCs operations. The situation remains roughly the same. There is a processing slow down for many types of applicants outside of Canada. And in Canada as well, in some cases. And the policy whereby the IRCC is accepting on incomplete applications is still in effect. So, still, in many places around the world, it is not possible for example to provide biometrics information. Because the visa application centres or biometric centers are closed. IRCC has said you can still submit your applications and they will not be refused. If you can't provide documents due to the COVID pandemic right now. Now, with respect to students. I mentioned during our last talk that student applications were still being accepted and that they've implemented this new two-step, study permit process. That process is still in place. It is applicable to anybody who is outside of Canada, right now, and who is looking to apply for a program of study for the fall semester or upcoming January semester.

It's very important to note that this new two-step application process is only in effect, right now, until the 15th of September. So if people submit their study permit applications, after the 15th, they might have to wait for a full decision and they might not get a first stage approval. If this changes in the coming days we will update you, but so far there's been no announcements in that respect. Under this new two-step process if you're applying for studies outside of Canada. The way it works is you try to submit a complete application upfront. Again, depending on your country you might not be able to provide some documents like biometrics. And the first step, they will verify that your program is acceptable, that you have the funds to support your studies, that you're qualified for the study programming question, and everything except eligibility and admissibility checks, they will do in the first stage. So, if everything checks out with your initial application, they will issue a first stage approval. And this first stage approval allows you to enroll in courses and start your studies remotely.

There is also some indication on the IRCC webpage that you might not even need the first stage approval. You might be able to start your program as soon as the study permit application is submitted. But this is a something we're seeking clarification on. There's a bit of contradictory information in this respect and we're hoping to get clarification in the coming days. First stage approval would allow you to register and enroll and start your courses and they will count towards a postgraduate work permit, even if you're doing them online from outside of Canada.

If, later on, you pass your admissibility. That means medical, security, and criminal checks, they will then issue the full second stage approval, which is the study permit or the study permit introduction letter itself. It's important to note though that even people who have full study permits or who have had their applications approved might not be able to travel to Canada right now. Right now, there is verifications being done at the airlines and on arrival by the border agents to make sure that students actually have a need to be in Canada, as opposed to just a want. What this means is that you would need to have a course that requires your in-person presence in Canada. If you want to be able to enter with your study permit right now. And the current advice is stating that people who are approved, non-US citizens who were approved prior to March 18th might be able to travel to Canada, again if they can demonstrate that they need to be here in person.

So far, anybody who's received an approval, after March 18, that's not in the United States, will have to start their courses online. There is no provisions for them to travel to Canada right now. For the US It's a special case, and we'll go into detail in this later, but it is possible at the moment for US residents and citizens to apply for study permits to Canada. The government is still recommending that they submit their applications online and wait for a decision, but there are many reports of US residents, applying at the border on entry driving into Canada and getting their study permits basically same day. It is a very specific exemption for people coming from the US, and even in these cases, there also needs to be evidence that the students' presence in Canada is necessary.

And as you can see here, there are some criteria that the border officers will look at when they're looking at this. So, first of all, if you were already living in Canada prior to the pandemic, and you're now outside, and you can establish that you were living in Canada normally before the pandemic hit, you should be allowed to return to Canada and complete your studies without issue. Otherwise, you will need to show that you'll quarantine upon arrival, those are those requirements are still in effect, you can begin your studies. As soon as you're done, and that there is a need, again to be in Canada physically for the studies, and oftentimes, this is done by obtaining a letter from the school, saying, for example, that there are in-person laboratories or workshops that require a person's presence. It might also be sufficient to show that it's simply not possible or practical to do online studies from your home country. This could be due to things like internet interruption issues and timezone differences, which might prevent you from following a regular course path.

Okay, there's also special policies here for students who are in Canada, right now, and whose schools were either those programs went online or the schools closed temporarily, or they were forced to go to part-time status because of the pandemic. These students can continue working on or off-campus, even if they're in a break right now. And there are special provisions for the postgraduate work permits as well. If someone was in Canada, doing their studies, but now they have to do a portion of their studies online, or reduced part-time status or take a break, they should still be eligible for a postgraduate work permit.

So, with respect to postgraduate work permits This is probably one of the areas that has seen a lot of developments, more so than any other area over the past couple of weeks. And this policy was just recently updated about a week or two ago. So the current policy for people who want to complete their studies and then get a postgraduate work permit, so that they can work in Canada, is as follows. If you have applied for the study permit, the government is saying that you can start your studies online, and that will count towards the postgraduate work permit requirements. It's important to note during this first stage process this two-stage application process that you can start your courses online, even with just a first stage approval. But, you will eventually need to get the full study permit approval so you'll need to pass the admissibility checks as well if you want to eventually come to Canada for the postgraduate work permit. They've also recently updated they're now stating that any studies completed remotely between now and April of 2021 will count towards a postgraduate work permit. Previously, this was a cutoff at December 31 of the end of the year. They've now extended this one extra semester.

And there are some scenarios which I will go through here, but just a note, it's important to note that there is a slight difference between studies that have been forced to go online as a result of the pandemic and studies that were always online, and basically never required a person's presence in Canada. If you've enrolled in a distance learning program which basically means all of the course content is online and there is no need for you to be in Canada, this might not be a case where you can get a study permit or a postgraduate work permit. So just be careful. Yes online studies are permitted if it's due to the pandemic. But if it's an entire course completed online, that might not be study permit eligible. And just in terms of what kind of scenarios or study patterns you can do and get a postgraduate work permit.

There are some scenarios depending on how long your program is and how many programs are going to do. So what's something unique here is that for short term programs over a year or less, the government's now said that you can basically do the entire program online, and it'll count as if you were in Canada for the terms of your postgraduate work permit. For all other programs that are longer, you will need to complete at least 50% of your studies online, and 50%, and you need to complete 50% in Canada. To qualify for the postgraduate work permit. And you can also combine two different programs. And you'll see here I'm not going to go through all the bullet points but you can see the requirements here. And they're also posted on the government website for work permits, just a couple of minor updates here, there's still an exemption for applicants who are inside of Canada, they do not need to provide their biometrics when they're applying for renewal.

There is a new process whereby if you are applying for a work permit to switch employers to a new employer, you can get a fast approval in some cases. There's a new restoration process where if for whatever reason you fell out of status this year, and you want to get another work permit. You might be able to apply for this restoration process and get approval to work before the application is decided. And one other significant new development that happened very recently is that visitors in Canada can now apply for work permits and have them issued without having to leave Canada. Previously, people who were in Canada, and who wanted to apply for a work permit may have been in a situation where the work permits approved, but in order to activate it they needed to exit the country and then re-enter.

Currently, for people who were here as visitors before the 24th of August, who are still here, they might be able to get a work permit without having to leave. We're hoping for something similar for students but there has been nothing developed yet so no announcements made in that respect. And there is also a possibility if you are a visitor applying for a work permit. You can submit the application and then apply for special approval to begin working before the actual decision is made, and usually, they give a response within about four to six weeks on that point.

For outside of Canada work permit applicants, it is really country dependent at this point. Processing times have gone up significantly in some countries up to 20-22 weeks. Other countries are still posting four or five-week processing times. So it really depends on the country you're coming from, the type of work permit you're going for, the type of job, whether it's essential. There's all kinds of processing standards that have been implemented, and you can always contact us if you're curious to know what a job offer would lead to and what kind of work permit it would get and whether you'd be able to come and travel to Canada.

So finally, just a quick note on permanent residence during the pandemic. There was a significant drop in approvals this year, I think, which is understandable, but they are still issuing invitations under the big Express Entry programs. So there were several recent Canadian experience class draws, and there was an all program draw yesterday, which required a comprehensive ranking score of 475. Previously the last straw was about a month prior for skilled workers and it required about a 476. Spousal sponsorship is also continuing, and there are some delays that we're seeing with processing, but by and large, they are still processing the applications, getting through a backlog that had built up, but things should be returning to normal hopefully pretty soon. And they are still saying that they're hoping to make a draw for parent and grandparent sponsorships this year. For people who have been approved their permanent residence and are waiting for an opportunity to travel to Canada. There are special instructions for them. Right now it's only advised that you land if you are intending to settle in Canada. You can always contact us if you have more questions about this point.

So that's it. A very brief update. As mentioned, you can contact us if you have any specific questions that we're not going to address today at ielts@ canadavisa.com. I hope this was helpful, and you can also visit our news website at CICnews.com for all the latest updates joined into one place. Thank you.

Monica 23:16
Okay, perfect. Great. Thank you very much, Chris, that was so insightful, and I'm pretty sure everyone attending here, and people who are going to be listening to this webinar later on once we post on our social media, are going to be very happy to hear that detailed information, and the explanation as well because sometimes these updates come out and they're really hard to digest. So thank you very much for all of this, you know, being able to digest and giving us, piece by piece so that we can all understand it.

Chris 23:48
Sure. My pleasure.

Monica 23:49
Now we are going to go into the question section. Now I understand that a lot of you have questions and they're specific to your case, as I mentioned at the beginning of the webinar. Unfortunately, we're not going to be able to get to everyone's question, so we have put together a set of questions from those which you sent to us. In order to help answer, the more general questions.

And I'm going to go first with, with one that came for IELTS, and that I'd mentioned already during the presentation is about the computer-delivered IELTS whether or not it's accepted by Immigration Canada. Yes, computer-delivered is accepted as long as you're taking the IELTS that you need to if it's general for anything that's immigration-related academic or anything that is a student-related. So remember that IELTS is already open the IELTS centers already open in 91 countries and I invite you to visit ielts.org in order to get the list of countries where we're operating now. Great.

So first question for you. How long of a break, can an international student take from his or her studies, without losing status.

Chris 25:11
Yeah. Very good question, especially now that there's a lot of school closures and you know forced breaks being done by the pandemic. The general rule is the same as it was before the pandemic. If you are going to be facing a break of 150 days or longer, you might lose your status, if you don't transfer to another type of status first. Okay, it could invalidate your study permit. So anybody who thinks that they will not be able to resume their studies within 150 days should either transition to a visitor status or another kind of permit to be in Canada, or leave Canada. That is rare, that rule hasn't really changed much. Although they are dealing now with closures due to pandemic.

Monica 25:56
Okay, this is great information to have. Now, next question is, is the two-stage processing applicable for students commencing the studies in winter 2021?

Chris 26:10
Yes, it is. It is also important to note though that the current deadline for this two stage process is the 15th of September.

Monica 26:19
So, that's close.

Chris 26:20
Yes, it is, it's in a couple of weeks, so they might extend this again, everything is very fluid right now, but the announcement was made recently and the current deadline is the 15th of September, so if you are planning on studying for the fall of this January 2021 semester and you want to have the option of getting a two-stage approval. You will need to get your application to the system before the 15th.

Monica 26:42
Okay. So I mentioned before that, a lot of times we go on to the website for Immigration Canada and all this information is so hard to digest. So some people have asked what is the difference between approval in principle or AIP and a study permit?

Chris 26:58
Right, so I buy approval in principle here I'm thinking of the first stage approval. And there are some, there is a bit of uncertainty right now about this. Okay, so some of the government websites are saying, as soon as the application is submitted, even before first stage approval. You can count, you can start your studies, if the school allows you to register and have them count, eventually. Again we're seeking clarification on this because IRCC tweeted yesterday something that is a bit contradictory. So we are we are seeking clarification on that point. Otherwise, though, the first stage approval is, it means that you've again past the eligibility for the study permit checks so you have the money, you have the right background, there's not anything serious, any issues with your file. And if you get that approval, it should allow you to then register for your courses and again have them count towards the post-grad work permit.

Monica 27:51
Okay.

Chris 27:53
It is not the full study permit. Sorry. Yeah.

That will come later after they do more verifications on your background. And it's also important to note, even if you get the study permit the second stage approval, you still need to also prove that you need to be in Canada if you want to travel here. All right

Monica 28:07
Okay. And again, that may change as, you know, could be tomorrow, could be in three months, could be in four months, but as the moment that we have new office will bring Chris back on the webinar, we'll provide these updates. Now, next question is regarding the working conditions of students and how many hours can international students or post, August, 31?

Chris 28:32
For now, is a good question and I went to look for updates on this and I was unable to find any updates. So the current policy which states that students working in essential sectors can bypass the 20-hour week limit actually ended on the 31st of August. I don't, I haven't seen any developments about that being extended for the moment. It's possible, again, this is all changing on a daily basis point. It's possible, they'll announce a change in the future, but it ended on August 31, according to the current information.

Monica 29:02
Okay, so we can assume that it's back to, prior to COVID.

Chris 29:06
20 hours a week max during breaks and summer breaks yeah.

Monica 29:12
Okay so so for those of you who are in Canada and working, be careful not overstating those hours, please. Now, um, there were so many students who have started their studies before COVID-19 have been so open on January, and once classes shifted online, they probably maybe some of them went back to their home country. And now, how will that affect their PGWP eligibility?

Chris 29:40
So yeah, it's a very good question and it's really important to double-check the regulations on this because they're changing and because they're very specific to certain scenarios. But the general rule is if you did 50% of your studies in Canada, you can then do the rest of the studies online, and still apply for a postgraduate work permit and still get the maximum length duration. So even if you've now left, as long as you eventually complete 50% in Canada, so you've either already done 50% or you'll come back to do that 50%, you can then still get the postgraduate work permit.

Monica 30:16
Okay. Now, speaking of a work permit, are there any changes in the work permit criteria for postgraduate students who came to Canada in September 2019?

Chris 30:28
Yes. The, there are the ones I mentioned earlier in the talk, so short term studies now. Oh, you're talking about September 2019.

Monica 30:39
Yes. So they came before Yeah, okay.

Chris 30:43
It's the same rules. So if you are doing 50% in Canada. You can get the postgraduate work permit, and again there are very specific case by case scenarios here, depending on how much you're going to do one or two programs etc. So, hard to answer.

Monica 30:59
Well, um, the last question, and I'm pretty sure you don't have the answer to because I think only our Prime Minister will have the answer to is, when are the borders, open and travel restrictions being lifted?

Chris 31:13
Yeah, we don't know. It's of course dependent on other countries their COVID rates, and you know international travel is a very tricky thing these days. What the closest thing we know is that again, these, these new policies that they're implementing for students are set to be in place until April of next year. So, cautiously, we probably won't get a full return to normal until at least then. But again, everything could change at the last minute so check back for updates frequently.

Monica 31:43
Okay, perfect. So that's it for questions today and I just want to remind someone you can everyone sorry. You can see on the screen right now, our contact information for Christopher Collette, and for Campbell Cohen and Canada Visa, you can reach out to them with your questions at IELTS, ielts@canadavisa.com, and for information regarding status in Canada, you can visit www.idp.com. And if you have any questions about your IELTS, please visit www.ielts.com.

Chris, thank you once again for your time. Thank you, everyone, who joined us today and stay tuned because we will probably be doing another of these webinars, as soon as we have more updates from the Government of Canada.

Chris 32:34
Thank you, I appreciate it and thank you, everybody, for watching have a great day.

Monica 32:37
Thank you. Bye-bye.

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