Applying for Canada study permit - Guidelines for International Students - Canada Visa & Immigration
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Applying for Canada study permit – Guidelines for International Students

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Guidelines to successfully apply for Canada study permit – Updated December 2020. Canada is home to 21 of the world’s top 500 universities and 32 in the top 1,000. In 2020 Canada had over 650,000 international students and was ranked as the world’s third-leading destination of foreign students. Canada’s international student population grew by 13 per cent in 2019 compared to the previous year, marking yet another year of double-digit growth. Some 404,000 international study permits took effect in 2019.

Why Canada is so attractive to international students

There are many reasons why more than 650,000 international students chose to live and study in Canada each year.


  • Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) research shows that international students choose Canada due to 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 and often recognized as equivalent to programs in the United States and countries in the Commonwealth.
  • Some 60 per cent of international students have also reported to CBIE that they are interested in becoming permanent residents of Canada after their studies. Current government policy caters to a growing pool of international students with strong ties to Canada, including Canadian study credentials and Canada based work experience. Qualified students on a study permit are encouraged to apply for Canadian permanent residence under various Federal or Provincial immigration programs without ever having to leave Canada.
  • Canada offers international students one of the world’s most competitive packages, allowing them to work while they study, then obtain a post-graduation work permit to gain Canadian work experience, and then offers them more than 100 economic class immigration streams to choose from.
  • 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 such as the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. While international students pay higher tuition than Canadian students, their overall expenses in Canada are lower than in the likes of the U.S., Australia, and the United Kingdom. A major reason for this is the Canadian dollar is weaker than the U.S. dollar, British pound, and the Euro (the European Union is another attractive destination for international students).

Canada has 650,000 international students -ranks 3rd globally

Video: Study, Stay and Work in Canada

Who can apply for a Canada study permit?

You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.

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 meet the following requirements:


  • You must have been accepted by a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada.
  • You must 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.
  • You must 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.
  • You must be in good health and willing to complete a medical examination, if necessary.
  • You must 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 received an acceptance letter from the designated institution before you submit your application for a Canada study permit.

Canada study permit application steps

Step 1: Understand the Requirements

Students wishing to study in Canada should start planning for Canadian study permit at least a year in advance and must understand the Canada student visa rules. You must read and understand admission requirements for various Canadian institutions and the rules for obtaining a study permit.  Common requirements for all universities and institutions include an updated passport, proficiency in either English or French along with proof of passing prescribed language tests with minimum grades/bands, 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.  As well, 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 is required to prove proficiency in English or French.  To prove language proficiency, each applicant 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.  But this is the point when you contact your chosen institution (from the  Designated Learning Institute  list), obtain their application packs, and submit them well in advance.  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 which may in turn impact your visa processing, 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

Once you have an admission letter on hand from one of the DLIs you can now 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 accepted, 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.


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.

What happens after your studies are completed?

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.

Students enrolled in an English as a Second Language or French as a Second Language program and students taking a general interest course or program are NOT permitted to work off-campus.

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. Health insurance is handled by each province and varies from province to province. You should contact your school ahead to inquire if they offer any health care benefits.

Canada Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

After graduating from your program you may qualify to apply for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. The program is intended to provide graduating international students a three-year work experience and 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 Post-Graduation Work Permit 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 the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program – PGWPP) may apply for permanent resident status under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). See detail PGWPP information here Canada Post-Graduate Work Permit Program.


International Students: Study, work and stay in Canada

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You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.