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International Students Choose Canada as Top Destination: Survey

Many international students are choosing Canada as their top destination for the upcoming school term, a new study suggests.

Almost 60 per cent of international students interested in studying in Canada are fully vaccinated and another 33 per cent will get their vaccines as soon as they can, according to research from IDP Connect, a U.K.-based data-driven organization. It surveyed over 4,000 international students from 20 countries during July 2021.

“Canada continues to lead the world in terms of being seen as a welcoming destination for international students,” Jonah Duffin of IDP Connect said in a press release.

According to Statistics Canada, international student enrollment fell by nearly 17 per cent from 638,960 in 2019 to 530,540 in 2020. Foreign students contributed almost $22 billion to the Canadian economy in 2018 and supported about 170,000 jobs in 2016, according to Global Affairs Canada.

Even further, the study shows 83 per cent of students are not only willing to quarantine but they are also flexible about where they do so and are not put off by having to cover costs themselves.

In order to enter Canada as a student, students must have a valid study permit and currently be attending an institution that has a COVID-19 readiness plan.

Gina You, an immigration lawyer at Matkowsky Immigration Law, said for many international students “the rules are changing so quickly and so fast without even any notification.”

She said foreign students who are fully vaccinated are exempt from quarantine requirements with other additional precautions such as COVID-19 testing, but should still plan for a quarantine just in case. 

The federal government has also introduced policies to allow foreign students to study online from abroad as well as issued extensions and expansions for expired or expiring work permits.

The study found that 71 per cent of international students said Canada’s clear vaccination and quarantine policies made their study in the country more likely. 

Banned Flights

Many of Canada’s international students come from India, (172,625 students in 2018), with the country representing about 30 per cent of all international enrollments in Canada, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. 

You said many of her student clients are from India, which is why they are hoping the government won’t extend the flight ban from that country again. Currently, the government has suspended incoming flights from India until August 21, 2021.

The government of Canada has also said passengers who travel to Canada from India through an indirect route will need to provide a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test.

You said, fortunately, if international students cannot enter Canada before their start date, most have the option of beginning online, which won’t impact their eligibility for a postgraduate work permit after they complete their study.

In-Person Classes Needed

Manel Badr is an international student from Tunisia who is looking to study in Canada. She previously studied in Budapest, Hungary for her bachelor’s degree. Badr said her main worries are around being able to study in-person.

“I tried [online classes] already when I was in Hungary and I (didn’t understand) the teacher as well,” Badr told New Canadian media in a phone interview.

IDP’s study suggests that a lack of clarity as to when and how students will be able to transition to in-person teaching is the biggest barrier for those studying online.

With each university’s in-person learning plan being different, You said it can be a challenge for international students to navigate it.

Sami Khan is a Pakistani software engineer who is looking to study in Canada in Jan. 2022 and hopes for a quick transition to in-person studies. 

“Not being able to meet with other people physically is a loss,” he said in a phone interview.

You said having in-person classes is often more important for most international students than local ones because many seek “the Canadian experience.”

“They want to come here and interact with their peers,” she said. “A big kind of advantage that they would have is to practice their English skills, and that’s difficult to do in an online setting, because there’s less interaction.”

Vaccination Barriers

The study also noted that although the majority of students are willing to quarantine and be vaccinated, not all have the information or practical ability to do so. 

During her previous studies in Hungary, Badr wasn’t able to be vaccinated. Now, Badr is no longer eligible for vaccine doses in her community as they are currently only available for those 40 and older. 

“I’m waiting maybe one day, maybe one month later (for the vaccine) to be available and do it,” she said.

Khan has received his first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine, which isn’t approved by Canada. Khan said in order to be eligible for a Canada-approved vaccine, he needs to file an application with proof of a valid Canadian visa. 

Badr and Khan both plan to be vaccinated before travelling to Canada but, if not, they hope the option of a vaccine in Canada would be available. 

The study noted that 74 per cent of international students surveyed said the availability of vaccines upon arrival makes their study here more attractive. 

The research also found that vaccine hesitancy amongst students has markedly declined since the previous survey. Only nine per cent said they need more information before being vaccinated, compared to 30 per cent in March-April this year. 

A growing share of Canada’s new immigrants are former international students. 

About one-third of former foreign students also integrated successfully into Canada’s labour market, according to a 2019 study by Statistics Canada.

For 2021, Canada is seeking to welcome over 400,000 new immigrants to support its post-COVID economic recovery.

By Reedah Hayder, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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