At the time of writing, COVID-19 continues to take a toll on office operations in Canada and beyond. This has caused the offices of the IRCC and Service Canada to operate at a limited capacity. However, the effects of COVID-19 do not stop here.
Due to restrictions on movement and travel, many applicants may experience difficulties in many aspects of the Canadian visa application process. These difficulties may come in many forms, with the most common possibly being an inability to secure certain documents and travel.
For international students, these obstacles are also present. Luckily, IRCC has made certain changes to its study permit program to cater to international students even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Approval-in-Principle Visa is the product of a major policy shift in the study permit application process. If you plan on becoming an international student in Canada, the AIP Visa may be your pathway to be able to study in Canada despite COVID-19.
What Is The Approval-In-Principle (AIP) Visa?
Recognizing difficulties on both sides of the study permit application process, IRCC launched the Approval-in-Principle Visa for students. This visa will allow students to begin their education with a Canadian designated learning institution or DLI before arriving in the country.
This means that once accepted, an international student may begin course work with his or her DLI before arriving in Canada. This can benefit you since you do not have to be in Canada to begin your studies.
Currently, you can apply for the AIP visa online. If you are unable to apply online, you may apply on paper.
The application process consists of two stages. Since IRCC launched this visa in response to the difficulties caused by COVID-19, it allows applicants to pass as many documents as possible. Originally, applicants needed to submit all requirements like biometrics to be approved.
The Two-Tier Application Process
The application process for the AIP visa for students consists of two stages. For students to be able to commence with their online studies before coming to Canada, they would have to pass the second stage.
Stage One Requirements
In the first stage, IRCC checks the eligibility of applicants. To check your eligibility for a study permit under an approval-in-principle status, immigration officers check the following:
Acceptance Letter From Your DLI
During this stage, one of the most essential parts of the application is your letter of acceptance. This letter of acceptance must come from a Canadian DLI (designated learning institution).
On the Canadian government’s main site, you will be able to see a list of DLIs. Not only will knowing the status of your post-secondary institution or university allow you to apply for the AIP visa. It can also determine whether or not you are eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
If you want to study in a post-secondary institution in Quebec, you might also need an additional document. This document is the Quebec Acceptance Certificate. The requirements for this additional document varies from one country to another. You may check the requirements set for your country of origin here.
Proof Of Funds
You may also need to provide proof that you can financially support yourself and your studies. For this, you may have to provide proof of funds.
The amount that you intend to show must be sufficient to cover your tuition fees and living costs. Your funds may also need to be enough to support members of your family if they are travelling with you to Canada.
Proof That You Will Leave Canada Once Your Study Permit Expires
You may also need to convince an immigration officer of your plans to leave Canada after your study permit expires.
You can do this in several ways. One is by supplying proof of residence, occupation, and assets in your country of origin.
Stage Two Requirements
Once your application makes it past stage one, you will receive a notification through your online IRCC account.
In the second stage, immigration officers check for admissibility into Canada. For this reason, the following documents may be required from you:
You may have to submit biometrics. These would include your photographs and fingerprints. At the time of writing, the biometrics fee costs 85.00 CAD.
Medical Exam Report
One requirement for admissibility into Canada is a medical exam report. You can have a medical examination done in your country of origin. However, you need to make sure that the physician conducting the medical exam is an IRCC-authorized panel physician.
Police Clearance Certificate/ Criminal Background Check
A police clearance certificate from your local police office is also required. If you have lived in any other country for longer than six months, you may also need a police clearance certificate from this country.
What To Do If You Are Unable To Produce Certain Documents
IRCC recognizes the difficulties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, it allows applicants to submit some documents at a later time. For the time being, IRCC only requires applicants to submit “as many of the required documents as possible”.
As well, IRCC will not reject applications made after September 15, 2020. Applications will still be accepted even with incomplete documents. For every document you might be unable to secure, you will have to upload a copy of an explanation letter.
Letter Of Explanation
Your letter of explanation should contain the reasons for why you were unable to acquire a certain document. The closure of offices can be your reason.
If possible, you may also attach proof of your efforts to secure certain documents. For instance, you can attach a copy of a request form for transcripts and a letter mentioning delays in processing a document.
Acceptance Letter From Your Designated Learning Institution
An important requirement is still the acceptance letter from your DLI. Without the acceptance letter, your application for the AIP visa may not be entertained.
IRCC at this time will not reject applications with incomplete documents but the letter of acceptance is a must.
How To Create An Online Account
At the time of writing, IRCC encourages that applications for the AIP visa be made online and not at the port of entry.
To apply online, you will need an online account. An online account allows you to do three things:
- Make payments for your AIP application
- Receive notifications from IRCC on the status of your AIP application
- Upload the necessary documents for your application
There are two ways you can create your online account:
Option 1: Through GCKey
You can begin creating your online account through GC Key by requesting a personal access code or PAC
Due to COVID-19, the best way to request one might be online. It normally takes five to ten days to receive your PAC. The PAC allows you to access the online services of Service Canada and IRCC.
Once you receive your PAC, you may sign up for GCKey.
Option 2: A Sign-In Partner
Applicants may also create and sign-in to their online accounts through a sign-in partner.
Sign-in partners are banking institutions. Sign-in partners use SecureKey to connect the user to the Canadian government.
Using a sign-in partner, you may be able to create an online account using your bank details.
The Canadian government is exercising flexibility to continue its pursuit to bring in the best and brightest to Canada. Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the offices of IRCC and Service Canada are accepting and processing visa applications.
IRCC is not only processing the applications of permanent residence applicants. IRCC is also still accepting international students. Through the AIP Visa, students can complete part of their coursework with a DLI online even before they arrive in Canada.
Applicants for this visa can expect more flexibility from IRCC as it recognizes the difficulties brought about by the current pandemic.