Hi Everyone,

We hope you are in good health and optimistic as we move forward with re-opening business and public spaces in the province.

These past few months have been hard. We are aware of the challenges international students have been facing and appreciate how hard all of our partners have been working to continue to support them.

Since the International Student Connect (ISC) Project began in 2015, our services have revolved around in-person interaction in the form of individual and group sessions in campuses at designated educational institutions across Ontario. As a result of COVID-19 and the physical distancing requirements, we quickly adapted to the changing circumstances and as of April the ISC network now delivers the full complement of services online.

The ISC sessions have temporarily moved to web-conferencing platforms. We have also been able to provide tools, resources, and professional development opportunities to all partners organizations to serve their clients virtually. From March to June, more than 350 settlement workers have completed our online training on the use of web-conferencing platforms.

The majority of training participants re-confirmed their interest in delivering ISC online sessions. Our partners have had hundreds of international students reaching out to attend and receive settlement support remotely. 

We are here for you to help you serve the international student community in Ontario. Should you have any questions, please reach out to us directly at the coordinates provided below.

Stay safe and stay positive,
The ISC Project Team

Harnessing online ISC sessions to support
international students during the pandemic

It is not unusual for international students to face financial stress on their journey to a new life in Canada. In addition to coping with academic responsibilities, they also need to adapt to new banking, credit, and tax systems.

This stress becomes more evident during the income tax filing season as understanding how taxes are declared can be challenging. The ISC Filing Income Taxes session is among the most popular among international students. This year was not different, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. Halton Multicultural Council pivoted to online sessions in less than a month to help international students at Sheridan College file their income tax return during the pandemic.

According to Hanadi Al-Masri, Director of Social Innovations & Enterprises at HMC Connections, having their in-person ISC sessions cancelled meant a quick turnaround with new software. “We connected with Sheridan College and agreed to deliver the Filing Income Taxes sessions online. They distributed the promotional flyer to their international students and over 400 students registered for the first session”.

Three Filing Income Taxes sessions were held using Zoom. “In total, we were able to support close to 300 international students virtually. Participants were grateful to learn how to file their taxes and many of them could not believe they were eligible to receive credits”, says Al-Masri.

IRCC guidelines for international students

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill and affected international students in many ways. The Government of Canada has not been able to process applications normally and to provide accurate processing times. As a result, new restrictions and exemptions have been implemented. Below is a summary of the current IRCC guidelines:
  • International students who remain in Canada can apply to renew their study permit and can continue to study and work while their application renewal is being processed.
  • International students who have a valid study permit, or were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, are exempt from the travel restrictions.
  • International students with a study permit issued after March 18, 2020, are currently not allowed to travel to Canada.
Online courses and the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP)
  • International students whose in-class courses are being moved to an online-only format because of COVID-19 are still eligible for the PGWPP.
  • International students that have a study permit, or been approved for a study permit for a program starting in the spring, summer or fall, but that cannot travel to Canada at this time due to travel restrictions, are also still eligible for the PGWPP.
International students in this situation are allowed to:
  • Begin classes while outside Canada.
  • Complete up to 50% of their program while outside Canada, if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.
  • International students with classes starting in fall 2020, will not have time deducted from the length of their post-graduation work permit for studies completed while outside Canada between fall 2020 and December 31, 2020.
To learn more, please visit

Temporary rule change for international
students working in essential services

To help battle the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of Canada put in place a temporary rule that allows international students to work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods. 

Until August 31, 2020, international students are temporarily allowed to work more than 20 hours per week if they:
  • Hold a study permit holder in an academic session
  • Are eligible to work off-campus
  • Provide an essential service (e.g., health care, critical infrastructure, supply of food or other critical goods)
To see if current employment is considered an essential service or function, international students should check the Guide on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To learn more, please click here

What's in the news?

Crisis shows student services are essential services
Interconnected impacts of COVID-19 on graduate students
International students feeling helpless as COVID-19 leaves semester hanging
How to secure recovery of international student mobility

Mental health support for international students

International students may be experiencing heightened levels of uncertainty, worry, anxiety, and stress about how COVID-19 may affect their education and personal lives, and the health and safety of their loved ones. It is important to recognize the impact it can have and to find ways to support them.

Here are some tips provided by the Government of Canada that international students can follow to look after their mental health:

  • Get information from reliable sources, such as
  • Stay informed but follow news coverage about COVID-19 in moderation. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly.
  • Reach out and remain in contact with the international students’ office at your institution and your health care provider to stay informed about the services and support put in place for international students at this time.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
  • Make time to step back and consider how to take advantage of unexpected flexibility in your daily routine.
  • Stay connected. Talk to friends or family about your feelings and concerns.
  • Maintain healthy relationships and respect other people’s feelings and decisions.
  • Show support and empathy to those dealing with difficult situations.
  • Identify what is within your control and try to direct your energy towards what most worries you within your control.

To learn more about this topic, watch ISC’s new webinars Disorders Affecting Mental Wellness and Self-Harm Prevention. These webinars have been developed in collaboration with COSTI's Family and Mental Health Services and provide information about mental health resources available to international students in Ontario as well as prevention strategies.


Need help?

          International students can find support using the resources below:
Kids Help Line
Young People Good2Talk

New online navigator for benefits and financial relief 

Prosper Canada launched a Financial Relief Navigator (FRN), a bilingual one-stop portal where Canadians can access critical COVID-19 emergency benefits and financial relief from governments, financial institutions, utility, telecom, and internet providers.  

The site provides clear descriptions of benefits and relief measures, including eligibility requirements and important details on how new benefits may impact existing benefits people are already receiving.

Learn more about the FRN at

What is International Student Connect?

International Student Connect (ISC) is a bilingual pilot project that provides settlement support and orientation to international students pursuing post-secondary education in Ontario. It is coordinated by COSTI Immigrant Services and funded by the Government of Ontario.

Our goal is to help international students integrate successfully should they choose to settle in Ontario after graduation. Information is provided through one to two hours Let’s Connect sessions or One-On-one sessions at Colleges and Universities.

Check out the ISC Handbook and learn more about the project here.

We want to hear from you!


Your feedback is important to us. Send us an email to and let us know what information you would like to receive in the next ISC Newsletter.
Copyright © 2020 International Student Connect. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

COSTI Immigrant Services
2301 Keele Street, Unit 102
Toronto, ON
M6N 3Z9

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International Student Connect · 2301 Keele Street · Unit 102 · Toronto, On M6N 3Z9 · Canada

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