Study Permit Overview
A Study Permit is essential to your life as a student in Canada. You cannot enrol in most school programs without a Study Permit and you need a Study Permit to work while a student. But it isn’t the only document you need. You may also need a Co-op Work Permit, a Temporary Resident Visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization. Check out the details below. Or use Polestar’s Ask Us! feature for more detailed information.
Almost everyone who enrols in a degree, certificate or diploma program in Canada needs a Study Permit. These are the most common exceptions to that rule:
- People whose study program will last less than six months
- Minor children who are already in Canada and whose parents are allowed to work or study in Canada
- Refugees and the children of refugees and refugee claimants
- Foreign diplomats and their children
- Members of foreign military organizations that are in Canada for official purposes
Studying: A Study Permit is a document that allows you to attend school in Canada. You must actively pursue your studies for your permit to remain valid. For example, you may lose your Study Permit if you take a term off school without a good reason or fail too many courses.
You will only be issued a study permit if you have been accepted to a school approved by one of Canada’s provinces or territories. These schools are called designated learning institutions (DLIs).
Warning: just because a school is a designated learning institution doesn’t mean that attending that school will qualify you for a Post-Graduation Work Permit after graduation.
Working: Your Study Permit allows you to work on campus at any time, off campus up to 20 hours per week during the school term and off campus full-time during school breaks. Your Study Permit will not allow you to work if you are attending a language school.
Your Study Permit does not allow you to do a co-op, internship or practicum. You must get a separate Co-Op Work Permit for that placement, even if you are not paid for the work. Some schools are unaware of this requirement and will tell you that you do not need the Co-Op Work Permit for your internship. They are wrong. You do. You should be issued the Co-Op Work Permit with your Study Permit, if your program has a mandatory internship or co-op. If it is not issued with your Study Permit, you should apply for it as soon as you find out you will be doing a co-op, internship or practicum.
Traveling: Your Study Permit rules what you can do once you are inside Canada, but it does not allow you to enter Canada. To enter Canada, you may need a Temporary Resident Visa, also known as a visitor visa or tourist visa. Whether you need a visa depends on your citizenship.
Students who don’t need a Temporary Resident Visa to enter Canada must get an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) if they are arriving by plane. If you need a Temporary Resident Visa or an ETA, it will be issued with your first Study Permit. However, you will need to get a new Temporary Resident Visa if you extend your study permit. Check the list of countries whose citizens require a visa to enter Canada to see if you need a visa.
Most people must apply for a Study Permit from outside Canada. You will receive a letter of approval, which you present at the border. An immigration officer will issue your actual Study Permit document when you cross the border.
You can get a Study Permit directly at the Canadian border, without applying in advance, only if you are a U.S. citizen, or a resident of the U.S., Greenland or St. Pierre and Michelon.
In some cases, you may apply for a Study Permit from within Canada. For example, you can apply from within Canada if you completed a pre-requisite program (such as a language program) for a college or university degree.
You can apply online or by paper for your initial Study Permit. The paper application will be sent to a Visa Application Centre, a private company that will forward your paperwork to the appropriate Canadian visa office. Both online and paper applications are processed in regional visa offices, though online applications may be transferred if one office becomes too busy.
The application requirements are different depending on your citizenship and where you are applying. All applications require the following elements:
- An acceptance letter from a designated learning institution following the form required by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
- A photocopy of your passport information page.
- Proof of funds. You must prove that you have enough money to cover at least one year of study. If you are single, that means that you must show that you have paid for your tuition, that you have travel funds and that you have at least $10,000. You need $4,000 if a spouse or child is coming with you and another $3,000 for each additional family member coming with you to Canada. The requirement for how you prove your financial support may vary according to your citizenship.
You may also be required to provide:
- A plan showing how your proposed studies in Canada fit your academic and career goals.
- Translated diplomas, degrees and transcripts from your most school program.
- Results of a recent medical exam performed by a panel physician. Click here to see if you need to get a medical exam.
- Biometric identification such as fingerprints or eye scans. Click here to see if you will need to provide biometric identification.
It’s always a good idea to write a letter explaining your education plan and why you have chosen to study at a particular program in Canada.
The Study Permit application package varies according to your citizenship. Follow the link at the bottom of this page to find your Study Permit package.
Canadian law allows someone to enter the country for more than one purpose. For example, you may hope to study in Canada and then become a permanent resident or citizen after graduation. However, some warn that immigration officers are more likely to refuse the applications of students who express a desire to stay in Canada after graduation.
Initial Study Permit: Study permits can be approved very quickly – or not. The time varies according to your citizenship and changes during the year, depending on the number of applications being processed. For example, in late July 2016, it was taking the Canadian government an average of 15 weeks to process a Study Permit application from Nigeria and seven weeks to process an application from India.
You should apply as soon as possible to increase the chance of your Permit being approved before your school term begins.
Expiry: Your Study Permit can expire BEFORE the expiry date printed on the permit. The Permit expires 90 days after you finish your studies OR on the date printed on the Permit, whichever is first. For example, if you finish a four-year degree in three years, your Study Permit will expire 90 days after your finish the degree, even though it may say that it is still valid for another year.
Extension: You must extend your study permit if you plan to study longer than expected, if your passport expires before your studies are completed or if your permit is going to expire while you are traveling outside Canada. You must apply for an extension to your study permit at least 30 days before it expires. It can take more than three months for extensions to be processed. (See more about extensions below under Special Situations.)
Restoration: Applications to restore a Study Permit must be filed within 90 days after the Permit expired or, if an extension has been refused, within 90 days from the date of the refusal notice. (See more about restoration below under Special Situations)
Seven out of every 10 Study Permits are approved, but the approval rate varies by country. Only a third of the applications from Pakistan, Haiti and Jordan are approved, according to World of Learning: 2016, published by the Canadian Bureau of International Education.
Immigration officers have wide latitude in evaluating applications, which can be refused for many reasons. An officer may not accept your evidence of financial support, or may not consider that you are a bona fide student because your education plan doesn’t seem to be aligned with your past interests. One common reason cited for refusing a study permit is that the officer does not believe the student will return to their home country after his or her studies are complete.
You can also be refused a study permit because you are deemed to be inadmissible. Typically, an applicant is inadmissible because they have been convicted of a crime (even a minor crime), they are considered to be a national security risk, they have violated human rights, they have a medical condition that poses a threat to public safety or they have broken immigration rules in the past. Inadmissibility can often be overcome with the help of an immigration lawyer or regulated immigration consultant. Consult the Polestar directory to find a legal professional who can help you with this complex issue.
Conditional university acceptance:
Sometimes universities admit a candidate for a degree program on the condition that they complete a short course at a language school first. Canada won’t issue a Study Permit for the length of the whole degree program because the acceptance is conditional.
You might not need a Study Permit for a language program of less than six months, but you should get one anyway so that you can then extend your Permit when you enter university.
So, apply for a Study Permit by listing the language school on your application, and include your conditional acceptance letter from university. You must write a letter explaining why you are applying for the Study Permit even though you don’t need it right away.
Your Study Permit should be issued for the duration of the language program. When you finish the language school, apply for an extension of your Study Permit and inform Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada that you are in a new program of study. You will be allowed to begin your university studies while you wait for the new permit. (See implied status below) If you don’t have a Study Permit, you may have to leave the country and delay your Canadian studies.
In general, you can change schools and programs at the post-secondary level without getting a new Study Permit. However, you must inform Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada that you have changed institutions and programs by changing the information listed in your online immigration account.
You must get a new Study Permit if you are moving up to high school or from high school to post-secondary. In all cases, the new school must continue to be a designated learning institution.
You must have permission to be in Canada. There are many permits and visas that show that you have this permission. A Study Permit is one of them. If your Study Permit expires, you fall out of status and must leave the country. These are ways to make sure you stay in status as a student:
Study Permit extension: You can apply to extend your Study Permit if it is going to expire before you graduate or while you are traveling outside Canada. You must apply 30 days before your Study Permit is going to expire. You should apply for a new Temporary Resident (Visitor) Visa or Electronic Travel Authorization after receiving your new Study Permit.
Implied Status: If you applied for a Study Permit extension at least 30 days before your Permit expired, you have implied status. That means you can continue to study and work as if your Permit was still valid until Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada either extends your Permit or refuses your request for an extension.
You should not leave the country while on implied status. If you travel outside Canada after your original Study Permit expires, you will lose your implied status, may not be able to re-enter Canada and will have to apply for a new Study Permit from outside the country to resume your studies in Canada.
Study Permit restoration: If you fail to extend your Study Permit before it expires, or your request for an extension was denied, you may still be able to resume your studies. You can apply for a restoration of your Study Permit within 90 days of the expiry of your original Permit. You can stay in Canada while your application is being considered, but you do not have implied status and CANNOT study or work until you receive a new Study Permit. Your restoration application will be closed if you leave the country.