Canada’s new border control measures for air travellers are turning into a nightmare for international students, said Languages Canada, a national non-profit representative for 203 accredited English and French language education programs.
“The latest requirements imposed by government is taking away the ability to work for the 19,000 Canadians employed in our sector by unnecessarily choking the flow of international students,” said Gonzalo Peralta, Executive Director of Languages Canada.
“The confusion, the lack of functionality, and the cost of new requirements associated with studying in Canada will result in [international] students postponing studies or choosing a competing destination,” he said.
The new measures that went into effect this week, mandates that all non-essential air travellers take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and reserve a room at a hotel for three nights while awaiting their results. The measure would still be in effect regardless if the traveller’s mandated 72-hour pre-arrival test has turned out negative.
The hotel stay will be at the expense of the traveller and expected to cost about $2,000.
If the result turns out positive, the traveller would isolate at designated government facilities. Otherwise, they would complete the rest of their mandated two-week quarantine at home.
Languages Canada said it has received a litany of complaints and questions from Canadian language education institutions and students. They include:
- The 800 number is not accessible from overseas. A new 613 area code number was added but it only accepts collect calls, adding to taxpayers’ costs.
- One person made 10 attempts to call; on the 11th, there was a 3-hour wait before the call dropped.
- Why is the Canadian government using an antiquated, telephone-only booking system when solid online platforms are available? Taking reservations over the phone leaves room for data-entry error, creating more confusion—especially considering only English and French language options are available for international students who speak neither of these (which is why they want to come to Canada!).
- Why is the Canadian government using an American company to manage bookings when they can choose from a number of excellent Canadian businesses?
- There is no clarity: which costs are included, and which aren’t (meals, tests, etc.), how will this be applied to unaccompanied minors, how will end-of-quarantine tests be mailed from quarantine locations and who will pay for it?
- Why are regular public shuttles being used instead of private airport transfer options as demanded in the past by federal and provincial governments?
- Why is the government claiming that containing the spread of the virus is their objective and allow a person testing positive on arrival to proceed to a second quarantine hotel or location?
- Are three COVID tests (pre-departure, on-arrival, and end-of-quarantine) truly necessary?
Peralta said educational institutions have already spent millions of dollars to comply with COVID-19 readiness plan requirements as mandated by the government last fall.
Strict policies have already been adopted for international students, including mandatory testing, tracking, and a 14-day quarantine. Systems costing millions of dollars have been set up to handle the logistics required to comply with these policies.
“These systems have been working successfully from the beginning. In fact, Languages Canada’s Study Safe Corridor–Travel Safe program has not had a single COVID case among its students since it launched in October 2020, and it is designed to safely handle infections should any occur.”
“It doesn’t have to be this complicated. We already have a proven, safe, cost-effective, and Canadian solution in place,” added Peralta.
Canada’s language education sector is a vital segment of the nation’s $22 billion-a-year international education sector and attracts over 150,000 international students to learn English or French. Over one-third of language students go on to pursue post-secondary programs in Canada and many remain in the country as skilled immigrants.
The University of BC said its working with Universities Canada and the Bureau for International Education to minimize the impact of travel restrictions on international students, according to the Ubyssey, the campus student paper.
“Travel to Canada for UBC’s international students is considered essential. These are not tourists. Our hope in conversation with the government is to eliminate for students to be impacted by these changes,” said Michelle Suderman, director of international student development.