COVID-19 resources and frequently asked questions

Latest updates

The information on this page is based on information available at the time of publishing and may not always be up to date.

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and other government departments are constantly revising their policies. Links for the most current information have been provided for each question, however updates may be published elsewhere as well.

See the latest information on how COVID-19 is affecting Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

You can also review IRCC program or policy changes due to COVID-19 in the program delivery instructions for officers.

Visit this page often as we will continue to update it as the situation evolves.

For the most up-to-date and authoritative source of information about the University’s response to COVID-19, please visit covid19.ubc.ca.

FFrequently asked questions

Immigration Applications

Travel restrictions

Work eligibility

Health insurance

Financial Assistance

Immigration Applications

I was just admitted to UBC – can I apply for my study permit now?

Yes. As soon as you are admitted to UBC, you should apply online for an initial study permit so that you are in the queue for processing. After you apply, you may be asked to submit biometrics (photo and fingerprints), which might not be possible to do right now, but we are confident that Immigration will account for these delays and will process study permits as quickly as possible.

The current travel restrictions will not prevent your study permit application from being processed.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Apply for a visitor visa, eTA, or study or work permit from outside Canada – apply for a study or work permit


Can I submit an immigration application now?

All applications must be submitted online until further notice.

STUDY AND WORK PERMITS

Yes. You can submit applications for study permits and work permits online, both inside and outside of Canada. The current travel restrictions will not prevent your application from being processed.

TEMPORARY RESIDENT VISAS (TRVs) AND ELECTRONIC TRAVEL AUTHORIZATIONS (ETAs)

You can submit online applications for TRVs and eTAs inside of Canada as usual.

If you have already applied or will apply for a TRV or an eTA from outside of Canada, you must complete a few additional steps to show you are exempt from the travel restrictions as a study or work permit holder and are eligible to have your application is processed.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Apply for a visitor visa, eTA, or study or work permit from outside Canada – apply for a study or work permit


What is the impact on processing times?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is continuing to process applications. Processing times posted on the IRCC website are estimations based on the average processing time for an application, however, they do not accurately reflect disruptions caused by COVID-19. We are confident that Immigration will account for these delays and will process study permits as quickly as possible.

If your application is past the published processing time, you can send a webform to request an update.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s processing times


I need to provide biometrics. How does this impact my application?

All biometrics collection services in Canada and the US are suspended until further notice, and some Visa Application Centres (VACs) outside of Canada are temporarily closed. The time period to provide biometrics has automatically been extended from 30 days to 90 days – you do not need to request a new Biometrics Instruction Letter. If you can’t provide biometrics within 90 days, submit a webform to explain your circumstances and request an extension

If you are in Canada, you will have “implied status” if you’ve applied for a new immigration document but it won’t arrive before your current status ends. In this case, you’ll be able to remain in Canada until a decision is made on your new application, even if you provide biometrics after your status has ended. If you have dependents in Canada, extend their documents as well.

Since applications are typically not processed until biometrics have been provided, the delay in providing biometrics may cause an increase in processing times. Keep visiting Canada.ca/biometrics for updates on office closures  and schedule your biometrics appointment as soon as centers return to normal operations. We are confident that Immigration will account for these delays and will process study permits as quickly as possible.

If you travel after submitting your immigration application and a VAC near you is open, contact them to confirm if you can provide biometrics there. Do not travel to another country solely for the purpose of providing biometrics.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID-19: Biometrics.


I need to complete a medical exam. How does this impact my application?

Contact your nearest panel physician’s office to confirm they are still performing medical exams. You may not be able to complete an up-front medical exam at this time.

If you submitted an immigration application and received a request for a medical exam, the time period to complete a medical exam has automatically been extended from 30 to 90 days. If you can’t provide a medical exam within 90 days, submit a webform to explain your circumstances and request an extension.

Since applications are typically not processed until medical exams have been completed, the delay in your medical exam appointment may cause an increase in processing times. Please schedule your medical exam appointment when your nearest panel physician returns to normal operations. We are confident that Immigration will account for these delays and will process study permits as quickly as possible.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s medical exams page


I am a new student starting in May or June and my in-person courses have moved online because of COVID-19. I’m unable to travel to Canada now due to the travel restrictions – can I start my program online from outside Canada?

You can begin your program starting in May/June through distance learning from outside of Canada, even if your study permit application has not been processed yet. However, studying without a study permit or being approved for a study permit (Letter of Introduction) may impact the length and/or eligibility for the PGWP.

As outlined on the IRCC website: “If you have a study permit, or 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 also still eligible for the PGWPP” (updated May 15, 2020)

If you intend to apply for the PGWP, you must have one of the following before your classes start in order for those courses to count towards the PGWP:

  1. A Letter of Introduction (study permit approval), or
  2. A valid study permit

If you have one of the above, and you are impacted by the current travel restrictions, you can complete up to 50% of your courses online while outside of Canada if you are unable to travel sooner.

If you do not have one of the above, taking online courses outside Canada may impact the length of your PGWP or your eligibility for the PGWP if you are in a short program and will not complete 50% of your program in Canada. Contact an Academic Advisor from your faculty or your program’s graduate staff/advisor if you want to learn about your options to begin your studies late, postpone your start date to another term, or defer your admission. Make any changes as soon as possible, and before your add/drop deadline.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Visitors, foreign workers and students – international students

I am a new student starting in September. If my classes will move online due to COVID-19, could I start my program online from outside Canada?

You can begin your program starting in September through distance learning from outside of Canada, even if your study permit application has not been processed yet. However, studying without a study permit or being approved for a study permit (Letter of Introduction) may impact the length and/or eligibility for the PGWP.

As outlined on the IRCC website: “If you have a study permit, or 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 also still eligible for the PGWPP” (updated May 15, 2020)

If you intend to apply for the PGWP, you must have one of the following before your classes start in order for those courses to count towards the PGWP:

If you have one of the above, and you are impacted by the current travel restrictions, you can complete up to 50% of your courses online while outside of Canada if you are unable to travel sooner.

If you do not have one of the above, taking online courses outside Canada may impact the length of your PGWP or your eligibility for the PGWP if you are in a short program and will not complete 50% of your program in Canada. Contact an Academic Advisor from your faculty or your program’s graduate staff/advisor if you want to learn about your options to begin your studies late, postpone your start date to another term, or defer your admission. Make any changes as soon as possible, and before your add/drop deadline.

See UBC’s approach for the fall term and visit UBC’s response on COVID-19 for updates.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Visitors, foreign workers and students – international students


My study permit will expire soon. What should I do? 

if you are in Canada

You can apply to extend your study permit online as usual. You must submit your study permit extension application before your study permit expires. Include a letter of explanation to address why you need to extend your stay in Canada. Read more about study permits and how to keep a valid study permit. If you have dependents in Canada, extend their documents as well.

You will have “implied status” if you’ve applied for a new study permit but your old study permit expired while you are waiting for a new one. In this case, you’ll be able to remain in Canada until a decision is made on your new application.

If you will travel after you apply

You may use the Canadian mailing address of a trusted friend in your application. Once your study permit is received, ask them to send you a digital copy and keep the original document safe or mail it to you. If you need a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) and it expires before you plan to return, you can apply for a TRV online from outside of Canada with a digital copy of your study permit. Review our step-by-step TRV tutorial, then review the TRV from outside of Canada guide since your application will be slightly different. Be sure to include any additional documents required by your visa office in the ‘Client Information’ section under ‘Optional Documents’.

If you have already or will apply for a TRV or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) from outside of Canada, you must complete a few additional steps.

If you are outside of Canada

You can apply online for a new study permit from outside of Canada. Review our step-by-step initial study permit tutorial for applications from outside of Canada, as well as our study permit extension tutorial to learn about documents for current students. If you require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), it will be issued automatically after your application has been approved.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Apply for a visitor visa, eTA or study or work permit from outside Canada.


I want to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). What should I do?

If you are in Canada

You can apply for a PGWP online as usual. You must submit your PGWP application or extend your status in Canada before your study permit expires or becomes invalid (90 days after completion of your studies). If you do not want to apply for PGWP but want to extend your stay in Canada as a visitor, make sure you submit the application before your study permit becomes invalid. Include a letter of explanation to address why you need to extend your stay in Canada. If you have dependents in Canada, extend their documents as well.

You’ll be able to remain in Canada until a decision is made on your PGWP if you’ve applied for a PGWP but your study permit became invalid. Furthermore, if you meet the eligibility criteria you can begin working full-time after submitting your PGWP application.

If you will travel after you apply

You may use the Canadian mailing address of a trusted friend in your application. Once your work permit is received, ask them to send you a digital copy and keep the original document safe or mail it to you. If you require a  Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) to enter Canada but it expires before you plan to return, you can apply for a TRV online from outside of Canada with a digital copy of your work permit. Review our step-by-step TRV tutorial, then review the IRCC TRV from outside of Canada guide since your application will be slightly different. Be sure to include any additional documents required by your visa office in the ‘Client Information’ section under ‘Optional Documents’.

If you have already or will apply for a TRV or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) from outside of Canada, you must complete a few additional steps.

if you are outside of Canada

You can apply for a PGWP online from outside of Canada within 180 days after your letter of completion first became available, even if you study permit has become expired or invalid.

Review our step-by-step PGWP tutorial, then review the IRCC work permit outside of Canada guide since your application will be slightly different. Be sure to include any additional documents required by your visa office in the ‘Client Information’ section under ‘Optional Documents’. If you require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) it will be issued automatically after your application has been approved.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Apply for a visitor visa, eTA or study or work permit from outside Canada.

Travel Restrictions

Can international students who are abroad travel to Canada? 

If your study permit or Letter of Introduction (study permit approval) for an initial study permit was issued on or before March 18, 2020, you’ll be able to travel to Canada by air or land and be exempt from the current travel restrictions. This exemption is to help students who are in the middle of their course of study or who have just been approved to study in Canada but were outside of Canada when the travel restrictions took effect.

You’ll need to present the following at the airport or land crossing:

We recommend bringing a recently-issued letter of enrolment, which you can download from your  Student Services Centre, under “Grades & Records”, or a customized letter of enrolment from your faculty or program. This will help the officer understand that you are traveling for an essential (non-optional) purpose as an enrolled student. You should not travel if you are planning to come to Canada for purposes other than studies, even if you have valid documents.

In addition, you will still need a valid Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travel to Canada (US citizens are exempt).

Like all travellers to Canada, international students exempt from travel restrictions must travel with a non-medical mask or face covering if arriving by air and must isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada. Furthermore, the British Columbia (BC) government legally requires all travelers to submit a detailed self-isolation plan. Please ensure you follow the government rules.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Who can travel to Canada – citizens, permanent residents, foreign nationals and refugees.


My initial study permit approval or current study permit was issued after March 18. Can I travel to Canada?

If your Letter of Introduction (study permit approval) or current study permit was issued after March 18, 2020, you are not exempt from the travel restrictions and will NOT be considered essential travel to Canada. You should not travel to Canada until further notice from the Canadian government. 

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Who can travel to Canada – citizens, permanent residents, foreign nationals and refugees.


Can I come to Canada if I have a Post-Graduation Work Permit or spousal work permit?

Temporary foreign workers are exempt from air and land travel restrictions. You can travel to Canada if you have:

  • A valid work permit, or
  • A Letter of Introduction for a work permit issued on any date

Furthermore, you must be coming to Canada for an essential (non-optional) purpose as a worker. You should not travel if you are planning to come to Canada for purposes other than work, even if you have valid documents. Be sure to bring a current, valid job offer or proof of current employment with you. If you have a letter of introduction but do not have a current offer of employment and are planning to look for work, travel will be considered non-essential and you should not travel until further notice.

In addition, you will still need a valid Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travel to Canada (US citizens are exempt).

Like all travelers to Canada, work permit holders exempt from travel restrictions must travel with a non-medical mask or face covering if arriving by air and must isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada. Furthermore, the British Columbia (BC) government legally requires all travelers to submit a self-isolation plan. Please ensure you follow the government rules.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Visitors, foreign workers and students – temporary foreign workers


Can I go to the US land border to apply for a study or work permit in person (i.e., flagpoling)?

Non-essential travel between Canada and the US is currently suspended. Going to the US-Canada border to apply for a study or work permit in person (i.e., flagpoling) is considered non-essential travel at this time and you will be turned away from the border if you attempt to flagpole.

For the latest updates, visit Canada Border Services Agency’s work permit, study permit and confirmation of permanent residence requests

Work eligibility

If I drop to part-time studies or take a break due to COVID-19, will this affect my eligibility for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP)? 

Normally, as an international student, you must maintain full-time status in each term to be eligible for a PGWP. However, if you are a current student and cannot meet this requirement due to COVID-19, Canadian Immigration will take this into consideration and this will not affect your PGWP eligibility. This applies regardless of whether or not you have a UBC-approved leave of absence. At the time you apply for PGWP, please email ips.ubco@ubc.ca for a support letter from UBC.

Refer to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) April 7, 2020 update on your post-graduation work permit eligibility.

For the latest updates, visit IRCC’s COVID 19: Visitors, foreign workers and students – international students


I have to take courses online due to COVID-19. Will this affect my eligibility for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP)? 

Courses delivered online on an exceptional basis due to COVID-19 will not affect your eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program if:

  • You are a current student with a valid study permit or you are under “implied status” and stay in Canada, OR
  • Your initial study permit application for a program starting in May, June or September is approved and you are unable to travel to Canada at this time due to travel restrictions.

You must still complete at least 50% of your program in Canada.

Refer to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) April 7, 2020 update on your post-graduation work permit eligibility.


Will Credit/D/Fail grading or a late withdrawal with a ‘W’ impact my student status, work eligibility, or eligibility for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)?

Credit/D/Fail Grading

Your grades do not directly impact your enrollment status, therefore Credit/D/Fail grading will not impact:

However, if you have many failed courses over several terms, an officer may question if you are making reasonable progress towards completing your program.

Late withdrawal with a ‘w’

Withdrawing with a ‘W’ impacts your enrolment status.

If you withdraw for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 and you are no longer full-time for immigration purposes as a result, you cannot work on and off-campus, and your future eligibility for the PGWP may be impacted. If you withdraw from all your courses, learn about taking a break from studies.

If you withdraw due to COVID-19 and drop to part-time for immigration purposes or take a break from studies, as a result, see the relevant term in the questions below for more details.

For more information on grading options, see student resources during the COVID-19 outbreak.


If I drop to part-time studies or take a break due to COVID-19, can I still stay in Canada and work in Winter Term 2 (January – April 2020)?

As an exception, if you were full-time for immigration purposes during winter term 2, and then had to drop to part-time studies or take a break in studies due to COVID-19, you can work in Canada unlimited hours on campus and up to 20 hours per week off campus, if eligible. This applies regardless of whether you have a UBC-approved leave of absence. You must still hold a valid study permit or have applied to extend it before the old study permit expired.

Graduate, Diploma in Accounting and Law students

 If you have a UBC-approved leave of absence, you can remain in Canada for 150 days after:

  • the day your leave was approved, or
  • the first day of classes of the term in which your leave started, whichever comes last.

Before the 150 day period is over, you will probably need to:

  • Leave Canada, or
  • Apply for visitor status online

Refer to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) March 20, 2020 update on international students working on- and off- campus.


If I drop to part-time studies or take a break due to COVID-19, can I still stay in Canada and work during the summer session (May-August, 2020)?

You can remain in Canada so long as you hold a valid study permit or have applied to extend it before the old study permit expired.

Undergraduate students

You can work full-time during summer if you:

  • studied full time for immigration purposesat the start of winter term 2, and
  • had to drop to part-time studies or take a break in studies in winter term 2 due to COVID-19, and
  • will return to full-time studies in winter term 1.

Graduate, Diploma in Accounting and Law students

Summer session is not considered a scheduled break for you. As an exception, if you have to take a break in studies due to COIVD-19 in the summer session, you can work the same amount as during a full time semester, which is unlimited hours on campus and up to 20 hours per week off campus. This applies regardless of whether your leave is formally authorized by UBC.

If you have a UBC-approved leave of absence, you can remain in Canada for 150 days after:

  • the day your leave was approved, or
  • the first day of classes of the term in which your leave started, whichever comes last.

Before the 150 day period is over, you will probably need to:

  • Leave Canada, or
  • Apply for visitor status online

Refer to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) March 20, 2020 update on international students working on- and off- campus.


If I drop to part-time studies or take a break due to COVID-19, can I still stay in Canada and work in Winter Term 1 (September – December 2020)?

At this time, dropping to part time or taking a break from studies beyond the summer session could affect your ability to remain in Canada, work during studies, and eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit.

Undergraduate students

If you are not enrolled in any courses, you will probably need to:

  • Leave Canada, or
  • Apply for visitor status online

Graduate, Diploma in Accounting and Law students

 If you have a UBC-approved leave of absence, you can remain in Canada for 150 days after:

  • the day your leave was approved, or
  • the first day of classes of the term in which your leave started, whichever comes last.

Before the 150 day period is over, you will probably need to:

  • Leave Canada, or
  • Apply for visitor status online

Refer to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) March 20, 2020 update on international students working on- and off- campus.


I have applied for a co-op work permit but I have not received it yet. Can I start working?

 If you are waiting for your co-op work permit to be processed and you are eligible to work on and off campus, as a temporary measure due to COVID-19, you can start your co-op, internship or practicum placement, but only up to a maximum of 20 hours per week. In addition, you can work elsewhere full-time as a result of being on a scheduled break, if eligible.

Graduate students and Diploma in Accounting Program students do not have the summer term as a scheduled break.

If you are working remotely for a Canadian employer you still need a valid co-op work permit, even if you will be outside of Canada.

Once your co-op work permit is approved, as an exception, you can start working full-time without waiting to receive the original co-op work permit.


How can I get a Social Insurance Number (SIN)?

You must first receive your study or work permit before you can get a Social Insurance Number (SIN). Unfortunately you cannot get a SIN before arriving in Canada.

Service Canada offices are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, however you can now apply for a SIN online or by mail.

Visit COVID-19 – Employment and Social Development Canada for the latest updates.


I work in essential services – can I work more than 20 hours per week?

As a temporary measure you can work off-campus more than 20 hours per week if you work in ‘essential services’, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods until August 31, 2020.

To be eligible, you must:

Provincial governments determine which jobs are considered to be an essential service. See the BC list of essential services and contact Service BC if you have questions.

Health insurance

I have to stay in Canada longer than expected. How is my health insurance affected?

Your Medical Services Plan (MSP) will continue until its expiry date, which is normally your study permit expiry date.

If you apply to extend your stay in Canada and won’t receive your new immigration document before your current document expires, call MSP to request continuous coverage immediately. If BC MSP says that they cannot cover you while you wait, be sure to purchase private insurance such as the Global Campus Health Plan.

The UBCSUO Health and Dental Plan will continue until August 31, 2020. If you want to make claims under your UBCSUO Extended Health and Dental Plan, you must first be enrolled in BC MSP or another basic health insurance plan

For more information, visit:


I will be outside Canada due to COVID-19. How is my health insurance affected?

If you will be outside Canada for less than 6 months, you have the option to keep or cancel MSP.

If you will be outside of Canada for more than six months, contact BC MSP to confirm your eligibility. You might need to cancel your MSP coverage, or you may be given the option to keep MSP.

If you’re eligible and you decide to keep MSP, you will not have to reapply and will not have a three-month waiting period when you return.

If you cancel MSP, you will have to reapply when you return to BC. You will need to get private health insurance such as the Global Campus Health Plan before you return to Canada to cover you during the three-month waiting period.

Before canceling BC MSP, make sure that you have access to basic health insurance that will provide robust coverage, as some private health insurance companies are no longer covering COVID-19 testing and treatment expenses.

If you are in your country of origin, you are not covered under the UBCSUO Extended Health Plan for travel coverage. If you are not in your country of origin, you might be able to make a claim as long as you have BC MSP or another basic health insurance plan.

Review the BC MSP updates and UBCSUO Health and Dental Plan COVID-19 FAQs for details and ensure you are covered by health insurance wherever you are.

I am a new student starting in summer session. How is my iMED affected?

After you arrive in BC, you must apply for the BC government-run Medical Services Plan (MSP). When you register for courses, UBC automatically enrolls you for iMED temporary private health insurance to cover you during the 3-month MSP waiting period. Visit health insurance to learn more.

If you will study in Canada

Ensure you have been assessed iMED fees by checking your UBC tuition account and check your email for your iMED card. If your coverage period does not match your first 3 months in Canada, request an iMED date change, or advanced coverage.

If you will study online outside of Canada or will change your program start date

You may need to take action since your iMED coverage is based on starting your program in Canada in May.

If you defer your program and withdraw from all courses you registered for in the summer on the SSC before the add/drop deadline, your iMED fees will automatically be removed then when you register in the future you will automatically be enrolled again.

You will need to request changes if you are:

  • Starting your program online outside of Canada and you want your iMED fee moved to a future term
  • Deferring your program after the add/drop deadline and want your iMED fee removed
  • Studying outside of Canada as a one-term VIRS student and want your iMED fee removed

The deadline for all change requests is July 31, 2020. Send a detailed email to ips.ubco@ubc.ca  along with your student ID number and in the subject of your email please add ‘iMED’ and the type of change you are requesting.

Financial assistance

I’ve lost my job due to COVID-19. Is there financial assistance available for me?

If you lost your job because of COVID-19, you may be eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) as an international student or work permit holder. Among other eligibility criteria, you must reside in Canada and have a valid Social Insurance Number. CERB will provide temporary income support to those who are eligible in the amount of $500 per week for up to 16 weeks. Applications are being accepted starting April 6, 2020 to cover the period of March 15 to October 3, 2020.

Unfortunately, international students are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Response Benefit (CESB).

BC Temporary Rental Supplement Program (BCTRS):

Highlights: This program is available to eligible roommates – that is, if you live with a roommate who is not your immediate family member you can each apply for the Temporary Rental Supplement.

Note that this program is available for international students.


I am in financial distress. Can UBC help?

If you are experiencing financial distress related to COVID-19 (or any other situation), contact Student Services to speak to a representative.

Related COVID-19 resources

If you have questions

International Programs & Services is ready to support you by email or Zoom. to get in touch with an advisor please email: ips.ubco@ubc.ca.

Please be sure to include your student number when you email us. We will not be providing in-person service until further notice.

Take care, stay healthy, and we’ll see you soon.