FAQs: Canada-Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Crisis and its Impact on VIU Students

August 16, 2018 - 10:00am

As many of you are aware the diplomatic situation between Canada and Saudi Arabia is directly impacting thousands of students across Canada. This includes the 93 Saudi students who are enrolled at VIU for the fall semester.

What is the latest information?

Earlier last week, all Saudi students received a communication in Arabic from the Saudi Cultural Bureau in Ottawa directing them to make plans to leave Canada by the end of the summer, “barring a resolution of this issue.”  It is important to note that on Thursday, August 9, the Saudi Cultural Bureau posted on its website (in Arabic only) and shared in a communication to institutions that the requirement to leave now does not apply to self-funded Saudi students studying at Canadian institutions, only those on Saudi government-funded scholarships and medical education programs. 

What is the immigration status of Saudi students in Canada?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has confirmed that Saudi students who have a valid study permit and wish to continue their studies in Canada will be allowed to do so, regardless of the source of funding. Further to that, students whose funding has been revoked can apply for an open work permit which, if granted, would increase the allotted number of hours they are eligible to work while studying.Students who have questions about their immigration status should refer them to Mohammed  Hawamdeh:  mohammed.hawamdeh@viu.ca; 250-740-6183; Bldg 255. 

How is VIU supporting the students?

International Education is providing as much support as possible to the students who have been affected. They are also being supported by staff in the Faculty of Management and other faculties where they are registered for courses, as well as by the Registrar’s Office and Student Affairs. The VIU Faculty Association has also reached out to indicate their concern about what is happening and offer their support. 

How many students are affected?

There are currently 93 Saudi students enrolled at VIU. This is a mixture of government – and self-funded students.

Where is VIU getting its information?

We have been monitoring the situation closely since it began and working with our partners at Universities Canada, Colleges and Institutes Canada and the Canadian Bureau for International Education to better understand the impacts. Our main focus is to support our students during this very difficult and stressful time.

What areas are the affected students studying?

The majority of our Saudi students are studying in the Faculty of Management undergraduate programs; others are in BA and BSc programs, or in ESL programs.

How are students going to be affected in the long-term?

At this time we do not know. However, we have been holding meetings with our students and listening to their concerns. For example, one of their main concerns was how they were going to complete their program and transfer their credits if they had to move elsewhere. We are working with faculty to get their assessments and final grades completed as soon as possible so they have this important information. 

What can I do to help?

We would appreciate the assistance of the community in ensuring all of our students are supported. If you are getting questions or hearing concerns from Saudi students about their programs or courses please direct them to contact their program advisor or program chair. If they have personal or more general questions please direct them to the reception desk in the International faculty (Bldg 255) and staff will connect them to the right person. Alternatively they can call 250-740-6527 between 8 am and 4 pm.

What will happen going forward?

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and respond as needed, again, supporting our Saudi students as best we can.

We also recognize that this could have an impact on the broader community. Our international student body plays such an important role at VIU and in our region, creating a diverse environment that allows all of us to broaden our perspectives as we learn about other cultures and, in many cases, make lifelong friendships and connections with people from other countries.   

We would like to ask everyone to be sensitive to the stresses placed on our Saudi students and their families and friends during this time and to respect their privacy. Privacy is a concern for Saudi students and many will not want to discuss the political situation and the impact on their personal lives.

I have more questions…

Employees who have general questions about the situation and VIU’s actions can connect with the Dean of International Education at 250-740-6310/6311 or by email: graham.pike@viu.ca. If employees are needing support we encourage them to connect with Homewood Health which can be accessed by calling 1-800-663-1142.

Tags: Teaching and Learning

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email