How to Get a Study Permit for Canada - The Complete Guide

The short and informative video will introduce you to the requirements for a study permit for Canada and answer some questions you may have about studying in Canada.

When you have watched the video, proceed to the rest of the article. There are quick links to help you get to sections you may need more information about. Remember, if you have any questions, simply click on the chat box in the bottom right corner of our screen and one of our agents will gladly assist you. Happy learning!  

There are a number of reasons people choose to study in Canada. The most obvious is to obtain a certification from one of our world-class institutions. Canada has 5 universities that rank in the top 100 globally. All the others are hot on their heels, keeping the standards high and the competition fierce. Many people are unsure how to get a study permit for Canada before you can come over. This post will cover every step of the process, and perhaps enlighten you on a few more bits of helpful information about studying in Canada you may not be aware of.

Another popular reason is that it is a great way to become a permanent resident and eventually a citizen of Canada in the long term. If your plan is to live and work in Canada, and you aren’t quite happy with the job you may have to work when you first arrive, studying can be a great segway into positioning yourself well in the Canadian workforce.

The main reason people choose to study in Canada? Simply because we are one of the best countries in the world to experience, and often they just never want to leave. Canadians are open and friendly, you will make fast friends and find that your fellow students are always willing to lend a helping hand. There is so much to do in Canada, you may find that you won’t be rushing home over your summer and winter breaks. Your loved ones can come to visit you and you can take them on one of many countless adventures you will enjoy as a temporary (for now at least) resident of Canada.

Apply to a Canadian University and Get Your Acceptance Letter

Get accepted to a Canadian university or school

It is important that you apply to one of the Immigration and Refugee Council of Canada’s (IRCC) designated institutions. These institutions are approved by their province or territory to enroll international students. You can choose to study at a Canadian university or a post-secondary school the offers certification in trades and vocations. There are institutions that offer courses in both English and French. The good news is if you have children under the age of 18 who will need to be enrolled in school when you get to Canada, all elementary, middle, and high schools are Designated Learning Institutions (DLI’s).

Once you know which school you want to go to and the program you want to study, you must begin by applying to the institution. Make sure you apply at least six months in advance for children who will be entering a primary or high school, and for universities and other post-secondary schools we advise beginning the process at least one year in advance. Something to keep in mind as the Canadian academic year runs from August through to May. Begin by contacting the administration of the school you want to apply to, and they will provide you with:  

  • the cost to apply
  • tuition fees
  • application forms or packs
  • health insurance requirements - the Government of Canada doesn’t provide health care for foreign students so you will need to take out your own health insurance, which can be different depending on where you live.
  • rent and how much it will cost to live in Canada
  • language test requirements

You can then fill out the application and if your school of choice selects you, they will send you an acceptance letter, which you will use to apply for your study permit!

Choosing where you want to study can be quite important. If you find you favour another province than the one you completed your qualification in, you may lose the opportunity to apply for that particular provinces’ international graduate stream, and subsequently a provincial nomination. So make sure that if you intend to apply for permanent residency after you graduate, that you try to find employment in the province you studied in. Here is a shortlist of the number of Designated Learning Institutions each province has. Pay special attention to the third column, as that is the number of schools offering programs that will make you eligible for the Post Graduate Work Permit.

Number of DLI’s by Province
ProvinceDLI’sDLI’s with PGWP Programs
British Columbia26762
Manitoba 4118
New Brunswick4027
Newfoundland & Labrador3122
Northwest Territories33
Nova Scotia3912
Prince Edward Island2014

As you can see, you’ve got options!

Check if You Need to Apply For a Study Permit for Canada

apply for a Canadian study permit

Regardless of whether you are already in Canada or are applying from outside of Canada, if you do not have a student visa coupled to a study permit, you will need to apply for one if you want to study legitimately at a Canadian DLI. Have a look at the following list of situations that will require you to get a study permit for Canada:

  • If you want to study a course in Canada that is longer than six months in length
  • If you are not one of the following:
    • a minor or applying on behalf of a minor;
    • a member of a foreign armed force for a designated state under the Visiting Forces Act;
    • have registered Indian status in Canada; and
    • family or the staff member of a foreign representative in Canada.

It is important to remember that your study permit isn’t a visa. When you apply for your study permit, you will be awarded a visa at the same time. You will be granted either a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) depending on which country you live in. Your visa allows you to travel to Canada, your study permit allows you to be a full time student once you arrive in Canada.

Start Your Application For A Student Visa In Canada

apply for a student visa

As we mentioned before, your study permit and student visa are tied together. You can apply either online or via paper. If you want to apply online you will require access to a scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your supporting documents which will need to be uploaded to the IRCC website along with your completed application form. You will also require a valid credit card to make payment for processing with.

You can also apply by submitting hard copies of your documents and application, make payment and submit biometrics at your closest Visa Application Centre (VAC).If you have any family members or dependents accompanying you, each person will be required to complete and submit their own forms.

If you live in one of the following countries, you may be eligible to apply for your study permit online and receive it significantly faster via the Student Direct Stream (SDS):

  • China;
  • India;
  • Morocco;
  • Senegal;
  • Pakistan;
  • Vietnam; or
  • the Philippines.

The Student Direct Stream

SDS applications are processed within 20 days. If you live in one of the countries mentioned above it is highly recommended that you ensure your application is entirely correct when you submit due to the fast processing time. You don’t want to have to reapply and pay again due to a simple mistake.

Remember: a study permit is not in itself a visa, and it does not allow you to travel to and enter Canada. You will still be required to obtain a visitor visa or electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) which will allow you to pass through border control. There is no need to be concerned however, as when your Canada study permit is issued, you will automatically be issued with either a visitor visa or an eTA depending on the country you are applying from. Ensure that before you travel to Canada to begin your studies, that you have a letter of introduction that says your application is approved and a valid passport that has your visitor visa (if required) stuck to one of the pages.

Prepare All Required Documents For Your Canadian Student Visa

documents required for a Canada study permit

Proof of acceptance

This document will come from the school you have enrolled in. They may send you a physical copy or a digital copy. Ensure you provide a hard copy of the letter with your application. If you are provisionally accepted to a program, for example you are first required to complete English or French second language courses, your permit will only be for the duration of your prerequisite courses plus one year. Once you pass those courses and are formally accepted into the program you will need to apply for a new study permit to extend your stay in Canada.

Proof of identity

You will require a copy of your valid passport or travel document. Keep in mind that the IRCC cannot issue your study permit past the expiration date of your passport, so if it expires before your program is meant to conclude, you may want to consider renewing before applying for the study permit. If your application is successful you will need to send in your physical passport or travel document. You will also be required to submit two passport photos with your application.

Proof of financial support

You will need to show that you can support yourself and any dependants you list on your application. This is where things get interesting, because while there is a minimum financial requirement, you are also allowed to work part time jobs both on and off campus while you study. If your ‘dependent’ is not a minor, they may also be eligible for a temporary foreign work permit as long as you are together in Canada. So, while the minimum requirement exists, it’s not to say it will all be spent. Who knows, you may even make more than you arrived with during your studies.

The amount you are required to show is a minimum of your first year of tuition plus an additional $10,000 CAD ($833 per month). For the first dependent you will need to show an additional $4,000 and for every subsequent dependent another $3,000. You can show proof of funds in any one of the following ways:

  • a Canadian bank account in your name, into which you have transferred the money;
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) from a participating Canadian financial institution;
  • Proof of a student or education loan from a bank;
  • Your bank statements from the past four months, reflecting the minimum amount consistently throughout;
  • A bank overdraft that is eligible to be converted into Canadian dollars
  • Proof you have paid your tuition and housing fees, and have arranged part time employment that does not conflict with your academic program;
  • A letter from the person or school sponsoring your studies; or
  • proof of funding paid from within Canada if you are the recipient of a scholarship or are in a Canadian-funded educational program.

Language Requirements For Studying In Canada

pass a Canadian Language Benchmark test

A part of the requirement to study in Canada is the ability to effectively communicate in either English or French. To prove that you can do this a section of your study permit will require you to submit the results of a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) test, which will score your ability in four areas:

  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing; and
  • Listening

There are two tests in English and two in French that are recognized by the IRCC, you will need to find a centre in your country where you can take these tests.

  • CELPIP: Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program
  • IELTS: International English Language Testing System
  • TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français
  • TCF Canada: Test de connaissance du français

Make sure your language skills are up to scratch before taking the test, as it can be quite expensive and does take a fair amount of time

You Can Work While You Are Studying

Work as a Student in Canada

Not only can you work while you study to help cover costs, but you can also help your partner or spouse get an open work permit. You can work on campus, but only once your studies have officially started, not before.

There are numerous opportunities on and off campuses for foreigners who are enrolled in their school and have a valid study permit. You can work for a professor as a teaching or research assistant, you can work in the kitchens of the cafeteria as a counter attendant, cook or cleaner, you can work in the dorms as a superintendent, resident advisor, administration assistant or any other position, as long as it is on campus.

Conditions you must meet to work on campus, without having to apply for a work permit:

  • you must be a full-time, post-secondary student at one of the following:
    • a public post secondary school, such as a university or college;
    • a private college in the province of Quebec that is at least 50% subsidised by government funds
    • A Canadian private school that may legally award degrees under provincial law
  • you must hold a valid Canada study permit
  • you must have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Once you have completed your studies or your study permit expires, you may no longer work on campus. But why would you want to, because at that point you will be eligible for your PGWP and get a job earning the big bucks!

How long does it take to receive a Canadian study permit?

If you are from one of the countries mentioned above, processing time can be as little as 20 days. For countries not included on that list the average processing time varies by country but you can expect it to take around 18 weeks. This is why it is vital to apply to not only your preferred school timeously, so you have adequate time to get your Canadian study visa.

What to Do When You Graduate

The Post Graduate Work Permit

If you participated in a program that was eligible for the Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) you will have 180 days after you receive your final results to apply for your PGWP. Your Canadian study permit must also have continued to be valid past your graduation date, so it is vital that you don't let your status expire while you await your final results. If your study permit does expire before you receive your results, ensure that you either:

  • Obtain a visitors visa for your continued stay in Canada (remember, you cannot legally work while holding a visitors visa); or
  • leave Canada (return home) and apply for your PGWP from there.

With your PGWP, you will be able to work for any employer as long as they have a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). There are certain employers excluded from this requirement, but it is recommended that you follow up with your employer and ensure everything is in order so that you are able to apply for permanent residency in Canada without any issues or roadblocks. Your first and best option will be the Express Entry System, for the following reasons:

  • You will have a degree or diploma under your belt, making you eligible for either the skilled foreign worker or skilled trades programs.
  • You will have earned your qualification in Canada, which counts in your favour over those who are applying from outside of Canada.
  • Some provinces have foreign graduate streams. These are to help foreign students who graduate from post secondary institutions within those provinces become permanent residents if their intention is to continue living and working in said province.
  • If you are already employed, you will have a Canadian job offer, which also counts in your favour and will put you at the top of the applicant pool.
  • If you wait until you have at least one year of experience working in Canada, you will become eligible for the Canada Experience Class category, this coupled with your Canadian qualification just about guarantees your permanent residency in Canada.

How We Make Immigration Simple

Live in Canada

The process of applying to a university is gruelling enough. Adding the stress of how to get a study permit for Canada on top of it, well we know a lot of people tend to fall off the path somewhere along the line.

But it doesn't have to be, we can help you with the entire process or just to get your study permit, it’s entirely up to you. By using our accredited Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) you will not only improve your chances of success in the visa application process, but you will get expert advice on which program is best for your specific needs. Our RCICs are highly qualified and are granted permission by the ICCRC to assist you with your eligibility evaluation, review all your documents and application forms and submit them to the Canadian government for you. Why take the chance of having your application denied because your forms are incorrect or sent in too late.

We take care of the fineprint while you choose your dream school in Canada for you and your loved ones. All you have to do is complete our application form to receive your eligibility assessment today. It's just that simple.

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