Do I Need a Permit to Study Online in Canada?

Published on: January 21st, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education across the globe; with online learning becoming the new norm, there has been some confusion surrounding whether a permit is required to study online in Canada.

Find out whether you can study in Canada

Whether or not you require a study permit to study online in Canada will depend on your program. Here are some instances where you may not require a study permit to study online in Canada:

1.    Distance learning

If your educational program is considered distance learning, you can not apply for a study permit to study in Canada. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) consider distance learning to be a process where a student does not need to be physically where the teaching is taking place.  It should be noted that distance learning is different from courses or programs that are temporarily online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If your distance learning requires any portion of the program to be complete in Canada (ex. in-person exams, tutorials). If this is the case, and the overall course is longer than 6 months, you will require a study permit for the in-Canada portion of the program.

If you are studying a program that is entirely distance learning, you can do so in Canada on a visitor permit. Likewise, if you are already in Canada on a work permit, you complete your distance learning without applying for a study permit.

2.    Programs less than 6 months long

If your educational course in Canada is six months long or less, you will not require a study permit to study online. According to Canada’s immigration laws, foreign nationals that intend to attend a program of study that is six months long, or less, do not require a study permit.

However, foreign nationals should still apply for a study permit, even if the duration is six months or less. This will make it easy to renew or change the conditions of their study permit if needed for further studies.

3. Courses of general interest/self-improvement

If you are planning to complete a course that is of general interest to you, or for the purpose of self-improvement, you may not need a study permit to study online in Canada. A general interest or self-improvement course is one that is taken for non-academic reasons and doesn’t typically result in a degree or diploma.

These courses are not considered studies for the purpose of Canada’s immigration laws, and therefore do not require a permit.

4. Audited Courses

If you are auditing an academic course without claiming credits, or without the ability to claim credits in the future, you may be eligible to study in Canada online without a study permit.

Other exemptions

Other individuals that are not required to obtain a study permit to study in Canada, online or in-person include minor children living in Canada, family members and private staff of diplomats, and members of the Foreign Armed Forces in Canada.

Studying at a Canadian Designated Learning Institute

For those studying online from outside of Canada, it may be worth securing a Canadian study permit. Many foreign nationals choose to study in Canada with the end goal of applying for a Post-Graduate Work Permit. If you want to come to Canada to study at the post-secondary level, make sure that your school and program of study are on this list of Canadian DLIs.

Some students that complete a Canadian course online from outside of Canada may count a large portion of their studies toward the length of a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP).

A PGWP can be issued for up to three years and allows an international graduate to work anywhere in Canada, in any job.  The length of a PGWP depends on the length of an international graduate’s studies.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has allowed international students to count time spent studying online outside of Canada toward the length of their PGWP. This policy was extended at the end of November until August 2022. That means any time spent studying online outside of Canada can count toward the length of a PGWP until August 31, 2022.

It is important to note that, to count this time toward your PGWP, you must be on a valid study permit. Canada has continued issuing permits to students abroad that wish to study in Canada.


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