It is not uncommon for a student to discover that, contrary to their expectations, they are not enjoying their program of study. In this case the student may wish to switch programs or switch schools in order to find something better suited to their needs. For international students, switching programs can seem intimidating and confusing, but with the right knowledge, making the switch is easy!
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 regarding the change, or they may need to apply for a new study permit or a study permit extension.
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.
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 update 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 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.
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