Canadian Student Visa Guide

Canada now ranks as the third most popular country for foreign students, behind the USA and Australia. The Canadian government has made the procedure for getting a study visa (also called a Study Permit) easy and efficient.

Canada has a world-class education system. It is known for its high quality of instruction, wide variety of programs, prestigious institutions and a non-discriminatory admissions process. Each year, more than 400,000 students come to Canada to study from more than 150 countries. International students make up 11% of students at bachelor's level in Canada, 16% at master's level and 33% at doctoral level. Across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the shares are 4% at bachelor's, 13% at master's and 22% at doctoral level. The Canadian government encourages foreign students to come to the country by facilitating their entrance process. Another benefit of Canada as a place to study is that the government makes it easy for foreign students to transition from a Study Permit to a Work Permit after graduation.

In 2019, more than 827,500 international students held valid Study Permits in Canada. Of these, 402,427 were newly issued.

What Is a Canadian Study Permit?
A Canadian Study Permit (SP) is a document that allows foreign students to study in Canada for a temporary period at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). Note that a study permit by itself is not a visa but it provides a prospective student the grounds for obtaining a Visitor Visa (or Temporary Resident Visa) in Canada. Canadian study permit holders are issued a Visitor Visa automatically as soon as their Study Permit applications are approved.

What is a designated learning institution (DLI)?

A DLI is an educational establishment (such as a school, college, or university) that is allowed to admit foreign students. All primary and secondary schools in Canada are automatically designated as DLIs. Not all post-secondary institutions are designated, so you need to check whether your preferred education establishment is in the Designated learning institution list.

The Study Permit is required only for persons who want to study in Canada for more than six months. If you plan to study for less than six months, you do not need to apply for the SP. However, all students — irrespective of the length of their study program — must still obtain a Visitor Visa or electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

The SP is usually valid for the duration of the applicant’s study program, plus an additional 90 days. If an applicant does not finish his or her studies in time due to extraordinary situations, an applicant must apply to extend his or her Study Permit. If he or she fails to do this, an applicant must terminate the study and leave Canada on the expiry of the SP. If an applicant finishes the courses earlier than planned, his or her SP will become invalid after 90 days following the completion date of the study, no matter what date is indicated in the SP. The day of completion of the studies is the day when a foreign student receives a diploma.

There are some categories of persons who do not need a Study Permit to study in Canada:

  1. Members of foreign armed forces on official duties in Canada;
  2. Family or staff of diplomatic representatives accredited in Canada; and
  3. Registered Indigenous persons in Canada.

Please note that persons who want to study in Quebec must additionally apply for temporary selection for studies in Quebec directly to the Quebec government before applying for the SP.

Who Can Apply?

To apply for a Study Permit, a person must:

  • Be enrolled at a designated learning institution (DLI) and be able to prove this;
  • Prove that he or she has enough money to pay for:
    • Tuition fees;
    • Living expenses for the student and any family members who may come with the applicant to Canada;
    • Return transportation to home country for the student and any family members who may come with the applicant to Canada.
  • Have no criminal record;
  • Be in good health; and
  • Convince an Immigration Officer that he or she will leave Canada when the SP expires.

Note that if you are from China, India, Pakistan, Morocco, Senegal, Vietnam, or the Philippines, you can get a Study Permit faster by applying under the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program.

Steps to Obtain a Canadian Study Permit

You must use the following procedure to apply for a Canadian Study Permit:

  1. Gather all required documents: You need the following set of documents ready before applying for the Study Permit:
  2. Apply for a Study Permit: The applicant must fill out all required forms, pay the fees, and submit this application either online or by mail along with the supporting documents.
  3. Wait for approval: If you are approved, you will receive a port of entry letter of introduction that states you are allowed to study in Canada. Note that this letter is not your Study Permit. You must exchange this letter for a Study Permit at the port of entry when you arrive in Canada. Along with this letter, you will also receive a Visitor Visa (Temporary Resident Visa) or electronic travel authorization (eTA) to become eligible to enter Canada.
  4. Travel to Canada: You and any accompanying family members should travel to Canada before the start date of your study program. At your port of arrival, your ”port of entry letter of introduction” will be taken from you and you will be issued a Study Permit.
How to Extend the Study Permit?

If you want to continue studying in Canada after the completion of your initial study program, you must extend your Study Permit. You should apply for an extension at least 30 days before the expiry date of the initial SP. If you apply before the SP expires, you can continue to study under the same conditions as your current SP.

You must apply online to extend the validity of the Study Permit. You will need to submit all required documents and pay the fees for extending the SP. The extension fee is CAN $150. The average processing time for an application for extension is 52 days.

After August 31, 2021, you can restore your status only if it has been less than 90 days since your SP expired. You must submit the application for restoration, including a note explaining the reason you wish to extend your stay in Canada. You must also pay a restoration fee of CAN $350. Note that you can stay legally in Canada while the application for restoration is being processed.

What if the Study Permit has expired?

There are two options in such a case:

  1. You must apply for a new Study Permit and complete the above procedure; or
  2. Restore your status as a student.
What Is the Student Direct Stream (SDS)?

The Student Direct Stream is a fast-track program designed for students from China, India, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal, or Vietnam. Using the Student Direct Stream (SDS), a student from these countries can get a Study Permit within 20 days. Applicants must apply online via the e-platform of IRCC. Persons who want to apply under SDS must meet the basic requirements and a set of additional requirements as follows:

  • Have proof that their tuition fees for the first year of study are paid;
  • Have a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAN $10,000;
  • Have one of the following language test results that proves the required level of language proficiency:
    • IELTS (for English) academic or general, scoring at least 6 in each skill; or
    • TEF (for French), at least 7 in each skill.

In all other aspects, the application procedure is the same as that for non-SDS students.

Working While Studying in Canada

You can work while studying in Canada without applying for a Work Permit. The main requirement is that your Study Permit must include a specific condition that permits you to work on or off campus.

How to Obtain a Canadian Study Permit With Working Conditions?

The process is quite easy. You do so at your port of entry when you exchange your port of entry letter of introduction for a Study Permit. If you plan to work while studying, you should simply inform the immigration officer at the port of entry of your intention to do so, so that he or she marks your Study Permit with May accept employment.

International students have three options for employment:

  1. Work on-campus: You must be a full-time post-secondary student, have a valid Study Permit, and have a Social Insurance Number (SIN). Please note that you can start working in Canada only when your study program begins. On-campus means that you can work at any of the buildings on your school campus. Your employer can be:
    • Your education establishment;
    • A student organization;
    • A faculty member
    • A private contractor who provides on-campus services to the school;
    • Yourself if you run a business that is located on-campus, such as your own coffee shop.

Typical on-campus jobs for international students in Canada are:

  • Research assistant;
  • Event caterer;
  • Student production assistant;
  • Social media assistant;
  • Peer tutor;
  • Library attendant.

The average wages are around CAN $13-15 per hour. Please note that the number of hours you can work on-campus is not limited by the Canadian government. However, some educational establishments restrict the hours students can work.

  1. Work off-campus: You must be a full-time student enrolled in a post-secondary academic, vocational, or professional training program; have a valid Study Permit, and have a Social Insurance Number (SIN). Please note that you can start working in Canada only when your study program begins. Students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during regular terms (fall and winter) and full-time during regularly scheduled breaks (including spring, summer, winter break, and reading weeks).
    After graduation from your school, you can work only if you obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit. Typical off-campus jobs in Canada for international students include:
    • Tutor;
    • Taxi driver;
    • Delivery driver;
    • Dog walker;
    • Cashier;
    • Call centre agent;
    • Security professional;
    • Barista.
  1. Work as a co-op student or intern: Some study programs include work experience as part of their curriculum. Students who are enrolled in such programs must apply for a Co-op Work Permit. To qualify for this permit, you must have a valid Study Permit; have a letter from your educational institution that confirms that you need to complete work placements to get the degree. You can apply for the Co-op Work Permit as soon as you start your studies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions that our client ask; if your question is not covered here, please contact us.
We Can Help

To ensure the best chances of getting approval for your Study Permit application, contact our team. We can help you to choose the best place for studying in Canada based on your personal situation and merits.

The importance of providing clear, complete, and accurate information throughout the process cannot be overstated. It is usually a good idea to seek the assistance of a professional who is an expert in the process so that you avoid making mistakes or providing incorrect information at any step of the process. We can assist you in all stages of your Study Permit application as well as in its extension; we will make the application process as efficient and stress-free.

If you are unsure about your likelihood of successfully obtaining a Study Permit, contact us for a free evaluation. If you have any other questions that are not addressed in this article, please contact us and we will be happy to help.