New international students need more support on immigration procedures

On Sept. 15, I, along with many other international students, received an automated email from McGill Legal Services notifying me that I was at risk of deregistration due to missing immigration documents. Although I applied for my documents over the summer, the Quebec documents uploading system did not correctly upload my files to Minerva. By the time I realized the issue and followed up on it, the semester had already started and the deadline by which I was supposed to have applied had passed. Bewildered, I wished that McGill had provided more support and clearly communicated with me earlier.

The email suggested that I submit proof of application for Quebec’s Certificate of Acceptance of Québec (CAQ) by Nov. 1 to avoid being deregistered. I had thought that I was staying ahead of the curve by submitting the required document to McGill by Oct. 1. Instead, McGill asked me to send additional proof of application for my Canadian Study Permit and told me that this would merely help prevent these measures, offering no concrete assurance that the university would not deregister me. When my CAQ was denied due to the deadline issue, I panicked. 

It is reasonable that Quebec and Canada insist that McGill must have immigration paperwork filed for all students to legally study at the university. However, the pandemic has made it much more difficult for students not currently in Montreal to obtain these documents. Given that the government is nonetheless requiring that international students have them, McGill needs to provide extra support to international students by connecting them to the appropriate resources since there are processing delays.  

When my permit was denied, I did not know who to consult. The resources regarding legal documentation on the McGill Enrolment Services website do not offer immigration advice, and neither does Arts Advising nor Student Housing and Hospitality Services. After several days of trying to figure out what my next steps should be, McGill Legal Documentation told me that McGill International Student Services (ISS) could assist me with immigration issues. It should not be such a bureaucratic maze to find out about and access services like ISS, which does valuable work for students like me. Despite having to pay an extra $110 to re-file a new application, the ISS provided advice that assured I could get my CAQ approved. Had I been connected with the ISS earlier, I may have gotten my approval earlier.

Though returning McGill students may have a better understanding of what services and resources the university provides, many first-year students are adjusting to how McGill works during an exceptionally stressful and overwhelming time. Ironically, I chose to attend McGill in part due to its early communication about remote course delivery for Fall 2020. 

After receiving another intimidating email from McGill, and having once again requested some assurance about my status, Enrolment Services told me that I will not be deregistered for Fall 2020 and implied that I would not be for Winter 2021 either. Thankfully, I received an approval for my second CAQ application on Oct. 30. However, this issue illustrates broader problems with navigating McGill’s bureaucratic services. Eventually, international students currently living in their home countries will be able to come back to Montreal, and all students will need these documents to be registered for classes at the university. In order for this to happen, McGill has a responsibility to help its students navigate the bureaucratic issues posed by these extraordinary circumstances. Though the situation is not the university’s fault, it is often the only resource incoming international students have to help deal with these incredibly stressful issues. 

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