Student Visas

Each year, thousands of students enter Canada to study in a variety of programs.  Young people arrive with their parents to study at grade or secondary school.  Individuals arrive to learn English or French.  Post-secondary students arrive to pursue a diploma or degree in one of our many highly rated colleges or universities.

Studying in Canada has many advantages for those wishing to remain in Canada temporarily or on a permanent basis.

Post-graduate work permits are available to students graduating from certain post-secondary programs.

As well, those applying for permanent residence as a skilled worker can gain valuable selection points for study experience in Canada.

Finally, studying in Canada is a good way to gain valuable skills and decide if immigrating to Canada permanently is what you wish to do.

No Study Permit Required

Every year, many foreign nationals work study in Canada without a study permit.

This section will discuss when an individual can work in Canada without first obtaining a study permit (subject to any medical or criminal issues, discussed later).

Length of Study

If a foreign individual in Canada in enrolled in a program of study that is less than 6 months in length (in total), that person does not need a study permit.

Note that is does not matter how long you plan to study, it matters how long the program of study is (under 6 months or not).

However, if you are from a country that requires a temporary resident visa (click here) to enter Canada, you will still need one even if you are studying in a program under 6 months.

Even if your program of study is less than 6 months, you may still want to apply for a study permit.

Why?

Because if you want to work on campus of your university or college you will need a study permit.

As well, if you decide you want to extend your studies or complete a longer program, you can do so if you have a study permit in hand.  Otherwise, you will have to apply for study permit from outside Canada if you want to study beyond 6 months.

If you are absolutely certain you do not want to work on campus, and you will not study longer than your 6 month program, then you should not apply for a study permit.

Courses Not Considered “Studies”

CIC does not consider certain programs as “studies” and as such, no study permit is required.  CIC will not issue study permits for:

  • Pre-school;
  • Courses of general interest or self-improvement;
  • Distance learning; or
  • Audited courses (i.e., sitting in on a class without the ability to get credit for the class).

 Minors

Minor children (depending on the Province, under either 18 or 19 years of age) generally require a study permit if they are coming with their parents and plan to study at the primary or secondary level.

However, minor children who are ALREADY IN Canada can study without a study permit UNLESS their parents are not authorized to work or study.

So if a child’s parents are in Canada but have no work or study permit, then the child will need a study permit.

If a child’s parent has a study or work permit, the child can study without a study permit if the child is already in Canada.

How can a child already be in Canada without having applied for a study permit before entering?

Perhaps a child is not old enough to study before entering, but then reaches age 5 while in Canada and can begin primary school.

Or perhaps there was no intention for the child to study when arriving in Canada, but then later the parents receive study or work permits.

However, you should NEVER mislead CIC by stating that your child does not plan to study in Canada but actually does intent to study.  This is a misrepresentation and may have you excluded from Canada for a long period of time.

The “age of majority” means an individual is no longer a minor.

The “age of majority” is 18 years of age in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan.  This means if an individual is 18 years or older, he or she is NOT a minor.

The “age of majority is 19 years of age in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.  This means if an individual is 19 years or older, he or she is NOT a minor.

Designated Inviduals

There are certain individuals who do not require study permits, these being family of diplomats, staff of diplomats, certain armed forces members, and persons making a claim for refugee protection.

When a Study Permit is Needed

If an individual does not fall within any of the exemptions described in the previous chapter, he or she must obtain a study permit before studying in Canada.

You can get a study permit for studies at a university or college, or any course of academic, professional or vocational training.

Where Can I Study?

You can study at a private or public institution in Canada.  However, be diligent in researching your choice to ensure they are a quality institution.

My advice would be to choose a public university or college (i.e., publicly funded) if at all possible, as I believe the quality is often better than at private institutions (though not always).

Another reason to pick a public institution (or a private college that can issue degrees) is that they will qualify for a work on campus or a post-graduate work permit – private institutions generally do not.

I discuss working on campus and the post-graduate work program in detail a little later.

Academic Training

You can receive a study permit for academic training.

“Academic training” is typically professional employment that is directly linked to a study program.

Generally, it is completed along with post-secondary studies and is often a required component of obtaining a degree or certification.

Examples of academic training include articling for law students, cooperative education placements, and medical internships.

Professional Training

You can receive a study permit for professional training.

“Professional training” is additional education or training to professional already working in a specific field.

Professional training is usually recognized by a professional organization, and is often offered through various colleges, universities, professional associations or unions.

Examples of professional training include real estate appraisal, production and inventory control, food services management, specialty courses for lawyers, doctors, business administrators, engineers, dentists, teachers and counsellors.

Vocational Training

You can receive a study permit for vocational training.

“Vocational training” is generally considered to be preparation for a trade, a vocation or for agriculture.  It is focussed on technical skills training or organizational skills training.

Vocational training can performed through a learning institution or through on-the-job training or programs in conjunction with a specific industry.

Examples of vocational training include quality control, trades training (such as mechanics, welding, carpentry, and so forth), and new technology occupational training.

Part-time Studies

You are not required to study full-time in order to get a study permit.  You can receive a study permit for part-time studies, however, you will not be permitted to work on campus if you are studying part-time.

Accompanying Family Members

If you are married (or have a common law partner), and your spouse wishes to accompany you to Canada, your spouse should apply for 2 documents.

First, if your spouse is from a country that requires a temporary resident visa, your spouse will need to apply for a temporary resident visa.

Next, your spouse is entitled to an open work permit, which allows him or her to work for any employer he or she wishes.  Even if your spouse does not plan to work, it is a good idea to apply for this work permit just in case.

If your child is also accompanying you, your child will need a temporary resident visa (if he or she is from one of the countries requiring one), and a likely a study permit if he or she is school aged.

You should include ALL applications (study, temporary resident permit, and open work permit) in one envelope so they are all processed together.

Letter of Acceptance

Before applying for a study permit, you will need to include an original letter of acceptance from the institution where you wish to study with your application (no photocopies allowed).

In order to avoid delays, your letter of acceptance should include all of the following (if possible):

  • full name, date of birth and mailing address of the student;
  • name of the institution and official contact
  • telephone, fax, Web site and e-mail information for the institution
  • type of institution (licensing information for private institutions)
  • the course/program, level, and year of study into which the student was accepted;
  • the estimated duration or date of completion of the course;
  • date on which the selected course of study begins;
  • the last date on which a student may register for a selected course;
  • the academic year of study that the student will be entering;
  • whether the course/program of study is full-time or part-time;
  • the tuition fee;
  • scholarships and other financial aid (if applicable)
  • a clear statement of acceptance subject to obtaining a study permit
  • any conditions related to the acceptance or registration, such as academic prerequisites,
  • completion of a previous degree, proof of language competence, etc.;
  • clear identification of the educational institution, normally confirmed through its letterhead;
  • where applicable, licensing information for private institutions normally confirmed through letterhead.

If your letter does not contain all these elements, it is worth contacting the institution to see if they can issue another one that does contain these elements.

Be sure to keep a photocopy of your acceptance letter for your files.

Documents Required With Your Application

Be sure to use the document checklist as part of the forms package from CIC that you can access from our website.

Generally, you must provide the following documents with your application:

  • Application form (IMM 1294);
  • Study permit application fee;
  • Letter of acceptance;
  • Two recent passport-size photographs (write your name and date of birth on the back of the photos);
  • Proof of identity (passport and copy of birth certificate if possible);
  • Proof of financial support (discussed below);
  • CAQ for students destined to Quebec.

Financial Resources and Support From Family

Showing sufficient financial resources (or family support) is a key aspect to a successful student permit application.

At minimum, you have to show you have enough funds for your first year of studies.  These funds must cover tuition fees, travel to and from Canada, and living expenses for yourself and any accompanying family members.

In addition to tuition, CIC uses a minimum guide for how much an applicant will need to support himself or herself, and pay for books, transportation, and so forth.

For a single person, you will need to show a minimum of $10,000 in addition to tuition.

For a student and an accompanying spouse or common law partner, you will need to show a minimum of $14,000 in addition to tuition.

For a student and accompanying spouse and children, you will need to show $14,000 plus $3000 per child in addition to tuition.

You do not need to show funds for the entire length of the course you are taking – you only need to show funds for your first year of studies.

However, CIC will also look at the probability of you being able to fund future years of study.

How do they look at the probability you can pay for your entire course?

CIC will look at a number of factors, such as:

  • scholarships and fellowships;
  • parents’ employment and financial resources;
  • parents’ willingness to support you;
  • other family members willing to support you;
  • your financial resources (investments or access to financing).

My suggestion is to provide as much financial information as you can.   Bank records for at least a year (two if possible), investment accountants, lines of credit, valued assets, and so forth.  Anything you have to support your application from a financial perspective should be included.

If you have family that is willing to support you, you should at a minimum have your family member do the following:

  • provide an sworn affidavit that they are your family member (e.g., parent, uncle, etc), and will support you during your studies;
  • provide notarized financial statements or employment letters from your family member to show they have the financial resources to support you;
  • copies of the bio-data pages of their passports and a copy of your birth certificate to prove you are related (provide whichever documents you have to help prove you are related).

Will You Return to Your Home Country?

One of the primary questions CIC will address when reviewing your application is this:  “Will this applicant return to his or her home country on the completion of your studies?”

These are the factors that CIC will look at in determining whether or not you will return to your home country at the end of your studies:

  • The length of time you will spend in Canada – the longer you stay the stronger the connections to your home country should be.
  • Your means of support – the less support you have, the stronger the connections to your home country should be.
  • Your obligation and ties in your home country (discussed below).
  • The likelihood of leaving Canada should an application for permanent residence be refused – you are allowed to have “dual-intent”; an intention for a temporary study permit with a view to applying for permanent residence in future.
  • Compliance with the Act and Regulations – do you have previous overstay or other issues with CIC? If so, you will need very strong connections to your home country.

You should provide evidence of as many connections and ties to your home country as you can.

What are the connections to my home country that I can show?  Here are some examples of connections that CIC will take seriously:

Family – if you have family in your home country – spouse, children, parents and so forth – provide evidence such as copies of marriage certificates, birth certificates or bio-data pages from passports.

Property – if you have property holdings in your home country, provide copies of titles, investment accounts, etc., with valuations if possible.

Employment – if you are taking a leave of absence from an employer to study in Canada, provide an employment contract or letter from your employer confirming this fact.

Obligations – if you are a leader in your community, or if you have responsibilities to others in your home country, provide documentation to show this.  Affidavits from others stating you are required to perform a function in your home country are useful.

Take time to think about any connection you have to your home country and provide some evidence of this in your application – it is a critical component for success.

Where Should You Apply?

The CIC office of application should be either:

  1. The CIC office responsible for your country of citizenship; or
  2. The CIC office responsible for your current country of residence so long as you have been legally admitted to your current country of residence and currently have legal status there.

Click here for a list of CIC offices responsible for various countries.

It is also very important that you click on the CIC office in that list to get to its website – there are often instructions specific to each office in terms of payment, currency and so forth.

Will You Need an Interview?

The CIC reserves the right to interview an applicant prior to issuing a study permit.  For example, an interview may be requested if:

  • There are doubts about your reasons for coming to Canada;
  • There are doubts about your arrangements for care and support while in Canada;
  • There are doubts about your ability or willingness to leave Canada once your studies are complete.

Your best chance at avoiding an interview is to provide as complete an application as you can, including strong evidence of ties to your country and financial support while in Canada.

Will you require a medical exam?

If you plan to study in Canada for less than six months, then generally you won’t need to get a medical exam.

If you plan to study in Canada for more than six months, then you will need a medical exam only if you are from one of these countries, or if  have stayed temporarily for six months in the preceding year) in one of those countries listed.

If you require a medical exam, the medical exam will be good for one year.

Click here for a list of doctors that you must use for your medical exam ( you can not use any doctor – it must be from the list).

Applying/Renewing If You Are Already in Canada

If you are already in Canada legally, you can apply for a study permit (or a renewal) from within Canada.

Your application called a “Change of Conditions” would need to be completed, and sent along with all other supporting evidence as discussed above.

You are “changing conditions” because you are already legally in Canada under another category (perhaps as a visitor or spouse of a temporary resident) and you would like to change your conditions to be able to study in Canada.

Application Forms

You should always obtain application forms from the Citizenship and Canada website.  These forms are updated regularly so you need to ensure you are using the most up-to-date forms.

As well, some of the forms need to be “verified” so they generate a code that Citizenship and Immigration Canada can use to speed processing.  Using the official forms from their site ensures that the verification process will work for you.

Study Permits

Click here for access to study permit application forms.

Help With Completing the Forms

Remember that video tutorials to help you complete the forms may be found in the blog secton of this website.