Canada is a powerhouse in international education. Some of the attributes that attract international students to Canada include:
- Outstanding quality of education;
- Affordable cost of study programs;
- Peaceful, welcoming and diverse communities;
- An enviable quality of life;
- Opportunities to work and start careers in Canada; and
- Pathways to permanent residency in Canada.
If you intend to study in Canada, you probably need a study permit.
WHAT IS A STUDY PERMIT?
Study permit is a document that allows foreign nationals to study at designated learning institutions (DLI) in Canada. Study permit is not a visa. It doesn’t let you enter Canada. You may also need a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) in addition to study permit if you are not a US citizen.
People who don’t need a permit to study in Canada?
Most foreign nationals need a study permit to study in Canada. The cases below are exceptions:
- Short-term studies (6 months or less): You can study at any school in Canada without a study permit if:
- your course or program lasts 6 months or less
- your studies aren’t part of a longer program and
- you’ll complete all your studies within the time Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) approved you to stay in Canada (usually 6 months after you enter)
- Family or staff of foreign representatives: You may not need a study permit if you’re a family or staff member of a foreign representative to Canada that has been accredited by Global Affairs Canada (GAC). Your embassy can contact GAC to find out if you need one.
- Members of foreign armed forces: If you’re a member of a foreign armed force on official duties in Canada, you don’t need a study permit. If your family members, including minor children, want to study in Canada, they may need one.
- Registered Indians in Canada: You don’t need a study permit if you have Registered Indian status in Canada, even if you’re a citizen of another country.
- Minor children in Canada: Minor children don’t need a study permit if:
- they’re in kindergarten
- they’re refugees or refugee claimants
- their parents are refugees or refugee claimants or
- they’re in pre-school, primary or secondary school, and they’re already in Canada with a parent who has a work or study permit
Note: When minor children reach the age of majority (18 or 19 years old, depending on the province or territory), they must apply for a study permit if they want to keep studying.
People who need a permit to study in Canada?
Foreign nationals, who don’t fall under one of the exceptions given above, need a study permit.
Why get a study permit if you don’t need one?
There are 2 reasons you may want to get a study permit even if you don’t need one:
- You may be able to continue studying (as long as you meet the requirements): An example of this is if you’re taking prerequisite classes required for a longer study program. You may not need a study permit for your prerequisite classes, but you may need one for your full study program. In this case, you should get a study permit even though you don’t need one right away. If you don't, you may not be able to start your longer study program, depending on whether or not your study permit is processed in time.
- You may be able to work on-campus or off-campus: If you have a study permit and you’re registered as a full-time student at a DLI, you may be able to work on-campus or off-campus. If so, your study permit will include a condition that says you’re allowed to work while studying. If you don’t have a study permit, you can’t work while you’re studying in Canada. In this case, you need to apply for a work permit.
ELIGIBILITY FOR STUDY PERMIT
You can study in Canada if you:
- Are enrolled at a designated learning institution (DLI)
- Prove you have enough money to pay for your:
- tuition fees
- living expenses for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada and
- return transportation for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada
- Obey the law, have no criminal record and get a police certificate (if required)
- Are in good health and get a medical exam (if required)
- Prove to an officer that you will leave Canada when your study permit expires
You may be able to get your study permit faster through the Student Direct Stream if you live in China, India, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal or Vietnam. Please read the section on Student Direct Stream to find out if you are eligible or not.
APPLYING FOR A STUDY PERMIT?
Documents needed to apply
You need the following documents to apply for a study permit:
- Proof of acceptance: Your school must send you a letter of acceptance. Include the original or electronic copy of your letter with your study permit application.
- Proof of identity
- Proof of financial support
You may also need:
- A letter of explanation
- A certificat d'acceptation du Québec (CAQ) issued by the Gouvernement du Québec (If you want to study in Quebec). If your application for a CAQ got approved by the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI), but you’re still waiting to get the CAQ, you can apply for your study permit with the approval letter from the MIFI. You don’t need to wait for the CAQ to apply.
- A custodian declaration (minors only)
- Other documents: Check the visa office instructions for your country or region for local requirements. If you aren't currently in your home country, you may have to prove your immigration status in the country you apply from. If the government that issued your passport or travel document needs you to have a re-entry permit, you must get one before you apply for a Canadian visa. You may also need other documents.
Options available to apply
There are three options:
- Applying from outside Canada
- Applying from inside Canada
- Applying at a port of entry
Make sure you understand which option is available to you.
Applying from outside Canada
Generally, you must apply for a study permit before you come to Canada. If you are not eligible to apply from
within Canada or when you arrive in Canada at a port of entry, this is the only option available to you.
If you apply for your study permit from outside Canada and your application is approved, you will be issued a port of entry letter of introduction that says you’re allowed to study in Canada. This letter is not your study permit. You will also be issued an eTA or a visitor visa (if one is required) to enter Canada:
- If you’re from a country where you need a visitor visa, the visa will be in your passport. It’ll show if you can enter Canada once or multiple times. You must enter Canada before your visa expires.
- If you’re from a country where you need an eTA, the letter of introduction will include information about your eTA. Your eTA will be linked to your passport and is valid for 5 years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. It’s important that you travel with the passport you used when you applied for your study permit.
- If you are a US citizen, you don’t need a visitor visa or eTA.
When you arrive in Canada, you’ll meet a border services officer. Tell the officer that you have come to study in Canada and show him your letter of introduction. The officer will:
- Ask to see your passport or travel documents
- Ask you a few questions and
- Make sure you meet the requirements to enter Canada.
He may also need to be convinced that you’ll leave Canada at the end of your stay.
If there are no problems, the officer will then issue your study permit and let you enter Canada. The officer will also stamp your passport and let you know how long you can stay in Canada. Usually, this will match the length of your study permit. Ask questions if you’re unsure about anything.
Applying from inside Canada
Only some people can apply for a study permit from inside Canada. You can apply from inside Canada if you are currently in Canada and one of these applies:
- You have a valid study or work permit
- Your spouse, common-law partner or parent has a valid study or work permit
- You’re a minor child in primary or secondary school
- You’re an exchange student or visiting student
- You completed a short-term course or study program required to be accepted at a DLI
- You or your spouse, common-law partner or dependent child has a temporary resident permit (TRP) valid for 6 months or more
- You’re being sponsored to immigrate and you already applied for permanent residence (if you’re eligible)
- You or your spouse, common-law partner or dependent child are subject to an unenforceable removal order
You’re the spouse, common-law partner or dependent child of:
- an athlete on a team based in Canada,
- a member of the media,
- a member of the clergy,
- military personnel on duty in Canada, or
- an accredited foreign representative
If none of the above applies to you even though you are inside Canada, you can’t apply from inside Canada. You
need to apply as though you’re outside Canada. This may mean you’ll need to leave Canada for an interview or to
complete other steps of your application.
If you were eligible to apply from inside Canada and you applied for your study permit from inside Canada, your study permit will be mailed to the Canadian address you included in your application if your application is approved.
Applying at a port of entry
You can apply at the port of entry If you are a:
- Citizen of the U.S.,
- Permanent resident of the U.S.,
- Person who has lawfully been admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence,
- Resident of Greenland, or
- Resident of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon Before you come to Canada
If you are a US citizen and want to apply for study permit at port of entry, you don’t need a visitor visa or
eTA. If you’re a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and you want to apply for study permit at an
airport, you must get an Electronic Travel Authorization before you board your flight to Canada.
Before you come to the port of entry, make sure you meet the eligibility requirements to get a study permit, get a medical exam if you need one, and bring all the documents you need to get a study permit with you.
When you arrive at the port of entry, tell the officer that you want a study permit. The officer will check. If you’re eligible for a study permit, the officer will issue one to you.
FAMILY MEMBERS OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Spouse or Common-Law Partner
Your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for an open work permit (OWP) if you:
- have a valid study permit and
- are a full-time student at one of these types of schools:
- a public post-secondary school, such as a college or university, or CEGEP in Quebec
- a private college-level school in Quebec
- a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law (for example, Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate degree)
An OWP allows the holder to work for any employer in Canada, and does not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment or Job Offer. The OWP will usually have the same period of validity as your study permit. However, the OWP may exclude certain occupations in which the protection of public health is essential, unless the applicant undergoes an immigration medical examination.
Any person under the age of majority is considered to be a minor child. The age of majority varies by province.
In Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, the age of majority is 18, while
in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and
Yukon it is 19.
Minor children who are already in Canada with at least one parent who is allowed to study or work in Canada do not require a study permit to attend school at the pre-school, primary, or secondary levels. However, once the child reaches the age of majority in their province, he or she must apply for a study permit to continue their studies in Canada.
The Application Process for family members
- Your spouse or common-law partner may apply for an OWP and your dependent children may apply for a visitor visa at the same time as you apply for a Study Permit outside Canada for concurrent processing of their application.
- Your spouse or common-law partner may apply for an OWP and your dependent children may apply for a visitor visa outside Canada after you have obtained the Study Permit.
- Your spouse or common-law partner and dependent children may first come to Canada as visitors. Once in Canada, your spouse or common-law partner may apply for an OWP.
- Your spouse or common-law partner may even be able to apply for OWP at the port of entry (land border or airport where they enter Canada) if they have an electronic travel authorization (eTA) or are eligible to travel to Canada without a visitor visa/eTA. Your dependent children may come to Canada as visitors if they also have electronic travel authorizations (eTA) or are eligible to travel to Canada without visitor visas/eTAs.
STUDENT DIRECT STREAM
The Student Direct Stream (SDS) is an expedited study permit processing program for those who are applying to study in Canada at a post-secondary designated learning institution (DLI). The SDS is available to legal residents who also reside in China, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, and Vietnam. To be eligible, applicants must meet specific requirements by providing documentation up front.
About the SDS
Some international students can get their study permits faster by using the SDS. IRCC processes most SDS
applications within 20 calendar days if the eligibility requirements are met.
Only applications submitted electronically are eligible for SDS processing. All paper applications are processed under the regular study permit application stream and are subject to the associated processing times.
Foreign nationals who are eligible for SDS processing are still subject to all other eligibility and admissibility requirements under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).
The applicant must include the following documents to be eligible for SDS processing:
- Proof of a valid language test result, completed within 2 years of the date the SDS application is
received, showing either of the following:
- an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of 6.0 or higher in each language skill: listening, reading, writing and speaking
- a Test d’Evaluation de Français (TEF) score that is equivalent to a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score of at least 7 for each ability: at least 310 for speaking, 249 for listening, 207 for reading and 310 for writing
- Proof of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAN$10,000 or more from any bank insured by the
Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) or any bank listed on the IRCC SDS web page. The GIC must meet
the following criteria:
- When the GIC has been purchased, the bank provides a letter of attestation, the GIC certificate, the Investment Directions Confirmation or the Investment Balance Confirmation to the applicant.
- The bank holds the funds in an investment account or a student account that is inaccessible for release to the applicant until the applicant’s arrival in Canada.
- Upon entry to Canada, the bank must validate the client’s identity before releasing funds to the study permit holder.
- The applicant receives an initial disbursement upon identifying themselves, and the remaining funds are disbursed in monthly or bimonthly installments over a period of 10 to 12 months.
- Proof of full payment of tuition for the applicant’s first year of study. This may be in the form of the
- a receipt from the DLI
- an official letter from the DLI confirming payment of tuition fees
- a receipt from a bank showing that tuition fees have been paid to the DLI
- proof that the tuition fee amount has been transferred into a repository account at the DLI to be applied to the tuition bill at a later date
- Letter of acceptance from a post-secondary DLI
- Most recent secondary or post-secondary educational transcripts
- Proof of completion of upfront medical examination from a panel physician for applicants
- who have lived or travelled for 6 months in designated countries or territories during the year before coming to Canada
- whose field of study requires upfront medical examination results
Prerequisite courses and bridging programs of study
Applicants who are taking a prerequisite course or bridging program of study at a DLI before starting their main program may be eligible to apply under the SDS, provided they meet all the program eligibility criteria. Applicants still need to submit an e-application from overseas. However, the prerequisite course or bridging program of study must be clearly identified as such in the applicant’s letter of acceptance, and the applicant’s main program of study must lead to a degree, diploma or certificate.
Get in Touch for more information about Studying in Canada or for assistance in applying for Study permit (Student Visa).