The Canadian government is telling international students they may not be able to come to Canada because of travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday’s update from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) states that students who received their introductory letter from IRCC before March 18 can travel to Canada, but only for a “non-discretionary or non-optional purpose.”

IRCC notes that while post-secondary campuses are closed, classes will continue online. Canada Border Services Agency officers will make decisions about whether a students’ purpose of travel is discretionary or not based on “individual circumstances.”

Students whose study permit application was approved after March 18 will be notified that they may not be exempt from travel restrictions. These students should not make plans to enter Canada until the government lifts travel restrictions “as they will not be allowed to travel to or enter Canada.”

Universities Canada president Paul Davidson said the recent new measures should be encouraging to international students, but he also wants to see an update on how travel restrictions will affect international students moving forward.

It’s a very important question not only for our sector, but for all of Canada.Paul Davidson

“We are hoping that very shortly that the government will clarify how and when international students will be able to return to Canada,” he told HuffPost Canada.

It could take students a few weeks to prepare to travel, so Davidson said he’s hoping international students soon get a signal that they’re welcome in Canada.

He said about a quarter of universities’ revenue comes from international students who are charged higher fees that aren’t subject to provincial regulations.

Davidson said Universities Canada, along with colleges, has been working to find approaches to allow international students to register and complete courses on line and get to Canada as soon as they’re permitted to travel.

“It’s a very important question not only for our sector but for all of Canada,” he said.

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