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COVID-19 FAQ for international students

As the COVID-19 situation is continually evolving, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) continue to make updates and revisions to their policies and procedures. While SAIT strives to keep this page as updated as possible, for the most recent updates please continue to monitor the following resources for the latest information as it is made available directly from IRCC and other government departments.

Fall 2020 semester

Still unsure about the options available to you as a Fall 2020 student? Check out our simplified decision chart.

See our decision flowchart

Applications and admission

How can I take my English Language Proficiency test during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Duolingo English Test has been added to SAIT’s list of acceptable options to demonstrate English Language Proficiency (ELP) for Spring 2020, Summer 2020, Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 admission. SAIT has also extended the timeline during which it will accept existing ELP test scores to two years.

SAIT advises international applicants that if they are unable to produce documentation to confirm their ELP, they will be tested on campus when operations once again support in-person attendance, and their program/academic completion date may be adjusted accordingly. Please see the temporary adjustments to AC.3.1.1 Grading and Progression procedure for more information.

Study and work permit

I don't have my study permit or my study permit approval notification. Can I start classes online and am I still eligible for the Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP)?

You don’t need to have a valid study permit to start online classes for your Fall 2020 semester.

However, based on the latest update from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), IRCC will implement priority study processing for international students who have submitted a complete application online. In particular, these updates apply to international students beginning a new program online this fall at a Canadian learning institution (such as SAIT). Please review the latest updates from IRCC to help you make your decision.

This new measure removes the previous condition that indicated that you needed to have your study permit approval prior to starting classes for that time to be included towards the PGWP. With this update, IRCC has provided students with a reassurance that the time you spend studying outside Canada in Fall 2020 will count towards your PGWP (if you submitted your study permit application by September 15 and it is later approved). This measure was introduced to enable international students to begin their programs in Fall 2020 online from outside Canada, without being worried about how it might influence the length of the PGWP.

The latest IRCC updates regarding post-graduation work permit eligibility, provides more flexibility for student study their online program abroad:

  • Students may now study online from abroad until April 30, 2021, with no time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit, provided 50% of their program of study is eventually completed in Canada.
  • Students who have enrolled in a program that is between 8 and 12 months in length, with a start date from May to September 2020, will be able to complete their entire program online from abroad and still be eligible for a post-graduation work permit.
  • Students who have enrolled in a program with a start date from May to September 2020 and study online up to April 30, 2021, and who graduate from more than one eligible program of study, may be able to combine the length of their programs of study when they apply for a post-graduation work permit in the future, as long as 50% of their total studies are completed in Canada.

P lease note that students must be eventually approved for study permit to be eligible for their PGWP application.

What is the temporary 2-stage study permit approval process?

IRCC will implement a temporary 2-stage study permit approval process, in which study permits will be approved in 2 stages: Eligibility and Admissibility.

According to  IRCC, If you pass the eligibility stage (showing that you have been accepted at a Canadian learning institution, have the available funds, etc.) you will be notified of a 1st stage approval (also known as approval-in-principle, AIP). Students receive final approval once they meet all admissibility requirements, including submitting necessary documents such as biometrics, an immigration medical exam and a police certificate. Once apply your study permit, you will be able to count the time spent studying online outside of Canada towards your post-graduation work permit (as long as you are able to satisfy all requirements and receive the full study permit approval at a later date).

You will also need the full study permit approval in order to be allowed to travel to Canada at a future date.

*Please note that IRCC states that “ approval-in-principle of a study permit application is not a guarantee that they will receive a full approval of their study permit application, or be authorized to pursue their studies in Canada. It is still possible that an applicant could receive a negative final decision on their study permit based on factors such as inadmissibility for criminality or security reasons, and the inability to predict how the COVID-19 situation and any associated travel restrictions will evolve.

If you choose to begin your studies online from outside of Canada without a full study permit approval, please also familiarize yourself with the  SAIT refund policy.

If you have a study permit, or have been approved for a study permit for a program starting in the spring, summer or fall, but you can’t travel to Canada at this time due to travel restrictions, you’re still eligible for the PGWP if you:

  • begin your classes while outside Canada, and
  • complete up to 50% of your program while outside Canada, if you can't travel to Canada sooner.

If you start your studies online in Fall 2020, you won’t have time deducted from the length of your PGWP for studies you complete while outside Canada before April 30, 2021.

Can I drop classes and go to part-time studies due to COVID-19? If so, can I still work?

If you need to drop classes because of a direct result of the COVID-19 situation — such as, you’re sick or your class has been cancelled — you can do so.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will require SAIT to provide a letter explaining this change for you to include with your Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) application.

If your decision to drop from full-time to part-time studies is not related to COVID19 and is not supported by a letter from SAIT, this would be considered as not fulfilling conditions to qualify for the PGWP program.

Given the extreme nature of the COVID-19 situation, if you were eligible to work on or off-campus, you can continue to work even if you have to drop to part-time studies or take a break in your studies.

What happens with my study permit when we return to in-class delivery?

All international students will need to have a study permit by the time SAIT returns to in-class delivery. Please note, it’s the student’s responsibility to make sure they’re eligible to apply for a study permit. You won’t be able to continue in your program when it resumes in-person if you don’t have your permit.

Refund of tuition

What is Stage 2 refusal refund policy?

We’ve modified our tuition refund policy to accommodate the increased uncertainty in obtaining a study visa due to COVID-19. The revised process will enable students who have received Stage 1 approval in their study permit application process to start their program remotely from their country of residence and be eligible for a refund in the unfortunate event that their Stage 2 application gets refused.

Revised refund process for Stage 2 refusal

  • Sept. 8 to 18: If a student with a Stage 1 approval starts their program online and then receives a refusal in Stage 2, they will be refunded the full tuition (excluding fees and the non-refundable tuition deposit). The refusal must be received no later than the add/drop deadline for Fall 2020, which is  Friday, Sept. 18.
  • Sept. 19 to Oct. 7: If a student with a Stage 1 approval starts their program online and then receives a refusal in Stage 2, they will be refunded 75% of tuition (excluding fees and the non-refundable tuition deposit). The refusal must be received no later than  Wednesday, Oct. 7.
What happens if I receive my Stage 2 refusal after Wednesday, Oct.7?

No refunds are available for students who receive their Stage 2 approval after Wednesday, Oct. 7.

How do I apply for a refund?

If you receive a refusal in Stage 2 of your study permit application, email us immediately at international@sait.ca with the following information:

  • your full name
  • your SAIT ID
  • your program
  • proof of refusal (i.e communication from IRCC)

 The International Centre will respond to you with options to either:

  • move your admission to the next available intake
  • request a refund.

Please note that the decision that you communicate to us will be final. If you wish apply to SAIT in the future, you would submit a new application.

When will I receive the refund?

The refund takes about 6-8 weeks to process and will be refunded to your original mode of payment.

Is there anything else I need to know about the refund process?

Yes! Please make special note of the following:

  • This revised refund is only available for Stage 2 refusal. We are unable to provide a refund for refusals in Stage 1 of your study permit application.
  • The deadlines listed above are non-negotiable.
  • The percentage of refund depends on the date of your Stage 2 refusal.


Am I able to travel to Canada as a current student?

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), some international students are exempt from current travel restrictions to Canada. If you have a study permit, or were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, you’re exempt from travel restrictions if you’re travelling for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose.  View the full updateThe decision regarding allowing you to enter Canada depends solely on the discretion of the CBSA officer so we strongly encourage you to follow below mentioned instructions as the CBSA officer will look beyond March 18 study permit approval and require to see below mentioned documents before making the final decision.

There has been no update about study permit holders who received their study permit, or were approved for a study permit, after March 18, 2020. If you were approved for a study permit after March 18, 2020 you are currently not eligible to enter Canada. We will keep you informed of any changes.

When travelling to Canada as a student, you must bring:

  • a valid study permit or a port of entry letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a study permit before or on March 18, 2020 and
  • you must also prove you are travelling for an essential purpose.

What is considered “essential travel” will be determined by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). CBSA may consider the following to be essential travel:

  • Study permit holders whose primary residence is in Canada (you can prove that you reside in Canada and provide documentation such as a copy of lease agreement, proof of Canadian address, etc.)
  • Study permit holders returning to continue studies with an implication that they reside in Canada and have a home here.

If you’re a current student who intends to travel outside of Canada, please note that the International Centre does not recommend travelling at this point, and any travel and attempted return to Canada will be at your own discretion.

Please also keep in mind all travelers to Canada must isolate for 14 days upon arrival and  have a plan ready to show to the CBSA officer indicating how their self-isolation will be executed.

Before travelling to Canada, please  contact the Border Information Service for more information if your travel circumstances will be considered essential. We also recommend that you contact IRCC by email at  ircc.covid-travelexemptions-exemptionsdevoyage-covid.ircc@cic.gc.ca and obtain an authorization prior to booking a flight/boarding a plane. If you obtain a written authorization from IRCC, please also bring it with you when you travel.

When travelling to Canada as a  new student (starting program in Fall 2020 with a study permit approved before March 18), we strongly recommend:

  • to contact IRCC through the above mentioned email AND
  • once confirmed your travel is essential, you book your flights close to the beginning of the new semester (arriving too early in summer could be considered as non-essential).
What are the minimum travel documents required in order to travel to Canada for the Fall 2020 semester?

In order to be able to travel to Canada for the Fall 2020 semester, you have to satisfy the following minimum conditions:

  • Must have a study permit or study permit approval dated March 18, 2020 or earlier
  • Federally compliant quarantine plan (with proof)
  • Proof of Essential Travel (e.g. blended program)
  • Travel support letter from SAIT (see process below)
  • Proof that you are not travelling earlier than August 17, 2020
  • Other documents usually required to cross the Canadian border
My Fall 2020 program will be delivered in a Blended Format, is my travel to Canada considered essential?

As a student in a blended program at SAIT, your travel to Canada is considered essential, non-discretionary and mandatory since there are practical components of your program that you will have to attend in person on the SAIT campus.

SAIT will provide you with a support letter for your travel to Canada.

How do I apply for the support letter for international travel as a blended student and when do I receive it?

If you are a student in a blended program, we will issue you a letter of support for your travel to Canada. To apply for this letter (blended students only!), please send all of the following in ONE EMAIL as soon as you have all of the information:

  • Proof that study permit approval was issued before March 18, 2020
  • A completed quarantine plan document
  • Proof of payment for two weeks of stay at SAIT Residence Quarantine Quarters (this is a mandatory component; no alternative accommodation is allowed)
  • A copy of your flight ticket (your travel date can be no earlier than August 17 and please ensure you do not have extensive layovers if you are landing in other Canadian cities)
  • Completed support letter request form
  • Subject line of email must be "BLENDED PROGRAM SUPPORT LETTER FALL 2020"
  • Please email all the above documents in one email to international@sait.ca and make sure to include your full name, your SAIT ID, and your program of study.

Once we receive all this information, we will verify it against our records. You will then be issued your support letter for international travel for your blended program.

If you have sent us all the requested documents and we do not need to reach out to you for additional information, the letters will be issued within one week from the receipt of your email request.

Please make sure to apply for the support letter well in advance of your scheduled date of travel.

How do I apply for the support letter for international travel if my program is online or e-learning?

Please note that if your program is online or e-learning, your travel to Canada is considered NON-ESSENTIAL. In this case, we strongly recommend and encourage you to take advantage of online studies.

With online studies you can:

  • Get a world-class education from the comfort of your home · Save on living and travel expenses while studying outside Canada
  • Continue to be eligible for the full length of your Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) if you get in-principle study permit approval before your program begins
  • Travel to Canada when there is no risk of you being turned back at the border for non-essential travel

If you have a valid reason to travel even though your travel is deemed non-essential (please note that time change is not considered to be a valid reason) and you understand there is a high risk of you being turned away at the Canadian border, please request for a support letter from SAIT.

For students in online or e-learning programs, support letters will be issued on a case-by-case basis and at the discretion of the SAIT International Centre.

If you are a student in an online or e-learning program, please send us an email with all the following information in ONE EMAIL :

  • Explanation of why you want to travel to Canada (reason must prove your travel is essential) 
  • Proof of the explanation above (e.g: if internet issues are a reason then proof of internet speed must be provided to show that the student cannot study at current speed and no alternatives are available)
  • Proof that study permit approval was issued before March 18, 2020
  • Subject line of email must be "ONLINE/ELEARNING PROGRAM SUPPORT LETTER FALL 2020"
  • Please email all the above documents in one email to international@sait.ca and make sure to include your full name, your SAIT ID, and your program of study.

Once we receive this information, we will assess your request on a case-by-case basis and get in touch with you directly with our final decision. Please allow a week for this process. Applying for the support letter does not guarantee that the SAIT International Centre will issue you a letter.

Please note that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has final authority on who can cross the Canadian border. You will be responsible for all cost associated with CBSA's refusal to let you enter Canada.

How do I apply for the SAIT Residence Quarantine Quarters?

Please note that all SAIT students coming to Canada MUST quarantine only on the SAIT campus. No alternate quarantine plans will be allowed and the support letter will not be provided. SAIT has submitted a quarantine plan to the Federal Government of Canada and is providing an IRCC, Government of Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada-compliant quarantine plan for students flying to Canada for the Fall 2020 semester. To apply for the SAIT Quarantine package:

  • Please go  here 
  • Choose SAIT Short Term Stay 2020-2021 in your application.

Considering the flight limitation, the current quarantine program will be still open until October 17,2020 which is the last day to accommodate students’ different returning schedules until further notice.

Is there any important information I should know about quarantine?

Yes, following the rules of quarantine are VERY important! The quarantine plan is mandatory, even if you have no symptoms.

  • Please note that all new international students MUST quarantine at the SAIT on-campus quarantine quarters. No alternate accommodations are permitted for quarantine for Fall 2020 intake students.
  • Please make sure to follow the rules for quarantine at all times and do not leave your room unless you have a medical emergency. As per Government rules, persons who are found to be non compliant with the quarantine regulations will be:
    • fined $750,000
    • jailed for 6 months OR
    • will be deported and banned from re-entering Canada for 1 year
  • Please note that you will not be allowed to attend in-person classes until you complete your 14-day quarantine. Please make sure you schedule your travel accordingly.
What does the SAIT quarantine package include and what is the cost?

This 14-day plan includes:

  • SAIT Welcome Booth at the Calgary Airport (Quarantine info packet will be provided)
  • Taxi from the Calgary Airport to the SAIT campus
  • Accommodation in our state-of-the art Residence facilities on campus (14 days)
  • Three meals a day delivered to your room (14 days)
  • Free access to fresh linen and towels
  • 24-hour on-site security
  • Free wifi
  • Special requests can be made by calling the Reception Desk
  • Access to SAIT Safety Ambassadors

The price for 14 days would be approximately $1,555:

  • $855 for accommodation and local transport
  • $700 for food (approximately $50/day x 14 days)
Who do I contact if I have questions regarding the quarantine package?

If you have questions regarding the accommodation, meals or payment please email Tori at Tori.Stavenjord@sait.ca

Please note that all SAIT students coming to Canada MUST quarantine only on the SAIT campus. No alternate quarantine plans will be allowed and the support letter will not be provided.

The SAIT quarantine plan is approved by the Federal Government of Canada and is IRCC and Public Health Agency of Canada compliant. It has been designed not only keeping in mind the health and safety of our incoming students but also to ensure an all-encompassing quarantine package for students who are unfamiliar with Calgary.

Please note that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has final authority on who can cross the Canadian border. In the unfortunate event that you are not allowed to enter the country, SAIT will refund your quarantine package fees (minus the $50 application fee).

Why is SAIT not issuing a support letter unless new Fall 2020 international students (blended programs) quarantine on campus?

A support letter from SAIT International Centre works as an endorsement or recommendation from SAIT. The support letter is not proof of your admission or proof of you being in a blended program.

An endorsement or recommendation means that if we provide a support letter to students, we are effectively conveying to the Immigration Officers from CBSA that we are completely confident in the fact that the student who the letter is issued to:

  • Definitely needs to be in Canada and absolutely cannot complete their course outside of Canada
  • Will strictly follow all the requirements of the Quarantine Act for international travelers
  • Understands their role in keeping the Calgary community safe

Please note that SAIT International Centre is unable to issue this letter unless we can confidently assure CBSA of all three conditions. For details on how to apply for this support letter, please go here.

When you travel, you will also have to carry all the documents you would normally carry (pre-pandemic) when you enter Canada. For proof of admission or blended program, please make sure to carry copies of your Offer of Admission letter, tuition receipt, class schedule and other documents that prove you are in a blended program (e.g. email received from your School outlining your practical components, if available).

What is SAIT doing to increase our chances of being allowed to enter Canada?

SAIT is working hard behind the scenes to provide pandemic-informed support to students who have to travel to Canada for the Fall 2020 semester. We have been consulting with:

  • Federal and Provincial Governments
  • Government bodies like IRCC (Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada)
  • Calgary Airport authorities
  • CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) at the Calgary Airport and others

to ensure that we are meeting the requirements as an institution, that we are advocating for our students and at the same time ensuring the safety of the student and the community that they will be joining.

Quarantining at SAIT will considerably remove most of the obstacles international students face when trying to enter Canada during a pandemic.

Why are we being recommended to fly only after August 17, 2020?

As per IRCC directives that institutions have received, travelling to Canada too much in advance of your program start date can be considered non-essential by CBSA. This is why we have recommended students travel to Canada after August 17, 2020.

Can I still fly to Canada without a support letter if I want?

International students who deem it necessary to be in Canada for Fall 2020 (and who have their study permit approvals prior to March 18, 2020) even if they are not deemed essential by the SAIT International Center can choose to fly to Canada at their own liability. Neither SAIT nor the SAIT International Center will be liable for any damages arising from this decision. At this moment, the SAIT International Centre strongly dissuades non-essential travel for Fall 2020. Please make an informed decision as per your life circumstances while realistically evaluating the risks involved.

Why are new Fall 2020 students in blended programs being required to quarantine at SAIT Residence instead of being allowed to plan my own quarantine?

After extensive consultations with a wide range of government and public health bodies, SAIT International Centre designed a robust on-campus quarantine package for students in order to avoid any challenges that could cause an obstacle in international students being allowed into Canada. Some of these challenges are:

  • Inadequate quarantine plan: There are a large number of risks associated with inadequate quarantine plans that could turn into reasons for refusal at the border. For example, students who are travelling to Canada for the first time are unfamiliar with Calgary. This means that once they land, they may need to go grocery shopping for food or run other errands. As part of the quarantine, this is strictly prohibited and can potentially expose the Calgary community and the student to risk. The CBSA officer can deem this to be a risk factor and the student can be turned back from the border. This also applies to students planning to quarantine with friends or family in Calgary, since quarantining with other people automatically increases the risk levels.
  • Threat to SAIT community: In situations where some students do not take quarantine as seriously as some other students, the health and safety of the entire SAIT community can be jeopardized since students will attend some classes in person in the same physical space. To ensure the health and safety of the entire community, the mandatory on-campus plan has come into place.
  • Reporting to Government: The Public Health Agency of Canada is maintaining records on the quarantine plan of each student coming in to Canada and as an institution we have to have records on the quarantine plan of all our students. Once the Government is convinced that your quarantine plan does not have any issues, it increases the chances of you being allowed into the country. With students quarantining in Residence, we can truthfully report that our students have completed the mandatory 14 day quarantine successfully.
  • Long term pandemic shifts: SAIT (and all post-secondary institutions across Canada) had to advocate to allow international students to travel to Canada in Fall 2020. IRCC has made exceptions and allowed essential travel for now, and if all quarantine procedures are followed properly and there is no spike in cases, we can hope for the border restrictions to ease for Winter 2021 so that all our students can join us.

Please know that each one of us has the responsibility to ensure that this virus does not spread and we are able to go back to our regular, in-person operations at the earliest. Quarantining on campus is one of the ways in which you will be a solution to the issues related to the pandemic.

Is there a way I can appeal the support letter decision by the SAIT International Centre?

No. SAIT International Centre has full discretion in terms of issuing the support letter and all decisions are final.

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