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COVID-19: Which countries are ready to welcome Indian students?
Roshna Mohan

Roshna Mohan is a Content Writer at Hotcourses India - an IDP company. A post-graduate in Biotechnology, she chose content writing as her career out of sheer interest. Reading and cooking are her stress-busters. Talk about these to take the introvert out of the ambivert. Her all-time favourite authors are Paulo Coelho, Yuval Noah Harari and Robin Cook.


31 Jul 2020 Book icon 6 mins Share

COVID-19: Which countries are ready to welcome Indian students?

The pandemic has made several countries inaccessible due to border closures. Learn more about the latest visa updates from popular destinations.

31 Jul 2020 Book icon 6 mins Share
COVID-19: Which countries are ready to welcome Indian students?

Unexpectedly many countries have become inaccessible for international students from India. Be it going abroad for work or studies, several international borders remain closed, and the uncertainties never seem to end. Countries are promising to reopen borders, but there is no guarantee of when this will happen. Let’s dive into the details of visa updates from different countries to bring you a comprehensive analysis of which countries you can go to in order to resume or commence your studies.

We have collected information for the countries which are the most preferred destinations by Indian students.

Has the U.S. opened its borders for Indian students?

The short answer is no. Entry for several visa holders was suspended by the president’s declaration on June 22nd 2020. People coming from countries where there were significant clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks will not be allowed into the country. These jurisdictions include the People’s Republic of China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau), the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), the Republic of Ireland and Brazil. As per the proclamation, the suspension is effective till 31st December 2020. The move was said to be motivated by providing more opportunities for U.S. citizens in the labour market, especially considering the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

However, there is hope.

According to the update on 14th July 2020, the U.S. is hoping to resume routine visa services. This will be done on a location specific basis and if the situation in a particular country improves, additional services will be added. Emergency and mission-critical visa services are already being provided. Along with that, as the conditions permit, they hope to start processing other non-immigrant and immigrant visa services. This includes visa requests from students too (for F-1, M-1, and certain J-1 visas). The processes will be carried out once the situation is judged to be safe in a respective country. However, the visa rules will vary for students whose courses are delivered online-only. Only students who were actively enrolled for programmes on March 9 will be eligible for a visa in this case.

There is a huge level of uncertainty, but the updates give some hope to the thousands of Indian students who are planning to go to the U.S. for higher studies.

Other updates:

If you are an F or M visa holder and unable to participate in online study due to bandwidth limitations or lack of technology resources, you should notify DSO or the Designated School Official. DSOs will keep your student records active in SEVIS as long as you intend to resume your course of study when in-person classes begin.

Can you go to the UK now?

There is good news from the UK. The UK visa application centre in Hyderabad was opened on July 22nd  and the visa application centres in Bangalore was opened on 23rd July. The application centres in West Bengal might be closed, subject to approval from the government. Visa application centres in Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Chennai, Cochin, Jalandhar, Kolkata, Mumbai (South) and New Delhi remain open. However, the centre in Pune remains closed as of 23rd July 2020. You can schedule appointments or visit the centres which are processing visa applications. Make sure that you follow the safety protocols laid out by the WHO and the central/state governments. Physical distancing, temperature checks, and wearing masks will be necessary given the pandemic spread. The consulate also strongly advises all customers to opt for courier return of their documents to spare a second visit to the centre for collecting these.

Please also note that you will have to provide your journey and contact details if you intend to enter the UK. You will have to self-isolate for 14 days subsequent to arrival. The rules might vary for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Please refer to the government website for more details.  

Travel corridor exemptions are in place for some countries and territories. A list of 60 plus countries have been announced and people from these countries need not self-isolate upon arrival. The countries include Aruba, Australia, Austria, The Bahamas, Barbados, and Belgium. India is not on the list. Hence Indian students going to the UK will have to be in quarantine for 14 days. This is irrespective of the mode of your travel, whether by train, ferry, coach, air, or any other route.

Other updates

The UK government recently reaffirmed their commitment to international students. You might have heard of the Graduate Visa route, which is commonly referred to as the post-study work visa. This visa makes you eligible to look for work for two years after completing your course. The rule will apply to students graduating from 2021 onwards. As per the current rule, you are eligible even if you commence your studies online. However, you should be physically present in the UK by April 2021 to complete your final semester. This means that, even if Indian students cannot travel to the UK in autumn to start their studies due to COVID-19, they will still be able to apply for the graduate visa route, if they are in the UK by April 2021.

There are chances for complications to arise from the lack of scheduled flights to the UK and hence several of the UK universities are holding discussions with the companies that may be able to arrange charter flights for students from places like China and India. Queen’s University Belfast is looking to charter a flight from Beijing in September and the University of Bolton is making plans to charter flights to bring in students from India, China, and Africa.

What are the updates from Canada?

Canada visa application centres are temporarily closed. The travel restrictions are in place until 31st  July 2020. Even if you have an approved visitor visa or eTA, your entry into Canada cannot be guaranteed. Some countries are however exempt from the travel restrictions.

If you are an international student with a valid study permit, or if your permit request was approved before 18th March 2020, you are exempt from travel restrictions. However, you will be permitted to enter the country only if you are free of any symptoms of coronavirus. You will have to undergo a health check once you arrive. International students need to have a 14-day detailed quarantine plan. You should know where you will stay during the quarantine period, how you would reach that destination and how you intend to get your groceries and essentials, as well as access to medical care.

Another clause to be aware of is that border officers can refuse entry if your study programme can be undertaken online, even if you hold a valid visa. Travel to Canada to resume or begin your studies should be non-optional. That is, your presence in Canada should be absolutely necessary for effectively continuing your programme or the limitations in your home country should prevent you from pursuing your studies online.

To make it easier for international students, Canada has released a new two-step study permit process.

As part of the first step, you will have to submit all the necessary documents, which include proof of acceptance, proof of identity, and proof of financial support. If any of the critical documents could not be produced because of COVID-19 related issues, you should attach a letter of explanation for the same. In stage one, your application will be reviewed for a letter of acceptance, proof of finances, a Certificat d'acceptation du Québec (if you’ll be studying in Quebec) and evidence that you will not remain in Canada without legal status.

In stage two, biometrics will be collected, and police certificates will be checked. You will also undergo a check-up. Your application will be approved once you pass this stage and you will be eligible to travel to Canada for studies once the restrictions are lifted. The rules apply to applications submitted before 15th September 2020 or for programmes starting in 2020.

Other updates from Canada:

You will be eligible for the Post Graduation Work Permit Programme (PGWP) even if your programme started online.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced several changes to help international students. The move to prioritise the processing of study permits for students who submitted completed applications is part of the changes. The two-stage processing of incomplete applications will ensure that more students can submit their applications. Students can begin their studies online and complete up to 50 percent of their studies online while retaining their eligibility for PGWP.

Can Indian students travel to Australia?

The Australian visa application centres in India are temporarily closed. Only Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to return to the country. Irrespective of their visa status, people entering the country will have to follow the regulations and be in quarantine for 14 days. This would be arranged in a designated facility and the individual will have to pay for the expenses.

The country currently does not have a fixed timeline for the return of international students. However, they are expediting the processes in the background,  in a bid to support universities in Australia which largely rely on international students for revenue. They intend to amend the visa rules so that Australia will remain a coveted destination for international students. The proposed visa changes include:

  • Resuming the processing and granting of visas so that the students can travel as soon as the border restrictions are lifted.
  • If their current study visa is set to expire before the completion of the course, students can apply for an additional student visa, free of cost.
  • The period spent on the online study will count towards the work visa application.
  • Prospective students will have more time to demonstrate their English language skills.

Other countries:

New Zealand’s borders are still closed in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. Exceptions will be made for critical reasons or circumstances only. The country website suggests students do not need to apply for a student visa right now as there is no clarity as to when the border restrictions will be lifted.

Several other countries have resumed their visa application centres in India and these include Switzerland, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Malaysia.

Follow the updates on our latest news page to stay on top of news from the global higher education sector.


Government websites, InsiderhigheredThe Guardian

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