By Max Leckie
Many international students at Langara, separated from their families, are struggling to decide what to do as the school year wraps up and COVID-19 flight and border restrictions block access to international travel.
Kimia Nikoonam, a first-year student in the Access Langara program, said she’s had to make a tough choice between her studies and seeing her family back in Iran when school ends.
“If I go, I can’t come back to Vancouver,” said Nikoonam, who worries about her family, especially her grandfather who has cancer. But she worries about whether the virus will be contained by the time school is scheduled to resume in the fall.
“I don’t want to miss my [classes.]”
As of March 18, all Canadian borders are closed to non-Canadian citizens, with the exception of vital trade and commerce between the U.S. and Canada.
Langara has international students from all over the world but many from China, Iran and South Korea, some of the countries with the most number of COVID-19 cases according to the World Health Organization.
For Benjamin Lee, a fine arts student from South Korea, the virus has complicated his plans to visit family back home over the summer. He said South Koreans have had experience with outbreaks of this nature so he had expected travel to be banned eventually.
“East Asian and southeastern Asian countries, they had SARS and MERS,” said Lee. “For the government and for the people, [those outbreaks] have prepared them for what to do and what to expect and what to be careful about.”
For some international students, the issue of an expiring study visa has complicated matters. However, a spokesperson from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told The Voice that individuals whose temporary status in Canada is expiring will be provided with more time to fulfill the requirements.
For example, those with a study permit who due to circumstances beyond their control “cannot complete the next steps in the process, such as giving their fingerprints and photo (biometrics), within the specified deadline, will automatically be given more time to complete these steps,” said National Headquarters spokeswoman Béatrice Fénelon.
They should apply online to extend their temporary stay in Canada before their current status expires, she said.
Applicants are encouraged to get more information on these special measures from the Government of Canada website.