Starting your program at USask

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) will be delivering most courses remotely for both the Spring/Summer semesters as well as the Fall 2020 semester (September to December).

All incoming international students should be aware of potential immigration implications resulting from COVID-19, remote learning and online courses delivery.

Important: Students should not travel to Canada unless they are required to by their academic program and if they are exempt from Canadian border restrictions. Please see the below Immigration and Travel section

Students required to be on-campus for upcoming semesters and who are exempt from travel restrictions should review our Transitioning to Canada page to assist with their settlement in Canada.

International students starting classes in Spring/Summer terms (May to August) and Fall 2020

You can begin your program remotely in Spring Summer or Fall 2020 even if your study permit has not been processed or approved yet.

Regardless, the University of Saskatchewan encourages all new students to apply for a study permit as soon as possible after receiving an admission letter, and certainly before your program starts, if enrolled in a program that lasts more than 6 months. Please apply without delay as study permit applications are still being received and processed and we expect significant backlogs and delays.

Please also be aware that a study permit is required to conduct any in-person program requirements in Canada, if the COVID-19 situation later allows.

If you would like to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit upon the completion of your program, and have your remote study count towards your PGWP validity period, you must have one of the following documents before you begin your online courses in spring or summer:

  • a letter of Introduction (also called a study permit approval letter), or
  • a valid study permit.

If you do not have one of the above documents when you start your courses remotely, your study time online in those courses will not count toward your PGWP validity period.

Those who have one of the above documents may complete up to 50% of their total program online while outside of Canada and may still be eligible for a PGWP for the full duration of the program.

IRCC further states that if you start your studies in Fall 2020, you won’t have time deducted from the length of your post-graduation work permit for studies you complete while outside Canada between fall 2020 and December 31, 2020.

It is each applicant's responsibility to ensure they meet the requirements set by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) when they apply for a study permit. All decisions regarding study permit eligibility and application requirements are made by IRCC. So while there is currently no IRCC policy that states starting studies remotely without a study permit will negatively affect your study permit application, the University of Saskatchewan cannot guarantee that your study permit application is successful and cannot influence the decision-making process of IRCC.

You will automatically be given 90 days to obtain biometrics for your study permit application due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All biometrics collection services in Canada and the US are suspended until further notice, and many Visa Application Centres (VACs) outside of Canada are temporarily closed.

Please read here the latest updates about how COVID-19 is affecting getting biometrics outside of Canada.

Even if you are unable to complete all aspects of your study permit application, including biometrics, you are strongly encouraged to apply for your study permit as soon as you are admitted and certainly before your program starts.

Please keep in mind that the university cannot guarantee that your study permit application is successful. Please consider how the completion of your studies would be affected if you are not approved for a study permit, particularly for any later in-person program requirements in Canada you may not be able to complete.

Knowing this information, if you would like to wait until your study permit application has been approved before you begin your studies, please contact us to let us know about your plans and to inquire about deferring your admission to a later term:

Do not book travel to Canada at this time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted Canada's entry requirements and travel is either prohibited or not recommended, with the situation changing rapidly. Authorization to study is separate from entry to Canada. Currently, only those students in possession of approved study permits or whose study permit application was approved before noon on March 18, 2020 are able to travel to Canada.

Please keep in mind that policies can change suddenly. Therefore, students should check IRCC website regularly and contact ISSAC for more questions:https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/coronavirus-covid19/visitors-foreign-workers-students.html#restrictions-students.

Immigration and travel

The Government of Canada is currently only permitting entry to Canada to current study permit holders and those approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020.

Do not attempt to travel to Canada if these exemptions do not apply to you.

On March 26, 2020, the Government of Canada provided an update on travel restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19. Foreign nationals who have committed to working, studying or making their home in Canada will be permitted to enter Canada by air or land. They will be exempt from the air travel and border restrictions and will be allowed to enter Canada.

The exemption will include international students who have a valid study permit, and international students who were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, but who have not yet travelled to Canada.

USask international students who fit the above exemption must also be in possession of a valid temporary resident visa (TRV) or electronic travel authorization (eTA) to enter Canada.

International students who do not possess a study permit or a letter of invitation dated on or before March 18, are not exempt and cannot travel to Canada.

Students can read more by visiting IRCC online. Policies can change suddenly, so check with ISSAC before travelling.

If your spouse holds a valid work permit, they may be exempt from the travel restrictions and can come to Canada if their work is for an essential purpose. Otherwise, they require authorization from IRCC before being allowed to board a plane to Canada. Please learn more here.

If your child has a valid study permit or has been approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, they are an international student themselves and as such can travel to Canada.

If your children or spouse does not have a work or study permit and only holds a temporary resident visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) they require written authorization from IRCC before being allowed to board a plane to Canada. Please learn more here.

For anyone travelling to Canada: Please remember, a Canada Border Service Agent makes the final decision as to authorizing entry into Canada. Given the various travel restrictions in place, expect your the examination by a Canada Border Service Agent when arriving in Canada to be onerous and extensive.

Please be aware that you will not be allowed to board a plane destined for Canada if you are showing any symptoms associated with COVID-19. Also, Canada Border Service Agents will assess your health before you leave the port of entry (in most cases the port of entry refers to an international airport where you first land in Canada). Once in Canada, all travellers must isolate for 14 days even if they have no symptoms. This is mandatory. You will be required to explain your self-isolation plan before leaving the port of entry including but not limited to; how you will buy groceries, access other essential services and obtain medical care.

If you do not have a reasonable self-isolation plan in place, please defer your travel to Canada until you do.

Please be aware of the current laws in force in Canada under the Quarantine Act. If you violate any of the following, you are breaking the law and may be charged:

  • You must self-isolate for 14 days once you arrive in Canada
  • If you develop symptoms during your flight to Canada, you must inform a Canada Border Service Agent when you arrive in Canada
  • If you do not have symptoms but think you were exposed to someone sick with COVID-19, you must inform a Canada Border Service Agent when you arrive in Canada

If you develop a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing within 14 days of arriving in Canada or at all in the coming weeks and months, call 811.

Policies and law are subject to change without notice. Please learn more here.

Current international students residing in Canada

Taking courses online due to COVID-19 will not affect your study permit compliance. However, it is your responsibility to extend your immigration documents and status before they expire and keep them valid and up to date at all times while in Canada. Please see below.

Extending your stay in Canada

If you want to continue studying, apply to extend your study permit before your current study permit expires.

If you are no longer studying but wish to stay in Canada longer:

In all cases, you can apply within Canada, without crossing a border. 

You can extend your stay in Canada as a visitor (visitor record) before your current authorized stay ends. Your authorized length of stay in Canada is normally up to 6 months from the date your entered Canada or as dictated by information provided by the Canada Border Service agent in your passport.

However, you cannot continue being a student by extending your authorized stay. Instead, you must apply for a study permit and contact the International Student and Study Abroad Centre for more information first.

You can apply as a visitor (visitor record) within Canada, without crossing a border.

Your temporary resident visa (TRV) - the counterfoil document in your passport --or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) are entry documents and not relevant in determining your length of stay.

Students who apply to extend their status as a student, a worker or a visitor and their status expires before a decision is made on their application, receive implied status and can remain in Canada until a decision is made on their application.

The current federal travel restrictions prohibit traveling to a border crossing to extend or to apply for an immigration document (commonly known as flag poling). No student should do this. Study permit extensions, post-graduation work permits, temporary resident visas and visitor status extensions must be made online.

Most biometric collection points in Canada are not available. If you need to give biometrics for your immigration application in Canada, your application will remain in the queue until your biometrics can be submitted. IRCC has removed deadlines for biometric submission.

Please read here on the latest updates from IRCC on how you might be affected.

Working during studies

Taking courses online will not affect your eligibility to work off or on campus as long as you still meet the eligibility criteria.

Note that taking courses online does not mean you are on an academic break and you can still only work the allowable number of hours as per the eligibility criteria outlined:

Eligible study permit holders who have been forced to drop to part-time studies or take a break in their studies due to COVID-19 can continue to work on or off campus. They are still subject to the authorized number of hours they would have been permitted to work as a full-time student.

For instance, full-time students during the winter 2020 semester who were forced to drop to part time and complete their courses via distance learning are authorized to work off campus for up to 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions and full time during the DLI’s regularly scheduled breaks.

If the spring/summer period was to be a regularly scheduled break, students can work full-time. If it was to be an academic session, they can continue to work off campus up to 20 hours a week.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has lifted off-campus work hour restrictions for international students if their employment is considered an essential service.

Eligible study permit holders are now permitted to work more than 20-hours per week during academic session if they meet eligibility criteria for off-campus employment and the employment is for an essential service. This temporary rule change will be in place until August 31, 2020.

To find out if your employment is considered an essential service, please visit Public Safety Canada online or the provincial government of Saskatchewan.

Under the regular legislation, study permit holders who have a regularly-scheduled break from May 1 to August 31 are permitted to work more than 20-hours per week if they were full-time student in the semester before and the semester after the regularly scheduled break.

Please contact the International Student and Study Abroad Centre at international.students@usask.ca if you have any questions.

You are still able to renew your Social Insurance Number during the COVID-19 pandemic. Service Canada Centres are closed for in-person applications, but applications can be made online or via mail.

Your Social Insurance Number is still valid if you submitted a study permit extension, or post-graduate work permit application and are now in implied status. You will need to apply to renew your Social Insurance Number once you receive your new study permit or post-graduate work permit.

Post-graduate work permit applications

IRCC has confirmed that courses delivered online on an exceptional basis due to COVID-19 will not affect Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program eligibility. For more information visit this IRCC webpage.

You should remain mindful of timelines and eligibility for the PGWP. Learn more in the International Student Guide.

Due to school closures, many international students may be unable to obtain a letter of completion or final transcript from their DLI.

As a temporary facilitation measure, applicants who apply for a post-graduation work permit will be allowed to submit an application without their letter of completion or final transcript. Applicants should submit a letter of explanation with their initial application and indicate that they are unable to submit the requested documents due to school closure.

Once these documents become available, applicants should submit the documents using the IRCC Web form. If no documents are submitted by the time the application is ready to process, the documents will be requested by the processing officer.

Money and finances

Students experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak should contact ISSAC at international.students@usask.ca to be connected to additional resources.

  • Interest-free loans from Student Central. Please contact askus@usask.ca to learn more
  • International students may be eligible for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. They must meet eligibility criteria
  • Your bank may have relief programs in place due to COVID-19
  • Your country of citizenship may have relief programs available for students abroad
  • The City of Saskatoon has a deferral plan for utility payments
  • Contact your family back home including extended family
  • If you have family or friends in Canada who are permanent residents or Canadian citizens, they may be able to co-sign onto a bank loan for you
  • If you work in healthcare capacity, you may be eligible for the Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement Program
  • If you have family or friends in Canada who are permanent residents or Canadian citizens, they may be able to co-sign onto a bank loan for you
  • Not all supports are financial – browse the Covidsupportyxe.ca page for information on food hampers and other supports
  • Contact your landlord and see if a payment schedule can be arranged. Keep in mind that all evictions in Saskatchewan are currently suspended due to COVID-19. You would still be responsible for rental payments at a later date.

Lastly, the University of Saskatchewan announced that a majority of courses will be delivered remotely in Fall 2020. That means you may be able to study from back home if that is more financially feasible. You would have to assess personal and public health risks that come with air travel and COVID-19.

The Canada Revenue Agency announced that the deadline for individual tax filing has been extended to June 1, 2020.

On-campus tax clinics through ISSAC, the USSU and the GSA have been canceled. Students needing assistance with tax filing can use the following resources:

  • Community tax clinics through CRA
    • Check directory in advance. Some clinics may be canceled due to Covid-19
  • Fee for service organizations and companies include but are not limited to:
    • H&R Block
    • Liberty Tax Service

Scams targeting international students

There are phone, email, and text message tax scams that claim to represent the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and other federal departments. It is important to learn how to recognize these potential scams in order to avoid giving your personal information or money to fraudulent individuals.

According to the Government of Canada, the employees of the Canadian government will never ask for the following via email, phone or text message:

  • give or ask for personal or financial information and ask you to click on a link
  • email you a link asking you to fill in an online form with personal or financial details
  • send you an email with a link to your refund
  • demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others
  • threaten you with arrest or a prison sentence

We encourage all students to learn how to spot cybercrime and phone scams. Review the university's Information Security website to learn how to avoid being the victim of cybercrime. For more information on how to protect yourself from internet, email and telephone scams, please visit the Canadian government website.

Be mindful of fraudulent job postings as well. Student Employment and Career Centre has a great resource to help spot fraudulent job posts. Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Health coverage

Saskatchewan Health has confirmed that international students with expired Saskatchewan Health Cards who have implied status on their study permits will continue to be covered by the SK Health Plan for an extended period of time.

Every student who currently has implied status with an expired SK health card is asked to do the following:

  1. Submit the following to eHealth Saskatchewan for a six-month extension on their health card without losing coverage. The submissions can be done electronically via the eHealth Saskatchewan online portal or by mail at:

    eHealth Saskatchewan
    Health Registries
    2130-11th Avenue
    Regina, SK S4P 0J5

  2. Complete and submit the updated immigration document form found on eHealth website.

  3. Provide proof of payment for study permit extension application (e.g. payment receipt).

If your study permit extension has been approved, you must send a copy of your new study permit to eHealth Saskatchewan to extend your SK health card through the online portal, or by mail (see above).

Going home early

Contact the International Student and Study Abroad Centre (ISSAC) to discuss your options. Contact ISSAC by phone at 306-966-4925 or by email at international.students@usask.ca.

International Student and Study Abroad Centre

The International Student and Study Abroad Centre (ISSAC) is closed but offering remote services. Visit the ISSAC page for more information.

International student guide

Find everything you need to know about life as an international student at the University of Saskatchewan including immigration matters and information on working and living in Canada.

External resources

For more information, please consult the following document developed by Global Affairs Canada.