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bookswoman studyingThousands of foreign students enter Canada every year to study at one of hundreds of colleges or universities.

It’s a smart move.  Not only do you get to experience Canadian culture, but it can set you up for a post-graduation work visa, and eventually permanent residence in Canada.

Even if permanent residence is not your current goal, after studying here, you may wish to stay indefinitely.

However, the student permit rules have changed recently and I’ve summarized the key aspects below.

Note that a study permit is only required for a program over 6 months in length.  However, it’s a good idea to get  a study permit no matter the length of the program, in case you want to continue studying while you’re here beyond the six month period.

You have to study while you’re here

Previously, you could get a study permit but not necessarily follow through with your study plan.

No longer.

Now, you have to remain enrolled in your school and make reasonable progress towards completing your study program.  CIC will get information on your status from your educational institution, so they will know what you are up to.

If you don’t remain enrolled (and progress – very important – you can’t linger in a program), you might be removed from Canada.  Not good.  So if you come here to study, do just that.

You can only attend certain educational institutions

CIC rules on which institutions you could – and could not – attend have changed over the years.

Now, you must only attend a designated learning institution.  Note that this applies only to post-secondary education.  Elementary and high schools are all acceptable.

You’ll need the number of you college or university in order to apply – you’ll find in the link in the previous paragraph.

You have to pay your way and be healthy

This rule hasn’t changed: you have to show you (or your parents) have enough money to cover tuition fees, living expenses while you’re here, and travel expenses to get back to your country of origin.

If you’re from certain countries (or you’ve lived or traveled in certain countries) for 6 months or more, you might need a medical as well.  Click here for the list of countries where a medical might be needed.

You can now work off campus

This is a big change.  You can work off campus without a work permit for 20 hours per week during classes, and full-time when school breaks.  If you’re studying English (or French) as a second language, then you won’t be able to work off campus.  You would need a work permit in order to work in Canada.

You can work in a co-op / internship program

Co-op or internship programs are fine, so long as they are an essential part of your training program.  However, you do need a co-op work permit (apart from your study permit) to participate.

Studying English (or French) as a second language won’t let you work in a co-op or internship.

You might be able to apply for a study permit from within Canada

Certain individuals can apply for a work permit from within Canada, including:

  • Minor children studying at an elementary, middle or high school
  • Exchange students and some visiting students
  • Students who completed a short course that is a condition for acceptance at a designated learning institution

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If you are planning to work in Canada as a temporary foreign worker, you typically need an employer who is willing to hire you.  That employer must also be willing to apply to the government to show that it is difficult (or impossible) to find a Canadian who is able to do the job you wish to do.

In the past the employer would apply for a “labour market opinion” (LMO) to confirm that it would be difficult to find a Canadian.  An LMO would be issued and you would use that LMO to apply for your work permit.

However, the labour market opinion is now known as a labour market impact assessment (LMIA).  A positive LMIA (or a confirmation letter) will confirm that a foreign worker is required because there is no Canadian available to do the job.

However, not all Canadian employers are required to obtain a positive LMIA.  In many cases, an work permit can be obtained without an LMIA.  Click here and scroll down to “Obtaining a Work Permit Not Requiring ESDC Confirmation” for a list of work permits that be obtained without an LMIA.

For those of you who have been issued a supervisa, you quickly realized that the promise of a 10 year entry visa was in fact a one or two year entry visa, that must be renewed.

Why is this the case?

CIC wants to ensure that after one or two years, the conditions under which the supervisa were issued have not changed.  For example, do your parents still have adequate medical coverage?  Are they still residing with you?  Can you meet their food and lodging needs?

If your parents are currently residing in Canada with you, then the renewal application is sent to CPC Vegreville.  Currently, the address is:

CPC Vegreville
Visitor and Temporary Resident Permit
6212-55th Avenue – Unit 303
Vegreville, AB
T9C 1W1

However, please check the address on the CIC website before you send anything – CIC often changes addresses without much notice.

What should be included in a renewal application?

In essence, your renewal application (which is an Application to Change Conditions or Extend Your Stay in Canada as a Visitor) should contain all the information you provided in your initial supervisa application, with updated information. So new medical coverage insurance should be included, along with tax information, job letter, and so forth.

Don’t take this application lightly – if you don’t do it right, the supervisa won’t be renewed and your parents will have to return to their home country.

I’ve included a copy of a renewed supervisa here if you want to see what it looks like.

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two canadian passports

As a permanent resident, the general rule to apply for Canadian citizenship is to have 1,095 days of physical presence in Canada in the previous 4 years.

If you meet that test, great.

But what if you were out of the country for a few days per month?  What if you have to be out of the country a few days per month (like one of my clients who has business in the USA)?  Can you apply with anything less than 1,095 days?

Yes you can.

To say that the law on physical presence is currently in a state of confusion would be an understatement.  There are several cases at the Federal Court that all say different things.

However, citizenship judges will generally look at your ties to Canada if you have less than 1,095 days.  So let’s look at the factors the citizenship judge will consider, so you can draft your submission accordingly.  Note that generally, only temporary and relatively short absences will be considered as exceptions – lengthy absences and living away from Canada will not fall within the factors below.

1. Was the individual physically present in Canada for a long period prior to recent absences which occurred immediately before the application for citizenship?

This means that you lived here for close to 3 years, left for a period of time (a few months perhaps) but then returned and live here permanently.

2. Where are the applicant’s immediate family and dependents (and extended family) resident?

Let’s say you have regular business trips outside of Canada.  But most or all of your family live here.  It shows you have real ties to Canada, so those days away may count as physically residing here.

3. Does the pattern of physical presence in Canada indicate a returning home or merely visiting the country?

If you leave Canada regularly but stay in hotels, it looks like you are returning home each time, so those days away can count as presence here.  However, if you own a residence elsewhere and leave the country to live there, it may appear as you are visiting Canada and living elsewhere, so those days may not count as presence here.

4. What is the extent of the physical absences – if an applicant is only a few days short of the 1,095 total it is easier to find deemed residence than if those absences are extensive.

Pretty straightforward – the fewer absences the better under this exception to the physical presence rule.

5. Is the physical absence caused by a clearly temporary situation such as employment as a missionary abroad, following a course of study abroad as a student, accepting temporary employment abroad, accompanying a spouse who has accepted temporary employment abroad?

This the exception that most applicants use.  You live here and your employer compels you take an assignment abroad.  If you are going to try this approach, you better have lots of evidence, including an employment contract and a detailed letter from your employer explaining why you were required to work out of the country and what you were doing.

6. What is the quality of the connection with Canada: is it more substantial than that which exists with any other country?

If you want to use this exception, show all your links to Canada: job, property, involvement in the community, contacts, social organizations – whatever you can.  Also if you pay tax here and no other place, make a point of that too.

You should note that one line of case law says citizenship judges must look at the factors above if you have less than 1,095 days.  Another line of case law says they can rely on strict physical presence in Canada.  So you are taking your chances applying with fewer days.

But most citizenship judges will apply the above factors, and if you run into one who sticks with physical presence, you can always apply again once you have 1,095 days.

Always a good idea to speak with a lawyer before applying.

I hope you found this article useful, and if so, feel free to share a link to it with your social network or on your blog or website.