Study Permit in Canada

Canada is a top destination for international students from all over the world. If you are interested in studying in Canada, you will first need to obtain a Canadian study permit.

Follow our step-by-step instructions to get your Canadian study permit today!

Find out whether you qualify for a study permit in Canada

Apply for a Study Permit

The study permit grants legal authorization for a person to study at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada. When applying for a study permit, a foreign national should be aware that there are eligibility requirements which must be met when submitting the study permit application. As well, there are certain conditions which must be met throughout the student’s time in Canada.

There are many steps involved with applying for a study permit and the processing times vary greatly from country to country, so it is best to plan ahead to ensure your permit will be processed before your study period begins. The majority of Canadian post-secondary educational programs commence study in September, January, or May, though a number of programs do offer intakes outside of those dates.

Since foreign nationals cannot apply for a study permit without an acceptance letter, they should check the start date and application process for their schools and programs of interest far in advance to ensure they have sufficient time to obtain the acceptance letter and complete the study permit application.

Did you know?

Canadian schools often impose different application deadlines for international students than for students applying from inside of Canada. Make sure you’re aware of the proper deadline for your program!

Study Permit Requirements

There are two sets of requirements you must consider when applying for a Canadian study permit: eligibility requirements, and requirements while studying in Canada.

Eligibility Requirements

You must meet these criteria in order to be eligible to apply for a study permit:

  • Travel Document: Have a valid passport (or other lawful travel document)
  • Acceptance Letter: You must have an acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in order to apply for a Canadian study permit.
  • Proof of Financial Support:
  • Demonstrate sufficient funds to meet the following requirements:
    1. Pay the student fees for your first year of study as outlined by the DLI.
    2. Meet all expenses for the first year of stay in Canada for the student and accompanying family member(s) in Canada.
    3. Afford transportation for the student and accompanying family member(s) from Canada to their home country.
    4. Funds should be demonstrated in liquid form, in the account under the name of the principal applicant, spousal applicant, a family relative, or a close friend.
  • Medical Exam: In most cases, after a visa officer receives an application for a study permit they will request that the student and accompanying family member(s) complete a medical exam.
  • Criminal Record: In some cases, after a visa officer receives an application for a study permit they will request police clearance certificates to ensure a person is not a risk to Canadian security.
  • Other Supporting Documentation: Extensive supporting documentation must be submitted with all study permit applications. This documentation varies from country to country. In order to determine the documents required for a specific location, you can consult the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website, or you can contact our firm and one of our Educational Counsellors will contact you with assistance.

When you apply for your permit, the visa officer will confirm to ensure you meet the requirements. If the visa officer is not satisfied, they will refuse your application.

Requirements while studying in Canada

If your study permit is approved and you enter Canada as an international student, you must meet the requirements below in order to maintain the validity of your study permit. While studying in Canada under a study permit, a foreign national must:

  • always be enrolled at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)
  • make progress towards completing their program
  • respect any conditions listed on their study permit
  • stop studying if they no longer meet the requirements and
  • leave Canada when their permit expires

Application Process

There are four stages to obtaining a Canadian study permit:

  1. Check your eligibility Ensure you meet the eligibility requirements for a Canadian study permit. You require an acceptance letter from a DLI, proof of financial support, as well as a range of documents which vary depending on your country of citizenship and residence.
  2. Prepare your application If you meet all eligibility requirements then you can prepare your study permit application. Ensure that you have gathered all documents required for your country. Immigration officers reserve the right to refuse study permits if they feel an applicant has not met all requirements, so it is valuable to have a qualified immigration representative review your application prior to submission.
  3. Submit your study permit application You have two options when submitting your application: Submit an electronic application: Create an account on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website and you can submit an application electronically using scanned or electronic copies of documents. Submit a paper-based application: Compile your application in hard copy and mail it to the Visa Application Centre (VAC) assigned to your country.
  4. If your study permit is approved, come to Canada! Please note that you do not receive your Canadian study permit until you arrive at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE). If your permit is approved, the Canadian government will issue you a Port of Entry Introduction Letter. You must keep this letter and show it to the immigration official when you arrive in Canada in order to obtain your study permit.

Please note that your study permit is not a visa. This means that, depending on your country of citizenship, you may need a travel visa in order to come to the POE in Canada.

  • Visa Exempt Countries: These countries do not require a visa to enter Canada. You can come directly to the Port of Entry to obtain your study permit. Please note that you may still require an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travel to Canada.
  • Non-Visa Exempt Countries: These countries require a visa to enter Canada. When your study permit application is approved, the visa officer should mail you a travel visa authorizing you to travel to Canada.

*If you are already in Canada legally, you may apply from within the country. If your study permit is approved it will be mailed to you.

Did you know?

The document allowing international students to study in Canada is called a study permit rather than a study visa. The term ‘visa’ refers to a document which allows you to enter Canada, while a ‘permit’ allows you to participate in certain activities while residing in Canada, like working or studying!

Study Permit Exemptions

Not all foreign nationals require a permit in order to study in Canada. The following are the most common exemptions from the study permit requirement:

Short-Term Studies

A foreign national does not require a study permit if they are completing a program of study which has a duration of six months or less. If the foreign national takes longer than six months to complete such a program, they must secure a study permit before the initial six months has passed.

Minor children in Canada

Minor children, those under the age of 18 or 19 (the age for minor children varies by province), do not need a study permit to attend kindergarten, pre-school, primary or secondary school if they meet one of the following conditions:

  • They (or their parents) are refugees or refugee claimants
  • They are in Canada accompanying a parent who is authorized to work or study

Members of foreign armed forces

A member of a foreign armed force who is in Canada on active duty does not require a permit to study. However, their family members may require study permits. If you are unsure whether or not you require a study permit for Canada, please complete our free student assessment and one of our Educational Counsellors will contact you to discuss your options.

Studying in Quebec

Quebec is autonomous in its immigration processes and policies, so the application process to study at an educational institution in Quebec differs somewhat from the processes in other provinces.
International students interested in pursuing an educational program in the province of Quebec must first obtain a
Certificat d’acceptation du Quebec (CAQ) before applying for a study permit.

Study Permit FAQ

What is a designated learning institution?

A DLI (Designated Learning Institution) is an educational institution which has received approval from the Canadian government to admit foreign nationals into their programs of study. All primary and secondary schools in Canada are DLIs and can admit students from foreign countries. However, not all post-secondary educational institutions are DLIs, so you must consult the Canadian government’s list of DLIs prior to applying.

For how long is a study permit valid?

A study permit will be valid for the length of the program of study at the time of application. If the program changes, or the student changes programs to one with a longer duration, the student must apply for an extension of the study permit. When a student completes their studies, the study permit will stop being valid 90 days later, regardless of the date indicated on the permit. Before the study permit expires, the foreign national must exit Canada or apply to extend their stay in Canada. Many students choose to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit, if approved, this permit authorizes recent graduates to stay in Canada and work.

Can I work in Canada while I'm studying?

You are allowed to work if you hold a study permit and are not required to apply for a work permit separately. In order to find part time work, you must also ensure that you have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN). However, once you stop attending the full-time course or the study permit expires, your right to work also stops.

Can I switch institutions or programs on my study permit?

Students are not required to apply for a new study permit if they change their field of study or switch educational institutions within Canada as long as their study permit does not specify this information. If the study permit specifies the institution or field of study then this information must be updated on the permit before the student can join a new course or school.

If a student changes their level of education, for example moving from primary school to high school, or from high school to university, then this would require modification of the study permit.

If you have applied to an institution in the province of Quebec, you must first verify that the level of study of the new program you wish to pursue matches the one authorized in your CAQ. If it does not, you will need to apply for a new CAQ.


Can my family come with me?

A full-time student with a valid study permit can be accompanied by his/her spouse and children to Canada. The spouse is allowed to study or work if he/she obtains a study permit or spousal open work permit. While accompanying minor children do not require a study permit to attend pre-school, primary school, or secondary school, any children attending a post-secondary educational institution must apply for a study permit.

When a visa officer assesses a study permit application, they will consider whether or not the applicant demonstrates they intend to leave Canada when their permit expires. If the officer is not satisfied that this requirement is met, they will refuse the study permit. Sometimes, applying with a person’s spouse and children, may suggest to the officer that the applicant intends to move permanently to Canada and therefore does not intend to leave Canada when the permit expires.

Can I go to my home country during holidays?

Absolutely! The permit holder must show a valid passport, a valid study permit, and a travel document authorizing re-entry to Canada (either a travel visa or an eTA depending on the country of citizenship). If any of these requirements are not met, permission to re-enter may be refused.

How can I stay in Canada after I finished my studies?

Most foreign graduates (international students) from any of Canada’s Designated Learning Institutions are eligible to apply for an open work permit under the Post-Graduate Work Permit program. However, not every program offered by DLIs make graduates eligible to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit. Be sure to check whether the program you’re studying will make you eligible. As a foreign national gains Canadian work experience, it will increase their eligibility to obtain Canadian permanent residency through the Express Entry – Canadian Experience Class program.

Any students graduating from one level of education may apply for a program and a study permit for another level of education. For example, a high school student applying to university.

Depending on a person’s credentials, they may have the option of applying directly for permanent residence through the Express Entry – Federal Skilled Worker program, Provincial Nomination Programs, or another valid immigration program.

How Canadim Can Help

Pursuing studies as an international student in Canada can be confusing and stressful. There are many schools and programs to choose and study permit applications are regularly refused for not meeting government requirements. Thankfully, the Canadim Team is here to help you keep it simple. Our International Student Program pairs potential students with one of our expert Educational Counsellors to provide guidance from start to finish.

We will help you with finding a program of study which suits your needs, obtaining a letter of acceptance, to preparing and submitting your study permit application! To get started, simply complete our free student assessment and one of our Educational Counsellors will contact you to discuss your immigration options!

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