Last updated: October 16, 2019
Canada has social, cultural and economic benefits of international students. As such, Canada facilitates and encourages the entry of students to Canada.
As per Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, if you are not a Canadian national or a permanent resident, you cannot study unauthorized. Usually, a document called Study Permit gives this authorization. However, if the duration of studies is less than six months, a foreign national does not need a study permit. There are other exceptions too. However, they are narrower in their application.
Below, you’ll find more information on the place of application, processing times, requirements, background checks, family members, spousal open work permit, on- and off-campus work, study permit extension and restoration.
Place of Application
Applications are made online before coming to Canada. Instead of online, you also have the option to apply by mail or in person at a Visa Application Center (VAC) in your country of nationality or residence. If you use the VAC option, there is an additional fee collected by the VAC. Citizens and permanent residents of the U.S.A. and residents of Greenland and St. Pierre and Miquelon may apply for a study permit at a port of entry.
Generally speaking, foreign nationals may not apply for a study permit inside Canada. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Some of these circumstances are listed below but the list is not exhaustive:
- Temporary workers
- Temporary resident permit holders with at least a six-month long permit
- Abused temporary workers
- Family members of temporary workers, international students, refugees, temporary resident permit holders (at least six months of validity is required) and officers of foreign governments.
- Study permit holders
If you are in a situation that does not fit any of the exceptions above, and you want to apply to study in Canada from within Canada. You’ll have to either go back to your country or legally cross the border to the U.S.A. and apply at the Canadian Visa Office in New York.
Processing times depend on your nationality, which determines where your application will be processed. The quickest visa offices take around 2 weeks to reach a decision. Slower ones may need 9 weeks. These numbers do not include the time to be spent for biometrics and medical examination, if applicable. If you are lucky enough to qualify for a port-of-entry application, the processing time will be mere minutes. In-Canada applications are usually processed in 4 weeks.
You must meet the following requirements to be considered for a study permit:
- An acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institution in Canada
- Convince the visa officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your authorized stay*
- Prove that you have the financial means to support yourself in Canada**
- Not be criminally inadmissible to Canada***
- Not be medically inadmissible to Canada****
- Pass the security checks to rule out any threat to Canada and Canadians*****
- Meet all the other requirements for temporary residents in the immigration laws and regulations of Canada
Proving That You’ll Go Back + Dual Intent*
Convincing a visa officer that you will leave whereas you probably want to stay in Canada after your studies are completed may seem counterintuitive. However, the visa officer and the CBSA officer at the port of entry knows there is a chance of this. In legal terms, this is called dual intent. It is perfectly normal for you to express a desire to stay in Canada after your studies come to an end. You just need to put it in words in such a way that the officers will believe that you won’t do so illegally. In other words, you must convince Canada that you will abide by all the laws, regulations and conditions imposed upon you as a study permit holder. If you cannot find a legal way to stay in Canada after your studies conclude, you should leave Canada despite your desire to stay. If the visa officer or the CBSA officer at the port of entry is not convinced of this, they will decline your application or entry to Canada.
So how do you prove that? Having a history of previous entry and exits to and from other countries without any violation of immigration rules or conditions certainly works to your advantage. Also, if you have strong ties to your home country—such as a wife or a child staying behind, a real estate you own, a job that you will go back to once your studies are over—the likelihood of you going back to your home country is higher. On the other hand, if you have relatives in Canada, that may work against you. If your fellow citizens has a bad record in terms of complying with Canadian immigration laws, that will be a minus on your application too.
You have to prove financial means for the first year of your studies. You must demonstrate that you can cover the tuition fees for the first year + you have readily available $10,000 for that first year to support yourself (food, accommodation etc.) in Canada.
If you have a criminal record, it will work against you in your study permit application. You may be asked to prove a police certificate. Some criminality renders you inadmissible to Canada, meaning your application will fail.
Medical examination is usually not required for a study permit application. However, it will be required if you spent more than six months in a designated country within the last year. This requirement is the same for all temporary applicants (student, visitor, worker). Please see the Visitor Visa page for more information.
Security checks are done by Canadian intelligence services. If it is found that you pose a security risk to Canada, your application will be rejected.
Your family members may accompany you when you come to Canada to study. Within the context of Canadian immigration laws and regulations, family members mean your spouse or common-law partner; your or your spouse’s or common-law partner’s dependent children; and the dependent children of your dependent children, if any.
Spouses or common-law partners of study permit holders are eligible for an open work permit. This is a fantastic opportunity for students who bring along their families as it eases the financial burden. With an open work permit, an international student’s spouse or common-law partner may work at any occupation in any location with any employer. They are exempted from obtaining an LMIA.
Minor children of a study permit holder may study at a pre-school, primary or secondary level and won’t need a study permit to do so.
Please remember that the study permit holder must continue to meet the conditions imposed on the study permit for family members to continue to take advantage of these exemptions.
On- and Off-campus work
Canadian immigration regulations allow international students to work on campus without a work permit as long as they are engaged in full-time studies at a post-secondary level (college or university) with a valid study permit. You have to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) at Service Canada before you commence on-campus work.
As of June 2014, international students may work part-time (up to 20 hours a week) off campus without a work permit during regular academic sessions. They are also allowed to work full time off campus without a work permit during regularly scheduled breaks between academic sessions.
Facilitation of on- and off-campus work without a work permit, plus the open work permit for a spouse or common-law partner make it easier for international students to afford studying in Canada.
Study Permit Extension
If you plan to continue your studies beyond the authorized period on your study permit, you need to apply to extend your status. This application must be submitted to CPC-Edmonton before your study permit expires. You must have complied with the imposed conditions of your status so far for your extension application to be considered.
Study Permit Restoration
If you need to extend your study permit but your study permit expired and you haven’t taken the steps to extend it. From the day your study permit expired, you have 90 days to submit your application to CPC-Edmonton to restore your status. For a restoration application to be approved, you must have met all the other conditions and requirements of your initial status, except for applying for an extension before your study permit expires.