IRCC Clarifies Actively-Pursuing Studies Requirement – January 2019 Update

On 7 January 2019, IRCC updated their study permit program instructions to include  more clarity on the actively pursuing studies requirement. See link here: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/temporary-residents/study-permits/assessing-conditions.html#completion-courses

There’s a lot to unpack but here’s a few points worth noting:

Discretion to IRCC – re: Institutional Changes

It is not uncommon for international students to change institutions a number of times during their studies. These instructions clarify that this can be examined by an Officer when determining compliance. The instructions write:

However, to assess if a student who has changed institutions or programs of study a number of times should be considered to be actively pursuing their studies, the officer should consider the student’s reasons for the changes. In cases where multiple program or institutional changes do not appear to support the expectation that the student is making reasonable progress toward the completion of a Canadian credential, the officer may determine that the study permit holder has not fulfilled their study permit condition to actively pursue their course or program of study.

150-Day Deadline for Program Changes, Leave, Deferral, and School Closures

A 150-day deadline has been set in these instructions for individuals seeking to resume studies after previous studies completed, leave, deferral of studies, and school closures.

The instruction in those cases is to change to visitor status/worker status or else leave Canada.

One thing missing in all of this is a formal way to invalidate study permits. Per R.222, the application for a visitor record does not do this (as much is also repeated in section G. Change of Status in the instructions.

Invalidity

  •  (1) A study permit becomes invalid upon the first to occur of the following days:

    • (a) the day that is 90 days after the day on which the permit holder completes their studies,

    • (b) the day on which a removal order made against the permit holder becomes enforceable, or

    • (c) the day on which the permit expires.

  • Marginal note:Exception

    (2) Paragraph (1)(a) does not apply to

    • (a) a person described in any of paragraphs 300(2)(a) to (i); or

    • (b) a family member of a foreign national who resides in Canada and is described in any of paragraphs 215(2)(a) to (i).

  • SOR/2014-14, s. 16.

Evidence of Compliance 

One of my previous concerns with the actively-pursuing studies requirement and the new email

Examples of evidence that officers may request include but are not limited to the following:

  • official document from the institution confirming enrolment status
  • official document from the institution confirming the reason for leave and the date of approval
  • official document from the institution confirming the date the student formally withdrew from an institution or program of study
  • official document from the institution confirming the date the student was suspended or dismissed
  • official document from the institution confirming the date the student ceased studying
  • current and previous transcripts
  • character references (such as a note from a professor)
  • note from a medical practitioner certifying the medical need and length of leave required
  • documentation or letter attesting that the school has ceased operations and is no longer offering courses or programs of study
  • any additional and relevant documents, at the discretion of the officer

Clarifying the Consequences of Non-Compliance

I am glad IRCC has clarified the consequences of non-compliance. The instructions state

Non-compliance with study permit conditions may result in enforcement action; that is, an exclusion order can be issued for non-compliance, per subparagraph R228(1)(c)(v).

Non-compliance with study permit conditions or engaging in unauthorized work or study may also negatively affect future applications that are made under the IRPA and IRPR. For example, a subsequent study permit or work permit may not be issued until a period of 6 months has passed, since the cessation of the unauthorized work or study or failure to comply with a condition, per section R221 and subsection R200(3).

The first step to curbing non-compliance is providing clear knowledge of the consequences of violations.

Clarifying Exemptions

Given the lay challenges of tracing the legislation, it is useful that IRCC has now clearly laid out the exemptions.

In accordance with subsection R220.1(3), the following people are exempt from the study permit conditions under subsection R220.1(1):

  • a person in Canada who has made a refugee claim that has not yet been determined by the Refugee Protection Division as well as that person’s family members
  • a person in Canada on whom refugee protection has been conferred and their family members
  • a person who is a member of the Convention refugees abroad class or a humanitarian protected persons abroad class and their family members
  • a properly accredited diplomat; consular officer; representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies or of any intergovernmental organization of which Canada is a member; the members of the suite of such a person; and the family members of such a person
  • a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act, including a person who has been designated as a civilian component of that visiting force under paragraph 4(c) of that Act, and their family members
  • a person who holds a study permit and has become temporarily destitute through circumstances beyond their control and beyond the control of any person on whom that person is dependent for the financial support to complete their term of study
  • a person whose study in Canada is under an agreement or arrangement between Canada and another country that provides for reciprocity of student exchange programs
  • a person who works in Canada as an officer of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service or of United States Customs carrying out pre-inspection duties, as an American member of the International Joint Commission or as a United States grain inspector, and their family members
  • a United States Government official in possession of an official United States passport who is assigned to a temporary posting in Canada and their family members
  • a family member of a foreign national who resides in Canada and is described as any of the following
    • a person who holds a study permit
    • a person who holds a work permit
    • a person who holds a temporary resident permit issued under subsection A24(1) that is valid for at least 6 months
    • a person who is subject to an unenforceable removal order
    • a person who is a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act, including a person who has been designated as a civilian component of those armed forces
    • a person who is an officer of a foreign government sent, under an exchange agreement between Canada and one or more countries, to take up duties with a federal or provincial agency
    • a participant in sports activities or events in Canada either as an individual participant or as a member of a foreign-based team or Canadian amateur team
    • an employee of a foreign news company for the purpose of reporting on events in Canada
    • a person who is responsible for assisting a congregation or group in the achievement of its spiritual goals and whose main duties are to preach doctrine, perform functions related to gatherings of the congregation or group, or provide spiritual counselling

It will be important for IRCC to standardize in their processes a request for a family information form. One common scenario especially in this context is the spouse of a skilled worker (PGWP) or perhaps another student (SP holder) who is unaware of the nature of their relationship (e.g., common-law partnership).

Conclusion

Overall, this is much needed clarity and change I’ve been pushing for. The 150-days seems fair and offers a guidepost for both student and school. I also liked that IRCC put in blue, the importance of updating contact information and creating a MyCIC account to ensure updates are received.

We will see how it all works out in practice and it is my hope that IRCC does not exercise discretion to remove students heavy handedly.

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