Last Updated on August 26, 2021
Indian nationals are coming to Canada using indirect routes to get around Ottawa’s ban on direct flights from India – and many are struggling to get the best travel advice to avoid major inconveniences.
Indians have been unable to fly directly to Canada since Apr. 22 but that hasn’t stopped them from coming to Canada to attend colleges and universities or to immigrate under Ottawa’s open doors immigration policies.
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India is a major source of international students for Canada. During the first four months of this year, Canada issued almost 100,000 study permits to Indian students, official statistics from the Canadian High Commission in Delhi, India reveal.
The upswing in the number of study permits issued to Indian international students is up by more than a third, or 35.4 per cent, almost 34,000, for the four months that ended Apr. 30 compared to the same period last year. That’s also up almost 4.2 per cent from the 96,000 for the comparable four-month period in 2019.
Many international students are choosing to take their courses entirely online since that time will still count towards their Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) eligibility under Ottawa’s temporary, COVID-19 pandemic policies.
Others, though, are choosing to come to Canada to attend college and university in person.
Many of them are desperately seeking advice on how best to get here and avoid being detained unnecessarily in the third country and keep their costs down.
Popular Indirect Routes
There are several popular indirect routes for Indians who want to come to Canada, including through Serbia, Albania and Ethiopia, Singh reportedly told the National Post.
The popularity of the routes changes all the time as COVID-19 public health restrictions in various countries are altered.
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But coming to Canada via Mexico appears to currently be the hottest ticket.
Although it has banned direct flights from India to curb the spread of COVID-19, Canada is otherwise taking several measures to boost immigration.
In January, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino kicked off the new year by offering a lifeline to international students who might not be able to qualify for Open Work Permits due to the economic blow of the pandemic.
Mendicino offered PGWP holders the chance to qualify for an Open Work Permit so they could gather the experience they needed to qualify for permanent residence.
Candidates with a PGWP that expired on or after Jan. 30, 2020, and were still in Canada, were given six months to apply for an Open Work Permit to help them continue to seek the work experience they need to qualify to stay in Canada long-term.
“This new policy means that young students from abroad who have studied here can stay and find work, while ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow,” Mendicino said.
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“Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”
At the same time, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) also relaxed its rules about studying online, allowing international students who could not come to Canada due to the border closure the opportunity complete 100 per cent of their studies online and still be able to get a PGWP.
Since then, Ottawa has relaxed the border and public health restrictions limiting the movement of most international students who arrive in Canada.
As of Aug. 9, international students who landed in Canada no longer needed to stay three nights in a government-designated “quarantine hotel”. They only needed to have 14-day quarantine plans.
“The Government of Canada recognizes the tremendous social, cultural and economic benefits that international students bring to Canada and acknowledges that there are benefits for students who choose to study in Canada beyond earning a degree or diploma,” noted the IRCC.
“That is why, throughout the pandemic, IRCC has striven to accommodate international students by introducing a variety of temporary policy changes, including measures put in place to benefit international students studying online from abroad.”
Passengers who travel to Canada from India via an indirect route need to obtain a pre-departure negative COVID-19 molecular test result from a third country before continuing their journey to Canada.
Travellers who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 must provide proof of a positive COVID-19 molecular test conducted between 14 and 90 days prior to departure, instead of a negative COVID-19 molecular test. This proof must be obtained in a third country before the continuation of the journey to Canada. They may also need to seek entry and stay in a third country for at least 14 days.