International students: Failing to satisfy study permit conditions
Thursday, October 29, 2020 @ 1:44 PM | By Zayd Memon
Like most of us, international students face even more obstacles now during the pandemic to satisfy their study permit conditions. Classes are now conducted solely on Zoom; students cannot access libraries, nor can they connect with peers as they once could. Despite these obstacles, international students must find a way to endure through these difficult times and satisfy their course requirements since a failure to do so can render them inadmissible to Canada.
In 2019, Canada hosted 642,000 international students. Many of them, like domestic students, are contemplating whether to pursue their course requirements throughout the pandemic or defer a semester or two and return when in-person classes resume. Last week, I was speaking to a friend who is an international student from India studying in Canada on a study permit. He informed me that he decided to drop out of collage temporarily since studying online was “just not worth it” and that he would return, like many of his friends, when in-person classes resumed. He also informed me that employers in India valued an “in-person” Canadian degree significantly more than a Canadian degree pursued online. Despite this, I wondered if my friend had contemplated the consequences of deferring his education and failing to actively pursue his studies.
While many domestic students are conveniently deferring the school year or semester and planning on returning when in-person schooling begins, international students are not afforded the same luxury. In Gursimran v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2019 FC 1260, the Federal Court upheld the immigration officer’s decision to issue an exclusion order on the basis that the appellant was not complying with the conditions of her study permit. In this case, the judge reasoned that a semester or two alone was sufficient to render an international student inadmissible to Canada for misrepresentation.
Gursimran involved an international student, Kaur Gursimran, who was in Canada on a study permit. Gursimran failed multiple courses then transferred to two other institutions where she repeated the same courses and failed them again. Additionally, she took off two semesters in three years.
The issue before the court was whether the immigration officer’s decision to exclude Gursimran was reasonable.
Justice Ann Marie McDonald upheld the officer’s decision as reasonable and dismissed the judicial review. Justice McDonald underscored that Gursimran’s absences alone were enough to show that she did not comply with s. 220.1(1)(b) of the Immigration Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), which required that she actively pursue her studies. Justice McDonald relied on Kone v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship) 2018 FC 845, where the court held that the student’s failure to attend class for two terms was sufficient to justify excluding him under s. 220.1(1).
Whether the courts allow international students to defer their studies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and effectively, temporarily exempt students from satisfying their study permit condition of actively pursuing their studies, is yet to be established. The law as it currently stands does not accommodate for this exception. Gursimran serves as a reminder that the consequences for failing to satisfy the study permit conditions can render a student inadmissible to Canada for misrepresentation. As tempting as it may be for international students to defer the pursuit of their studies given the current circumstances, they should contemplate the possible consequences of doing so.
Zayd Memon is completing his last year in the JD English Common Law Program at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. He has been involved in a number of extracurricular and academic pursuits including chairing the Muslim Law Students Association of the University of Ottawa as president and interning with Legal Aid Ontario.
Photo credit / Nutthaseth Vanchaichana ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
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