Canadian Designated Learning Institutions (DLI)

A Designated Learning Institution, or DLI, is a school that admits international students. A letter of acceptance from a DLI is essential to obtaining a Canadian study permit.


All primary and secondary schools in Canada are DLIs. Post-secondary schools must receive permission from the provincial government to accept international students.

If you want to come to Canada to study at the post-secondary level, make sure that your school and program of study is on this list of Canadian DLIs.

If you want to stay in Canada after you graduate, make sure to select a DLI that will allow you to qualify for a Post-Graduation Work Permit.

Get Started

Becoming an international student in Canada is a two-step process. 

First, you need to be accepted into a Canadian school, or designated learning institution. Once you have a letter of acceptance, you can apply for a study permit from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

If you are issued a study permit, it is on the basis of your acceptance into a Canadian school. However, if you are studying at the post-secondary level, you can change your school, program, field of study, or level of study without needing to apply for a new study permit.

Once you’re accepted into the program you want to transfer into, you just need to notify IRCC if you have changed schools. You can do that online through your MyCIC account.

Designated Learning Institution Number

Every post-secondary school that admits international students has a unique DLI number. The DLI number can be found on the study permit application form. It is the number that begins with the letter “O”.

If you want to come to Canada as an international student, first ensure that your school is on the list of Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs). Click here the List of Canadian designated learning institutions.

Schools with several campuses or smaller colleges may have a different DLI number for each location.

Non DLI Schools

If a school is not designated by its provincial or territorial authority as a DLI, then it is not eligible to host international students.

If you submit a study permit application for a non-DLI school, it will be refused. If the school you are studying at loses its DLI status, you can remain at the school until your study permit expires. Otherwise, you may or transfer to an alternative DLI.

Primary and Secondary Schools

In Canada, all primary and secondary schools are DLIs.

In most provinces, these schools offer education from Grade One to Grade Twelve. When a student graduates from secondary school they receive their high school diploma.

Dependent minor children do not need a study permit. If you have minor children and are coming to Canada on a work or study permit, they will be eligible to attend school. There is no need to apply for a separate study permit.

How to Change a Canadian DLI Number

If a foreign national is studying in Canada on a valid study permit, they are permitted to change their level of study, institution of study, and/or program of study. However, depending on the intended change, they may have to notify the appropriate immigration authority, apply for a new study permit or get a study permit extension.

Need to extend your study permit? Read more about how to do that here: Extend my Study Permit

Changing Programs

If an international student chooses to change programs within the same designated learning institution (DLI), there is no requirement to change their study permit or contact IRCC to update them of the changes. There are, however, a few exceptions to this:

  • If the foreign national’s study permit has certain conditions listed on it and if these conditions will be affected by the change in programs, then they must contact IRCC to update them with the changes.
  • If the foreign national switches to a program of longer duration than the validity of their study permit, then they will have to apply to extend their study permit before the original expiration date.

Changing Schools

If an international student chooses to transfer institutions within the same level of study, then they are not required to obtain a new study permit, but they are required to contact IRCC and notify them of the change in institutions. The student must ensure that the new institution is a designated learning institution (DLI), since non-DLI schools are not eligible to host international students.

If a foreign national wishes to transfer from an institution outside of the province of Quebec to an institution inside the province of Quebec, they will have to obtain a certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) before they can transfer. This is because the province of Quebec has unique requirements for international students.

Changing Level of Study

Depending on the level of study for a foreign national, it may be necessary to obtain a new study permit or to inform IRCC of changes. Below are the common changes between levels of study:

  • Changing from primary education to secondary education: It is not necessary to obtain a new study permit. If, in making this change, the student is transferring from one institution to another, they should contact IRCC to update their institution of study.
    • Note: If a minor child is accompanying a parent or guardian who possesses a valid work or study permit, then the child does not require a study permit at the primary and secondary school levels.
  • Changing from secondary education to post-secondary education: It is necessary to obtain a new study permit from IRCC when switching from a secondary to post-secondary level of education.
  • Changing from one post-secondary level to another post-secondary level: It is not necessary to obtain a new study permit if switching between different post-secondary levels of education (for example, from a Bachelor’s Degree to a Master’s Degree). However, if the student is changing schools, or if the change in programs will affect the duration of study and/or the conditions listed on the permit, then the student should take the appropriate action as indicated above.

Transferring to a School in Quebec

The province of Quebec reserves more control over authorization of international students than Canada’s other provinces and territories. For this reason, there is an extra step involved with obtaining a study permit for an institution in Quebec. Before applying for a study permit, first a foreign national must obtain a certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ). Only after the student has obtained a CAQ can they submit their study permit application.

This CAQ requirement will affect international students wishing to transfer from an institution located outside of Quebec to an institution located inside Quebec. In order to make such a transfer, the student would first have to obtain a CAQ from the Quebec government. Once they have a CAQ, there is usually no need to apply for a new study permit. However the student should update IRCC with their new information.

Foreign nationals wishing to transfer from one Quebec institution to another Quebec institution may need to obtain a new CAQ for studies if they fall under one of the following categories: 

  • If the student is changing their level of study, they must obtain a new CAQ. 
  • If a foreign national’s studies extend beyond the expiry date indicated on the CAQ, they must apply for a new CAQ.

If transferring institutions or programs will affect the conditions listed on the CAQ, they must contact the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) and may need to obtain a new CAQ.

Changing a DLI: Step by Step

As long as you are still meeting the conditions of your study permit, you can change your DLI.

To do this, you will need:

Now that you have all the necessary documents, you’re ready to begin the process. Follow these steps to change your DLI:


Step 1: Sign in to your account

Step 2: Find the section Designated Learning Institution Student Transfer and click Transfer from DLI number

Step 3: Enter your study permit application number and click Search for my application.

Step 4: Enter more details about your original study permit application

Step 5: Enter your new DLI number, your new Student ID number, and your start date at your new school. Click Submit transfer.

Step 6: Review the details of your transfer. If all the information is correct, click Confirm Transfer.

Step 7: You should receive a notification that your transfer is complete. This confirms that you have notified the Canadian government of your intention to change DLIs. 

How Canadim Can Help

The Canadim Team is here to help you at any stage of your Canadian study process.

Canadim’s educational counsellors can help you to find the right program, to secure a letter of acceptance, and submit your application for a study permit. With our guidance you will have the best possible chance of success!

To find out more about our International Student Program, fill out our free student assessment. One of Canadim’s educational counselors will review your information and contact you shortly!

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