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For hundreds of thousands of foreign students currently living in Canada, being away from home while navigating an uncertain future can be especially difficult. Here's a quick roundup of programs and support options for international students.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, international students in Canada have faced unique challenges, adding more stress on top of the current crisis. For hundreds of thousands of international students currently living in Canada, being away from home while navigating an uncertain future can be especially difficult.

The Canadian government, institutions and communities have created programs to support international students with things like mental health and well-being, academics, employment and more.

Here’s a quick roundup of the COVID-19 programs and support options international students can access.

    Mental Health and Well-being

    Being away from loved ones during a time of crisis can be stressful, particularly for international students living away from friends and family. Mental well-being can affect all aspects of life, so it’s important to take care of yourself.

    Study Permits

    Those with study permits set to expire but planning to continue studying in Canada can apply online for a renewal before the permit expires. This will trigger “implied status” before Immigration and Citizenship makes a final decision. That means you will be able to continue studying as long as you remain in Canada. Check the Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada website if you need to travel outside of Canada while you are on implied status.

    Note: The average processing time for these applications is around 90 days and costs $150.

    Work Permits and Employment

    New regulations allow eligible international students to work full-time as opposed to part-time, until August 31, 2020 in an essential service or function.

    • The federal government has published a complete list of essential services and functions as well as current available job opportunities across the country.
    • International students currently doing online classes and coursework can still qualify for the post-graduation work permit by providing appropriate documentation to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Learn more about the requirements.

    Social Activities

    The temporary suspension of many in-person social activities and clubs both on and off campus can be especially disappointing for international students who depend on these social activities to make connections. Fortunately, many campus clubs and organizations are moving online and hosting virtual events, so take advantage of these opportunities to meet new people, especially before classes start in the fall.

    There are a number of digital programs and networking opportunities available on RBC Future Launch, such as the entrepreneurial and women’s empowerment program RadGen, and the Students Commission of Canada, which fosters youth engagement, networking, advocacy and more.

    View a full list of RBC Future Launch programs.

    Campus and Academic Support

    The International Students Office at your host institution can offer valuable support and guidance including information about online courses, mental health services, food banks and more. This office may also be able to help international students living in campus residence to apply for an extension or find alternate housing.

    Other organizations like EduCanada and the Canadian Bureau for International Education offer a range of resources, webinars and symposiums geared towards international student experiences and academic support.

    Stigmatization and Awareness-Raising

    Some international students may be unsure how or where to get help during the COVID-19 pandemic. Others may worry about facing stigmatization when seeking support in Canada. There are a number of support and advocacy groups that can help international students address their unique circumstances, challenges and questions including:

    • The Canadian Federation of Students has expanded their advocacy campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic and are offering additional support for international students.
    • The Canadian Alliance of Student Association is a not-for-profit student organization that advocates for domestic and international post-secondary students. They have recently published research on the effect of COVID-19 on the student population, including the additional challenges faced by international students.

    In these unprecedented times, it’s important to seek support and advice wherever possible. To learn more about how RBC is helping students during the COVID-19 pandemic through virtual skill-building and networking programs, mental health resources, financial advice and more.