Guidelines to successfully apply for Canada study permit and become permanent resident. Canada is home to 21 of the world’s top 500 universities and 32 in the top 1,000.
Canada remains a top pick for international students. In 2020 Canada ranked as the world’s third-leading destination of foreign students. In 2021 IRCC issued 621,565 study permits, up almost 17.7 per cent from the 528,190 in 2020. That is impressively as high as the pre-pandemic levels. And it is only 2.6 per cent lower than the record of 638,280 study permits set in 2019.
You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.
Generally, you must apply for a study permit before you come to Canada. Some people can apply for a study permit from within Canada. In some cases, you can apply when you arrive in Canada at the port of entry.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has posted a web form that you can use to quickly answer a few questions to get the steps for your application. See Get specific instructions on how to apply. Most importantly, make sure you understand which option is available to you.
Canada is also introducing new pathways for international students to transition from study permit to permanent residence. IRCC spokespersons continue to emphasize that international students are key to Canada labour growth and economic recovery.
“Our message to international students and graduates is simple. We don’t just want you to study here. We’re hoping to create pathways that allow you to stay here and make a lasting contribution beyond your academic career.” Hon. Sean Fraser keynote address at ApplyBoard’s annual Educate the World Conference on March 10.
Why Canada is so attractive to international students
There are many reasons why more than 650,000 international students choose to live and study in Canada each year.
- Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) research shows that international students choose Canada due several reasons. For example, the country’s strong quality of education, as well as its reputation as a multicultural and tolerant society. Canada has high academic standards. A Canadian degree, diploma or certificate is highly respected around the world. Moreover it is often recognized as equivalent to programs in the United States and countries in the Commonwealth.
- Some 60% of international students reported to CBIE that they are interested in becoming permanent residents of Canada after their studies.
- Canada offers international students one of the world’s most competitive packages. Canada allows them to work while they study. Thereafter, they obtain a post-graduation work permit to gain Canadian work experience. Moreover, they can apply to remain in Canada as permanent residents.
- The quality of an education and the standard of living in Canada are amongst the highest in the world. Yet, tuition fees for international students are lower in Canada than in many other countries. Lower even than in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Video: Study, Stay and Work in Canada
Who can apply for a Canada study permit?
Foreign students who have applied for and been accepted into a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) may apply for a Canadian Student Visa to come to Canada for the program to which they have been accepted. To be eligible you must:
- have been accepted by a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada.
- prove that you have enough money to pay for your:
- tuition fees
- living expenses for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada and
- return transportation for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada.
- be a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record and not be a risk to the security of Canada. You may have to provide a police certificate.
- also be in good health and willing to complete a medical examination, if necessary.
- and satisfy an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your authorized stay.
See also Find Universities in Canada.
You must have an acceptance letter from the DLI before you submit your application for a Canada study permit.
How to prove intent to return home after your study
To successfully apply for study permit you must prove to a visa officer your intention to return to your country after your studies. Here are some ways to prove that. Try and use as many as you have:
- Evidence of home title or rental agreement in your country, showing how long have had a stable place to live in your country.
- Evidence (e.g. a sworn affidavit from your parents) listing all the family members who live in your home country, and evidence that they are all firmly settled there. Explain why you, too, are likely to return. e.g. to manage family business or property.
- If you are married, provide evidence that you are leaving a spouse (and children if any) behind in the home country, such as copies of marriage and birth certificates.
- Evidence of an existing business or employment that you will return to, such as a business license or a letter from your employer and recent salary pay stubs.
- Copies of bank statements showing that you maintain accounts in your home country. Keeping an open bank account at home is another evidence of your intent to return to your country.
- Provide evidence of your career potential in your home country, for example statistics from a reputable source showing that people with your skills are in high demand.
- A prepaid, round-trip plane ticket to and from Canada can add to evidence of your intent to return.
Apply for a Canada study permit – Application steps
Step 1: Understand the Requirements
Start planning for Canadian study permit at least a year in advance. Also you must know admission requirements for various Canadian institutions.
Generally, DLIs require
- an updated passport
- proficiency in either English or French and proof of passing prescribed language tests and
- proof that you can finance your study as well as the cost of living in the country
Step 2: Choose your Course and Institution
Only admission to a Designated Learning Institute (DLIs) qualify an international student for a Canada study permit.
Therefore be sure that the institution your are applying to is listed on the government’s DLIs.
Furthermore, it is advisable to have chosen a specific major course when applying for Canada study permit. Although you may switch courses later.
Step 3: Take the Language Proficiency Test
Every international student must prove proficiency in English or French.
To prove language proficiency, you must take
- an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam
- a Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) exam
- Test d’Evaluation Français (TEF) exam, or
- Test de connaissance du français pour le Canada (TCF Canada).
Some institutions also accept the Cambridge English: Advanced or TOEFL exam score.
Step 4: Apply to Universities
It is possible to take this step during Step 3 or even earlier.
You contact your chosen institution (see IRCC DLI List) to obtain their applications, and submit them fast.
See also Find Universities in Canada.
As application fees range between $100 to $250 per institution you may want to apply to only the top 5 on your list.
To avoid delay, make sure you provide complete and accurate information with all necessary documents.
If satisfied with your application the institution will send you a letter of admission which you will need to process your study permit application.
Step 5: Apply for a Study Permit
After you get an admission letter from you then apply for your Canada Study Permit or student visa.
You can apply online or visit your local visa application centre. Your application must be accompanied by the following:
- admission letter
- your passport, and
- documentary proof that you have adequate finances to study in Canada
- “Certificat d’acceptation du Québec” (CAQ) if you are going to a Quebec institution.
Step 6: Travelling to and entering Canada
If you succeed, you will be issued a visa with a specified date from which the permit comes into force.
This is the date you are allowed to enter Canada.
Be sure to plan your travel only for entering Canada on that day.
Upon arriving in Canada at an port of entry, an immigration officer will verify your permit and other documents before allowing you to enter Canada. Once stamped you are on your way to pursue your studies in Canada.
IMPORTANT: Visa procedures, processing times, and the rules for travelling to end entering Canada have changed significantly as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. Please see latest IRCC COVID-19 travel guidelines.
- Create an IRCC profile/account to apply for Canada study permit online
- Check your application status
- Check application processing times
Processing time is the average for how long it takes from when an application is received to when IRCC makes a decision. Learn more about processing times.
Are you eligible for scholarships or financial support?
International students are eligible for scholarships and financial support in Canada. With some research and a little bit some digging you can be handsomely rewarded with financial support for your studies. See Find Canada Scholarships for International Students.
You should also contact your school’s financial aid office to see if they have any scholarships or bursaries available for international students.
If you’re a graduate student attending a Canadian university, many programs will offer a funding package that includes scholarships and bursaries.
Search online for additional Canada scholarship resources; a good place to start is EduCanada.
What happens after you complete your studies?
Canada has made it much easier for international students to work during and after their studies. In addition the federal government has implemented a path for them to become Canadian permanent residents. See International Students – Work and Permanent Resident Eligibility
Many of Canada’s provincial immigration programs are also specifically targeted at international students. See Provincial Nominee Programs Finder.
Working While You Are on Student Visa
International students who are attending full-time programs are allowed to work without a work permit on their own campus or the campus of other institutions within the same municipality. In order to be eligible to work on-campus, you must hold a valid student visa and be enrolled full-time in your institution.
Foreign students can also work off-campus up to 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions and full-time during scheduled breaks, such as the winter and summer holidays or spring break. To be eligible for off-campus jobs you must have a valid student visa and remain in satisfactory academic standing as determined by your institution and must be studying in an academic, vocational or professional training program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate that is at least six months in duration.
You do not qualify to work off-campus if
- enrolled in English as a Second Language or French as a Second Language program
- taking a general interest course or program
Bringing Your Family to Canada
You may bring your spouse, common-law partner, and dependent children to Canada to be with you while you study. Your spouse or common-law partner can work anywhere in Canada with an Open Work Permit during your studies.
Your Health Care Responsibilities
The government of Canada does not pay for the medical costs of international students. Each province handles its own Health insurance. It varies from province to province. Therefore contact your school ahead to inquire if they offer any health care benefits.
Canada Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP)
After graduating from your program you may qualify to apply for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.
Canada uses the program to provide graduating international students a three-year work experienc.
You do not need to have a job offer to get the open work permit.
In order to be eligible, you must:
- have received written confirmation of graduation (e.g. by transcript, official letter or graduation certificate);
- apply for the PGWPP no later than 90 days after receiving written confirmation of graduating;
- have a valid student visa (your study permit has not expired).
Permanent Resident Eligibility
International students who have completed their studies and have gained a certain amount of work experience within Canada (via PGWPP) may apply for permanent resident status under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). See detail PGWPP information here Canada Post-Graduate Work Permit Program.
VIDEO – Apply for Canada study permit
Related Canada Student Visa Topics
- From Student to Permanent Resident
- Canada Post-Graduate Work Permit Program
- Canada Increases Application Time for Post-Graduate Work Permits
- International Credential Evaluation Services (ICES Canada)
- International Qualifications Assessment (IQAS)
- WES Canada Questions & Answers
- What is WES Canada?
- Find Universities & Colleges
- IELTS Courses
You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.