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Canadian Study Permits

Written by Henry J. Chang
Study Without a Permit

As a general rule, all foreign nationals wishing to study in Canada must first obtain a Study Permit. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

According to Subsection 188(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations ("IRPR"), a foreign national may study in Canada without a study permit:

  1. If they are a family member or a member of the private staff of a foreign representative who is properly accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and who is in Canada to carry out official duties as a diplomatic agent, consular officer, representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies or of any international organization of which Canada is a member;
  2. As a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act, including a person who has been designated as a civilian component of those armed forces; or
  3. If the duration of their course or program of studies is six months or less and will be completed within the period for their stay authorized upon entry into Canada [Although not required, according to Subsection 188(2) a foreign national is nevertheless permitted to apply for a study permit before entering Canada for a course or program of studies of a duration of six months or less, if he or she wishes to do so.]

Also, according to Subsection 30(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act ("IRPA"), every minor child in Canada, other than a child of a temporary resident who is not authorized to work or study, is authorized to study at the pre-school, primary or secondary level. In Canada, each province and territory decides the age of majority which varies from 18 to 19;

In addition, according to Section 189 of the IRPR, a foreign national who has made an application for a renewal of their existing study permit is authorized to continue his or her study until a decision is made on the application if he or she has remained in Canada since the expiry of the study permit and continues to comply with the conditions, other than the expiry date, set out on the expired study permit.

Place of Application for Study Permit

General

According to Section 213 of the IRPR, subject to Sections 214 and 215, in order to study in Canada, a foreign national must apply for a study permit before entering Canada. In other words, the foreign national must apply for a study permit at a Canadian consulate abroad.

Application on Entry

According to Section 214 of the IRPR, an application for a study permit may be made at a Canadian port of entry if the applicant is:

  1. A national or a permanent resident of the United States;
  2. A person who has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence;
  3. A resident of Greenland;
  4. A resident of St. Pierre and Miquelon; or
  5. A foreign national who applied for a study permit before entering Canada, and the application had been approved in writing, but the permit was not issued.

Application After Entry

Principal Applicant

According to Subsection 215(1) of the IRPR, foreign nationals may also apply for a study permit after entering Canada if they:

  1. Hold a study permit;
  2. Apply within the period beginning 90 days before the expiry of their authorization to engage in studies in Canada under Subsection 30(2) of the IRPA, or Paragraph 188(1)(a) of the IRPR, and ending 90 days after that expiry;
  3. Hold a work permit;
  4. Are subject to an unenforceable removal order;
  5. Hold a temporary resident permit issued under Subsection 24(1) of the IRPA that is valid for at least six months;
  6. Applied for a study permit before entering Canada and the application was approved in writing but the permit has not been issued; or
  7. Are in a situation described in Section 207 of the IRPR. [Section 207 of the IRPR includes a foreign national in Canada who:

    1. Is a member of the live-in caregiver class;
    2. Is a member of the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class;
    3. Is a protected person within the meaning of Subsection 95(2) of the IRPA [which states that a protected person is a person on whom refugee protection is conferred and whose claim or application has not subsequently been deemed to be rejected];
    4. Has applied to become a permanent resident and the Minister has granted them an exemption under Section 25 of the IRPA [Humanitarian and compassionate grounds]; or
    5. Is a family member of a person described in any of paragraphs (a) to (d).]

Family Members in Canada

According to Subsection 215(2), a family member of a foreign national may apply for a study permit after entering Canada if the foreign national resides in Canada and the foreign national

  1. Holds a study permit;
  2. Holds a work permit;
  3. Holds a temporary resident permit issued under Subsection 24(1) of the IRPA that is valid for at least six months;
  4. Is subject to an unenforceable removal order;
  5. Is a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state described in Paragraph 186(d) of the IRPR;
  6. Is an officer of a foreign government described in Paragraph 186(e) of the IRPR;
  7. Is a participant in sports activities or events, as described in Paragraph 186(h) of the IRPR;
  8. Is an employee of a foreign news company as described in Paragraph 186(i) of the IRPR; or
  9. Is a person who is responsible for assisting a congregation or group, as described in Paragraph 186(l) of the IRPR.

Third Country Applications

A foreign national applying at a consulate located in a country other than his or her country of nationality or residence is considered a third country national ("TCN"). TCNs will be required to provide proof of present legal immigration status in the third country where the consulate is located.

Required Documentation

Although each consulate will have their own local requirements, the documents listed below are usually required in support of an application for a study permit:

Proof of Acceptance

According to Subsection 219(1) of the IRPR, a study permit shall not be issued to a foreign national unless they have written documentation from the educational institution at which they intend to study that states that they have been accepted to study there. However, according to Subsection 219(2) of the IRPR, this requirement does not apply to:

(a) a family member of a foreign national whose application for a work permit or a study permit is approved in writing before the foreign national enters Canada; or

(b) a foreign national who is applying to renew their study permit and has received notification in writing from the college or university at which they have been studying of successful completion of the requirements for a degree or diploma. [The period of study may not exceed 90 days following the date of the notification in writing.]

A foreign national wishing to attend a college, university or technical institution in Canada would require a letter from the institution stating:

  1. The name of the institution;
  2. Confirmation of acceptance and/or registration as a student;
  3. The course of study;
  4. The duration of the academic program; and
  5. The latest date for registration.

A foreign national wishing to attend a primary or secondary school in Canada would require a letter from the school board having jurisdiction over the school that the foreign national would like to attend. The letter from the school board or school must show:

  1. The name of the school;
  2. The level of your course of study; and
  3. The duration of the course.

In the case of a foreign national wishing to attend a private school, the school itself must issue the letter.

Proof of Identity

As proof of identity, a foreign national would need:

  1. A valid passport or travel document, which guarantees reentry to the country that issued it. Citizens and permanent residents of the United States, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and Greenland do not need a passport, but do need proof of status and citizenship, such as a national identity card or an alien registration card.
  2. Two recent passport-size photos with the name and date of birth written on the back of each photo.

Proof of Financial Support

According to Section 220 of the IRPR, an officer shall not issue a study permit to a foreign national, other than one described in Paragraph 215(1)(d) or Paragraph 215(1)(e) of the IRPR, unless they have sufficient and available financial resources, without working in Canada, to:

  1. Pay the tuition fees for the course or program of studies that they intend to pursue;
  2. Maintain themself and any family members who are accompanying them during their proposed period of study; and
  3. Pay the costs of transporting themself and the family members referred to in paragraph (b) to and from Canada.

Evidence that may establish financial resources includes:

  1. Proof of a Canadian bank account in the foreign national's name if money has been transferred to Canada;
  2. Bank statements for the past four months;
  3. A bank draft in convertible currency;
  4. Proof of payment of tuition and residence fees;
  5. Proof of funding paid from within Canada if the foreign national has a scholarship or is enrolled in a Canadian-funded educational program; or
  6. A letter from the person or institution providing the foreign national with funds.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada ("CIC") has established the minimum amount of funds that a foreign national must document in order to prove sufficient financial resources. The amount varies depending upon the province of intended study as well as the number of people accompanying the foreign national. CIC has provided a table to assist in the calculation of the required funds. The table is reproduced below:

All provinces except QuebecQuebec
Single Student$10,000 for twelve-month period, plus cost of tuition, prorated at $833 per month$9,600 for twelve-month period, plus the cost of tuition, prorated at $800 per month
+ One Family Member$4,000 for twelve-month period prorated at $333 per month60% of student base or $5,740 for twelve-month period, prorated at $478 per month
+ Each Additional Family Member$3,000 for twelve-month period per dependant child of any age, prorated at $255 per month40% of student base or $3,840 for twelve-month period, prorated at $320 per month

If there are foreign-exchange control measures in the foreign national's country, proof must be provided that the exchange control authorities will permit the export of funds for all the expenses.

Failure to Comply with Conditions

According to Section 221 of the IRPR, a study permit shall not be issued to a foreign national who has engaged in unauthorized work or study in Canada or who has failed to comply with a condition of a permit unless:

  1. A period of six months has elapsed since the cessation of the unauthorized work or study or failure to comply with a condition;
  2. The work or study was unauthorized by reason only that the foreign national did not comply with conditions imposed under Paragraph 185(a) of the IRPR [the period authorized for their stay], any of Subparagraphs 185(b)(i) to (iii) of the IRPR [which relates to work and includes: (i) the type of work, (ii) the employer, or (iii) the location of the work] or paragraph 185(c) [which relates to study and includes: (i) the type of studies or course, (ii) the educational institution, (iii) the location of the studies, and (iv) the times and periods of the studies]; or
  3. The foreign national was subsequently issued a temporary resident permit under Subsection 24(1) of the IRPA.

Requirement of a Temporary Resident Visa

Unless exempt, a foreign national applying for a study permit will be required to obtain a temporary resident visa, in addition to a study permit. If a foreign national needs a temporary resident visa in addition to a Study Permit, neither a separate application nor a separate fee should be paid. A visa officer will issue it at the same time as the documentation that will be needed to enter Canada as a student.

Medical Examination Requirement

As a foreign national applying for a study permit also requires a temporary resident visa, he or she must comply with the requirements for temporary resident visas, including the need for a medical examination. Information concerning the medical examination requirement appears in our the Canadian temporary resident article.

Police Certificates

A consular officer may request a police certificate to establish that the foreign national is a responsible person and does not have a criminal record. Police agencies may do a criminal or security background check. These checks may be done on anyone over 18 years of age, applying for a study permit.

Special Requirements for a Foreign National Applying to Study in the Province of Quebec

According to Subsection 216(c) of the IRPR, if a foreign national is applying to study in Quebec, the student will also need a Certificat d'acceptation du Québec ("Quebec Certificate of Acceptance", or "CAQ") issued by the Ministère des Relations avec les citoyens et de l'Immigration ("MRCI"). The requirement of the CAQ is waived if the foreign national is applying to study in a federal assistance program for developing countries.

Minor child coming to study in Canada

A minor child coming to study in Canada would need to have a custodian in Canada. Two notarized declarations, one signed by the parents or legal guardians in the country of origin, and the other one signed by the custodian in Canada, stating that arrangements have been made for the custodian to act in place of a parent must be provided in an application for a study permit. It must be shown to the adjudicating visa officer's satisfaction that adequate arrangements have been made for the care and support of a minor child as the minor child would be unable to support his or her self. If a minor child is the subject of a custody order, proof of custody and the other parent's consent must also be provided

If a minor child is traveling alone to Canada, then the minor child needs to bring the name, address and telephone number of the person or the school that will be responsible for such minor child. The minor child also needs to bring permission letters from un-accompanying parents and from the Canadian custodian.

The duration of a study permit that is issued to a minor is usually one year. However, if a minor child is accompanying parents who have been issued a long-term study or work permit, then the minor child would be issued a study permit that would have the same duration as that of the minor child's parents.

In Quebec, all unaccompanied minors require a CAQ for study purposes except for the following:

  1. An unaccompanied minor who is seeking asylum;
  2. An unaccompanied minor who has been granted refugee status;
  3. An unaccompanied minor who is in need of protection; and
  4. An unaccompanied minor who is the child of an asylum seeker, a refugee or a person in need of protection.

The Doctrine of Dual Intent

As a foreign national with a study permit is also a temporary resident, the doctrine of dual intent applies to such persons. According to Subsection 22(2) of the IRPA, an intention by a foreign national to become a permanent resident does not preclude him or her from becoming a temporary resident if the officer is satisfied that they will leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay. Despite this recognition of dual intent, it is still difficult for a foreign national to establish temporary intent where the intention to become a permanent resident comes to the attention of the consular officer.

Renewal of Study Permit

According to Subsection 217(1) of the IRPR, a foreign national may apply for the renewal of their study permit if:

  1. The application is made before the expiry of their study permit;
  2. They have complied with all conditions imposed on their entry into Canada; and
  3. They are in good standing at the educational institution at which they have been studying.

An application for renewal of study permit can be made from within Canada.

Employment as a Foreign Student

Working On-Campus

According to Subsection 186(f) of the IRPR, a foreign national holding a valid study permit may, without a work permit, work on campus at the institution where the foreign national is studying provided that the foreign national is a full-time student at a university, community college, publicly funded trade/technical school or at a private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees.

Working Off-Campus

If a foreign national is a full-time student at certain post-secondary institutions in certain provinces, the foreign national may be eligible to apply for a work permit. Further details appear in our article on applying for a work permit.

Co-op or Internship Program

Foreign students, excluding medical interns and externs and resident physicians (but not those in the field of veterinary medicine), wishing to participate in a coop or internship program since work experience is a part of their academic curriculum, may apply for a work permit. Further details appear in our article on applying for a work permit (Exemption 1 and Exemption 2).

Work Permits for Students at a Private Institution

Students and graduates of a private institution do not fall under any of the exemptions from HRSDC confirmation. However, they may still apply for a work permit to work in Canada, provided that a job offer has been confirmed by Human Resources Skills Development Canada ("HRSDC").

Work Permit for Spouse or Common-Law Partner

A spouse or a common-law partner of a foreign national holding a valid study permit, may also apply for a work permit provided that the foreign national is a full-time student at a community college, publicly funded trade/technical school or at a private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees. Further details appear in our article on applying for a work permit.

Post-Graduation Work Permit

Graduating students with a valid study permit may apply for a work permit permitting work in Canada for up to one year after graduation without HRSDC confirmation. Further details appear in our article on applying for a work permit.


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