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Home International Students COVID-19 FAQ for international students

SAIT has government approval to accept international students during the current COVID-19 Pandemic.   

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.


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

On October 2, 2020, IRCC has announced  a new update on travel exemptions for international students: From October 20, 2020, international students can enter Canada if their designated learning institution (DLI) has an approved COVID – 19 readiness plan in place. This update will apply to all international students no matter where they come from or when their study permits were approved.

SAIT Pandemic Readiness Plan has been approved by the Government and you can make your travel plan now.

Can my family travel together with me?

Currently, only immediate family members of the temporary residents  may travel to Canada for essential reasons. An immediate family member is defined as a:

  • Spouse or common-law partner
  • Dependent child
  • Dependent child of a dependent child
  • Parents or step-parents
  • Guardian or tutor

If they will travel together with you, they don’t need a written authorization from IRCC.

Please note according to the most recent IRCC update, there are two scenarios that allow  only one immediate family member to travel with you to Canada on visitor status. And the application for a visitor visa should be included when you apply for your study permit.

  1. You are a minor child (you are under age 18) and you need a family member
    • Travel with you
    • Help you meet your guardian in Canada, and
    • Get set up in your new home
  2. If you are an adult student (you are age 18 or older), you might have supporting document that you need a family member with you to get settled, e.g. medical note proving you have mental or physical conditions that you need such support

If they will study or work in Canada, their applications should be included in your study permit application as well. They will need either a valid permit or proof of approval (letter of introduction) to travel together with you.

If the student comes to Canada first and the family members will join later from countries other than the US, they need to obtain a written authorization from IRCC first. Please email  IRCC.COVID-TravelExemptions-Exemptionsdevoyage-COVID.IRCC@cic.gc.ca with all the required information that you can find here

Please note in this situation, even they already hold valid visitor visas, it is not recommended to book a flight until they receive the written authorization.  

If I want to travel to Canada this winter, what should I do next?

Congratulations on being accepted to a program at SAIT and receiving your study permit approval!  

Please follow the instructions below in sequence to plan your travel to Canada:

STEP 1: Make sure that you have a valid study permit/ study permit approval/second-stage approval

Please note that you cannot travel on a first-stage study permit approval.

STEP 2: Book your 14-day quarantine with Residence

To book your quarantine with SAIT Residence, please select “Apply for Housing” and “Short Term Stay” in this link.

STEP 3: Book Your Flight to Calgary

Please make sure to book your flights as per the travel window and deadline below.

Started your program in Fall 2020? As soon as possible but no later than March 31, 2021
Started your program in Winter 2021 (online)?

As soon as possible but no later than April 30, 2021

Starting your program in Spring 2021 (blended)? Travel to Canada before April 25, 2021*
Starting your program in Spring 2021 (online)? Travel to Canada before May 30, 2021*
Starting your program in Fall 2021? Dates will be communicated as soon as they are finalized*
If your program has a scheduled break between May – August 2021 Travel as soon as possible. Latest date of travel will be March 31, 2021. Travel dates later than that would be considered non-essential as you are not required to be in Canada over your break.
Cannot travel by the deadlines mentioned? Email international@sait.ca with full name, SAIT ID and question. Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis and we cannot guarantee that it can be accommodated.

*Travelling too early before the start of your semester is considered non-essential travel by the Canadian Border Services Agency, and may be a reason for denial to enter at the border. Please travel early enough to complete a 14-day quarantine but not much earlier than that.

Please continue to monitor your inbox and spam folders for communication from us and please make sure to follow our updates before you travel.

STEP 4: Fill in your Quarantine Form

Please make sure to fill in all your detailed and sign and date  this form!

STEP 5: Fill in the Online Form

Make sure to fill in this online form AT LEAST TWO WEEKS before your date of travel.

STEP 6: Acknowledgement Letter from SAIT

Once you submit your online form, we will send you an acknowledgement email in 2-3 business days. The email is approval for your travel plans and will also have information on the travel webinar you have to attend to learn more about crossing the Canadian border.  Your travel plan is not approved until your receive acknowledgment letter from International Centre.

If you would like to access an audio version of these instructions, please click here.
(Audio Access Passcode: 0Tb57$E&) 

What are the minimum travel documents required in order to travel to Canada for the Winter 2021 semester?

Please bring the following documents ready for the border officers when arriving in Canada:

  • A study permit or a copy of the letter of introduction (study approval letter)
  • A copy of a valid letter of acceptance from SAIT
  • A support letter from SAIT if your Letter of acceptance has expired
  • Proof that you have enough money to support yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada.

In addition, please submit your travel and quarantine information on the ArriveCAN app before you get on board which will reduce physical contact for a safer and faster border process. As of November 21, 2020, this requirement is mandatory for all air travelers and non-compliance might result in an up to $1,000 fine. The app can be downloaded in both the App Store and Google Play.

If you are participating in the International Border Testing Pilot Program (only travelers who are entering Canada at Calgary first), please complete the Pilot program registration up to 5 days before your arrival here.

If you are NOT participating the International Border Testing Pilot Program, please also complete the isolation questionnaire required by the Government of Alberta either at the provincial checkpoint or in advance online.

What is the International Border Testing Pilot Program and what impact will it have on 14 days self-isolation period?

As of November 2, 2020, eligible international travelers (your flight must be an international flight flying directly from outside of Canada to Calgary) have an option to take rapid testing with results promised to be delivered as soon as in 48 hours. For more information and also how to register for the test, please see  here. You still need to self-isolate until you receive the results at SAIT Residence, however, we will be issuing refunds if you didn't need to stay with us for the full 14 days.

  • If the result comes back positive, you need to keep isolating and follow all  mandatory restrictions.
  • If the result comes back negative, you can leave SAIT Residence with precautions but we strongly recommend you to stay in the Residence until your second result (will be taken on the 6th or 7th day) comes out negative. You will need to show proof to the Residence staff of your negative results before leaving.
  • If the result comes back indeterminate, you need to either remain in quarantine for the full 14 days or take a retest that can be scheduled  here.

Conditions for participating in the program:

  • submit daily symptom reports (online or by phone)
  • keep a list of any close contacts for the duration of the pilot program
    • if a participant tests positive, the list must be provided to public health officials
  • book a second test on day 6 or 7 at a participating Shoppers Drug Mart
  • follow preventative measures throughout the 14-day period
  • avoid prohibited settings during the 14-day period

Please ensure you are joining our traveling webinars before you travel for all the updates.

My Winter 2021 program will be delivered in a Blended/Online Format, is my travel to Canada considered essential? Do I need a support letter from SAIT?

Under the new travel exemption, we expect all international students with required documents can travel no matter their program delivery is online or blended.

How do I apply for the SAIT Residence Quarantine Quarters?

Please note that all SAIT students, not yet established in Calgary and traveling to Canada MUST quarantine only on the SAIT campus and no alternate quarantine plans will be allowed. 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. To apply for the SAIT Quarantine package:

  • Please go  here.
  • Choose SAIT Short Term Stay 2020-2021 in your application.
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.
  • 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)
If my family members are traveling with me, can we quarantine together?

Yes, you can. If you and your immediate family members are traveling together, you can choose to stay at SAIT residence together. However, room type will be assigned subject to availability.

Alternatively, you can also consider travelling to Canada and quarantine by yourself first. Your family members can travel later and join your own residence for their quarantine period.

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, not yet established in Calgary and travelling to Canada MUST quarantine only on the SAIT campus and no alternate quarantine plans will be allowed.

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).

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. 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 new students 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. Currently, border restrictions are lifted for international students depending on whether their DLI has an approved readiness plan. The measures in place must be followed properly and continuously, so that SAIT can welcome more international students in Canada.

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.

What is Airport Rapid testing and what impact will it have on 14 days self-isolation period?

As of November 2, 2020, eligible international travelers (your flight must be an international flight flying directly from outside of Canada to Calgary) have an option to take rapid testing with results promised to be delivered as soon as in 48 hours. You still need to self-isolate until you receive the results at SAIT Residence, however we will be issuing refunds if you didn't need to stay with us for the full 14 days. Please ensure you are joining our travelling webinars before you travel for all the updates.

What is the new mandatory Covid-19 test for coming to Canada?

The government of Canada has announced  new requirements for traveling to Canada: Starting from Jan 7, 2021, all air travelers will need a negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours before they are allowed to board the flight to Canada.

  • This test must be performed using a COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (or PCR)
  • The test must be taken within 72 hours before the scheduled flight
  • This mandatory requirement applies to anyone who’s five year old or older
  • Travelers will only be allowed to board the flight with a negative test result
  • Travelers who tested negative will still need to complete the full, mandatory 14-day quarantine after entering Canada (if not participating the Alberta Border Testing Pilot Program)

Please see all the information from IRCC regarding COVID-19 testing  here.

Applications and admission

How can I pay my tuition?

SAIT accepts a number of different payment options from students.

There are now more online payment options for students from Canada, most countries around the world, and in most currencies. There are also various payment options for third parties, such as parents, family, friends or others, to pay fees online.

If you have a Canadian bank account, you can pay with pre-authorized debit (PADs) or Online banking. There are no charges to use these systems. If you use PADS please ensure you carefully check your account information before submitting your payment and be sure to leave sufficient funds in your bank account. It may take a few days for this to process through your bank.

If you don’t have a Canadian bank account, you can pay using a credit card, PayMyTuition, or CIBC International Student Pay portal.

You can access instructions on how to use PayMyTuition in 11 languages, instructions on how to use CIBC International Student Pay portal, PADs, and Online banking by clicking here.

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 from outside of Canada. However, please note this might affect your future ability to attend the program in person once it is required, as well as your future eligibility for Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

Based on the current Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) COVID-19 delivery for international students, if you meet the following items, you will be still eligible for PGWP Program:

  • You received a study permit approval (or Letter of Introduction), or
  • You have a valid study permit, or
  • You have applied for a study permit before your program starts and your study permit is approved eventually

Your online abroad study time won’t be deducted from your future PGWP length until April 30, 2021. You will also need to complete at least 50% of your total study in Canada. Starting in May 2021, to have your future study time counted towards your PGWP length, you must travel to Canada to attend your program.

Should you wish to start your program while your study permit is still under processing, please also familiarize yourself with SAIT refund policy.

How does the current situation affect my PGWP eligibility and what is the temporary measure for it?

Classes moved online due to COVID-19 is considered as an exceptional situation until April 30, 2021. Students meeting other PGWP eligibility requirement won’t be punished by attending online classes based on the current IRCC consideration.

If you are studying online courses inside of Canada with a valid study permit or under implied status (you have extended your study permit before the previous one expires), your PGWP eligibility won’t be affected if you have more than 50% of your program completed online.

If you are studying online courses outside of Canada, provided you meet the following items, you can complete up to 50% of your program online (until April 30, 2021) and your overseas study time won’t be deducted from your future PGWP length until April 30, 2021:

  • You have a valid study permit, or
  • You were approved for a study permit (received a Letter of Introduction), or
  • You have applied for a study permit before your program starts and your study permit is approved eventually

If the program is only 8 to 12 months long and you began your program between May and September 2020, you can complete the whole program online abroad and still be eligible for PGWP.

I need to provide my biometrics. How does it work under COVID-19 impact?

If you are located outside of Canada, please note currently some Visa Application Centres (VAC) are still closed. Please check on the website whether the VACs close to you are open before you go there.

If time exceeds the the 90 days on your biometrics letter and the VACs are still not available for you, you do not need to request for a new biometrics letter as the deadline will be automatically extended and your application will not be refused because you can’t provide your biometrics.

If you are located in Canada, please note that IRCC has recently removed the biometrics requirement for temporary residents who apply from inside of Canada. Types of application includes:

  • Study permit, work permit and visitor record extension
  • Temporary residents status restoration
  • New study permit, work permit or visitor visa application
  • Temporary resident permit application

For the newest biometrics information, please check the government website here.

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

For Winter 2021, based on the IRCC website, study permit application might be assessed in 2 stages to accommodate COVID-19 interruptions to certain services. Depending on each application submission situation:

1. If an application was submitted:

  • Before December 15, 2020
  • Missing biometrics or medical because of COVID-19 interruptions
  • For Winter 2021 intake

The application will be assessed in two stages: Stage 1 for Eligibility, Stage 2 for Admissibility and any changes to your eligibility.

In Stage 1, IRCC will assess whether the application has met the eligibility to study in Canada (being accepted in a Designated Learning Institute like SAIT, having enough funds, and etc.). If you pass the Eligibility assessment, you will be notified either on your IRCC account or by email. This is normally called first stage approval, or Approval in Principle (AIP). If you receive such notice, please inform SAIT by emailing international@sait.ca.

Please note, first stage approval or AIP doesn’t guarantee the final study permit approval and you can not travel at this time.

In Stage 2, IRCC will assess your admissibility to Canada, including your medical exam, police certificate and biometrics, as well as if there’s any changes to your eligibility.

If you pass the second stage assessment, you may be able to travel to Canada in a later date.

2. If an application was submitted:

  • with a complete package
  • your DLI has been approved for COVID-19 readiness plan (SAIT has)

Your application will be assessed normally and you will receive the result in one time.

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

I have applied my coop work permit, but I haven’t received it yet. Can I start working?

If you are currently outside of Canada and have an approved practicum opportunity to work either for a Canadian employer or a company in your home country, you can work while your coop work permit is still under processing.

If you are currently inside of Canada and have secured a remote working practicum opportunity, you will still need an approved coop work permit to start your work.

Before receiving your coop work permit approval, you might be able to work full time on the campus if you are a full-time student at SAIT. You might also be able to work up to 20 hours per week for off campus opportunities during any academic terms and full time during the scheduled breaks, provided you meet all the eligibility requirements. Please note the 20 hours limit includes both the hours of you co-op work and any regular paid job if you have.

If the co-op application is refused, you must stop working immediately.

Can I drop classes and go to part-time studies due to COVID-19? If so, can I still work? Will it affect my PGWP eligibility?

IRCC has allowed students to drop to part-time studies or take a break in their studies due to COVID- 19 for the winter, spring and summer 2020 semesters to continue work on or off-campus. However, this is no longer applying for the fall 2020 semester, as most courses delivery have resumed normally.

If fall 2020 is not the last semester of your program, you cannot work off-campus while only studying part-time.

For the winter, spring and summer 2020 semesters, when a student’s status dropped from full-time to part-time due to the course delivery that was impacted by the Covid-19, their eligibility for PGWP will not be impacted.

For fall 2020, if a student is studying part-time only (no matter inside or outside of Canada) and it is not the last semester of their programs, they might not be eligible for future PGWP.

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.

I’m currently studying online from my home country. Can I apply for PGWP outside of Canada and come back later for work?

If you have finished more than 50% of your program in Canada, and consider to finish the rest of it online from your home country, please note that you can apply for your PGWP outside of Canada. However, under current travel restrictions, you cannot enter Canada on an approved PGWP WITHOUT a valid job offer as the scenario is not considered as a non-optional or non-discretionary travel reason.

What is the new PGWP extension measure?

On Jan 8, IRCC has announced a new program allowing international students with an expired or expiring post-graduation work permit to apply for a new open work permit that will valid for 18 months. The following PGWP (previous) holders will benefit from this measure:

  • Have a PGWP expired on or after Jan 30, 2020 or expires in 4 months or less from the date they apply
  • Still in Canada
  • Have a valid temporary status, or will restore their status
  • Application submitted between Jan 27 – Jul 27, 2021

Details on how to apply will be announced on January 27, 2021 by IRCC.

Why is this temporary extension measure important?

PGWP as an important part of international student immigration pathway is only allowed once in a life time and was not allowed to extend previously. Commonly, PGWPs are issued according to the completed program length, and up to 3 years. In response to the pandemic impacts on job market, this temporary measure will help students who couldn’t gain enough working experience for certain immigration programs.

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.

Please familiarize yourself with the refund policy should you decide to start your program without a fully approved study permit.  

  1. If the student’s study permit is refused (no matter Stage 1 or Stage 2), and a refund request is made before the program start date indicated on the Letter of Acceptance, the student will be eligible for the refund of the tuition deposit less a $250 administration fee.
  2. Jan. 11 – Jan. 22: 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 ancillary fees and the non-refundable tuition deposit). The refusal must be received no later than the add/drop deadline for Winter 2021, which is  Friday, January 22.
  3. Jan. 23 – Feb. 10: 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 ancillary fees and the non-refundable tuition deposit). The refusal must be received no later than  Wednesday, Feb. 10.
What happens if I receive my Stage 2 refusal after I start my program?

Please see the refund policy above.

If you started your program in Fall 2020 with Stage 1 approval, no refunds are available for students who receive their Stage 2 refusal after Wednesday, Oct. 7.

For new students in Winter 2021, no refunds are available if they receive their Stage 2 refusal after Wednesday, Feb. 10.

How do I apply for a refund?

If you cancel prior to the program start date, please request your refund and forward a copy of your IRCC denial letter to Freshdesk.

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

  • your full name
  • your SAIT ID
  • your program
  • proof of Stage 1 approval and Stage 2 refusal

 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.
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