Nanaimo campus

COVID-19 Updates for International Students

[Updated October 7, 2020]

Our international students are valued members of our Vancouver Island University community and we honour your contributions to the VIU family. We recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for you and have created this webpage to provide additional information about supports and resources specifically for international students at VIU. We will update this page regularly as new information and resources become available. In addition, COVID-19 information for all VIU students and community members is available at  VIU's COVID-19 Update.

Dear Students,


A warm and enthusiastic welcome to Vancouver Island University! Teaching and learning is looking a little different at VIU this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure the safety and well-being of our students and employees, the majority of your courses will be online, depending on your program. Registered students will have received more detailed information from their instructors and program chairs; for those of you who have not yet registered for courses and are looking for more information, please see this course delivery model by program/faculty document for more details. 


We are excited about the courses and support services that will now be available online. VIU is working hard to ensure students receive an interactive, engaging learning experience that includes lots of personal time with your professors, and access to all of our services via alternative methods such as email, text and video chat.


We understand that the current world situation is likely raising a lot of questions for you, including whether you can travel to Canada for any experiential parts of courses or programs; whether your eligibility for the Post-Graduate Work Permit will be affected; and what options exist if you decide to delay coming to VIU.


We have created a Frequently Asked Questions page to answer as many of your questions as we can and we will continue, in collaboration with other post-secondary institutions across Canada, to lobby the government to make the changes needed to ensure visa applications and other immigration processes and approvals are not a barrier to your studies at VIU. If your question is not answered in the above link or on this page, please email us at


I want you to know that you are part of the VIU family, and we value the contributions you bring to our campuses. We will do everything we can to support you during this crisis and we want to ensure that there is no disruption to your educational plans.


Our hope is to return to our face-to-face course delivery as soon as it is possible and safe to do so. Our main priority remains the safety and well-being of our students, employees and broader community, and we continue to closely follow the advice and guidelines of our public health office. I hope you are all staying safe and healthy during this time.


Thank you for choosing VIU.



Philip Oxhorn, PhD


Faculty of International Education

As you know, international students are normally required to have a valid study permit in order to come to Canada to pursue full-time studies at Vancouver Island University. This fall, due to international travel restrictions around COVID-19 and the fact that classes at VIU will be delivered in an online format, we recognize that many of you will not be travelling to Canada at this time and instead will be starting your VIU education from the comfort of your own home. Please see 2020 Fall Semester Course Delivery Model by Program/Faculty and a letter from our Dean, Dr. Philip Oxhorn, about studying online.

You may be wondering how this current situation will affect your ability to receive a study permit and whether your time studying at home will count towards your eligibility for post-grad work permit upon graduation.

We hope the information on the following pages provides you with the information you need.

VIU will return to face-to-face course delivery as soon as it is possible and safe to do so.   Once we receive guidance from the Government and Public Health authorities, VIU will make a decision on how classes will be delivered in January 2021.

Please read the information below carefully and contact us if you have any questions. We also encourage you to read our refund policies and COVID FAQs.

Can I start my studies in Fall?



If I study online from my home country, do I need to apply for a study permit?

  • We strongly recommend that you apply for your study permit immediately upon receiving your letter of acceptance from VIU.
  • VIU will allow you to begin your studies before receiving your approved study permit if you choose. You will be able to start your program online even before you enter Canada (and before your hard copy study permit is issued to you at the Port of Entry).


What if I do receive my study permit by September?

If you receive notice that your study permit has been approved prior to starting your online studies:

  • You will start your studies online from home.
  • The time you spend studying online will be counted towards your eligibility for the Post Grad Work Permit, up to a maximum of 50% of your program length.
  • You are expected to enter Canada once face-to-face program delivery resumes to attend classes at VIU, assuming you are able to leave your own country and assuming the Government of Canada has opened up travel to Canada for study permits issued after March 18, 2020.  We will inform you as soon as this information is available.


What if I don’t receive a decision about my study permit application by September? Can I still start my studies?

  • Yes, you may start your program online.
  • Starting your program online before you have a permit does not guarantee that your application for a study permit will be approved.

Your online studies will start to count towards the Post Grad Work Permit (PGWP) on the date that your study permit is approved.


What if my study permit application is denied?

  • If you have received a visa refusal you will have the option to reapply for the permit once you have addressed the grounds for refusal.  There is no guarantee that you will be approved the second time.
  • You may continue your studies online, however once face-to-face delivery resumes at VIU you likely will not be able to continue or complete your program online.
  • You may be able to transfer credits earned at VIU to another university in Canada or in another country.


Am I eligible for a refund of my tuition deposit if my study permit application is denied?

  • If your study permit application is denied up to and including the first two weeks of the academic term, and the document is received by VIU within this time frame, you will be eligible to request a refund.
  • If your study permit application is denied more than two weeks after you have started the academic term, or the refusal letter is received by VIU after the first two weeks, you will not be eligible for any refund of tuition fees.


I will study less than 6 months (eg. as a study abroad, exchange or ESL student) at VIU, do I need to apply for study Permit?

  • Short term students in programs that are less than 6 months do not require a study permit to study in Canada whether the delivery method is online or face-face.


Knowing I don’t require a study permit as a short-term (less than 6-months) student can I come to Canada?

  • As of June 2020, the Government of Canada has travel restrictions on foreign nationals for non-essential (discretionary) travel. This restriction is in effect until June 30, 2020 and may be extended.  Coming to Canada for study is considered non-essential.  Should these restrictions change and Canada begins to permit such travel again then yes, we would love to welcome you to Nanaimo. 
  • Stay up to-date with immigration information from IRCC.  

To ensure the safety and well-being of our students, employees and broader community, VIU has chosen to move to a hybrid model of education delivery. This means that much of your education will be done online. You will still have the same personalized, one-on-one access to your faculty members and other support services. Please see 2020 Fall Semester Course Delivery Model by Program/Faculty and a letter from our Dean, Dr. Philip Oxhorn, about studying online.

Please check the IRCC and CBSA websites to see if you are eligible for a study and/or visitor permit to come to Canada as well as if you might qualify for entry to Canada given COVID-19 related restrictions for non-essential travel.  VIU will also update this page soon with more information for those students requiring face-to-face components at VIU this fall.

Under the Quarantine Act, travellers to Canada are required to self-isolate for 14 days. The 14-day quarantine must be completed at VIU residence. To learn more, we created this Fall 2020 Semester Frequently Asked Questions page, which includes a section specifically for international students.

The COVID-19 pandemic is raising a lot of questions for our international students, such as whether you can travel to Canada for any face-to-face parts of courses or programs, and whether your eligibility for the Post-Graduate Work Permit will be affected. Vancouver Island University, in collaboration with other post-secondary institutions across Canada, continues to lobby the federal government to make the changes needed to ensure you are still eligible for a PGWP if you start your program online.

On May 14, 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced that eligibility would NOT be affected for international students whose fall 2020 courses will be online due to COVID-19. On May 27, IRCC published a summary of policy and procedure updates regarding Covid-19. For further information about qualifying for the PGWP, please see this FAQ on the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program

More answers to frequently asked questions about immigration are available on the Fall 2020 Semester Frequently Asked Questions page. For additional general immigration information, please see the Faculty of International Education’s Immigration webpage.  

We recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has created financial pressures for many students, including our international students, and we are doing our best to support you any way we can. Here are a few resources that may help:

  • Visit VIU’s Financial Aid & Awards’ COVID-19 Financial Assistance Resources for Students page to see resources available to students. Beginning on September 14, 2020, all students seeking access to funding in the fall are encouraged to complete their VIU Scholarship, Award and Bursary profile, located in your student record.   Completing your profile will ensure you are considered for any VIU internal award you may be entitled to.
  • You may be eligible for a scholarship or award from VIU.
  • International students renting off campus are eligible for the BC Temporary Rental Supplement Program if they meet the requirements, including renting a primary residence in BC.
  • A temporary rule change allows international students to work more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided they are working in an essential service or function.
  • The provincial government has announced a waiver of the waiting period for MSP coverage for all new and returning residents, including international students.
  • The Nanaimo Foodshare Society’s Good Food Box program provides affordable fruits and vegetables to anyone in the area who wishes to access it.
  • More supports are listed on the BC Council for International Education website.

We also understand that COVID-19 has impacted your studies at VIU and that you may wish to change your study plans for Spring 2021. With this in mind, we have added amendments to our usual International Student Refund and Deferral Policy with COVID-19 related considerations. 

All student services and supports, including advising, career services, counselling, tutoring and disability services are still available via alternative formats such as video conferencing, email and text. Visit the International Student Services homepage for more details. Join VIU staff and students every day from 3-4 pm during VIU Cares, a live Zoom chat for students who want to connect and get questions answered.

If you have questions or comments related to COVID-19 and your time at VIU that are not addressed by the information found on this page please contact If you intend to apply to VIU for a future semester and have questions, please email

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