Getting admitted to one’s desired study program is a big milestone, but it is not enough to gain entry to and study in Canada.
A study permit is needed to study in Canada. Additionally, most international students also need a visitor visa (temporary resident visa) or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) - often referred to as student visa - to enter into Canada.
Students can submit an application for their study permit and their visa/eTA at the same time. The student visa will be automatically issued if the student gets approved for a study permit. To learn more, visit the Government of Canada website for study permits.
Applying For a Study Permit and Visa
Students can apply for their study permit once they have received an offer of admission and paid their tuition deposit. Applications can be submitted online; however, paper applications are also available and can be submitted at the Visa Application Centres (VACs) or to the Canadian Consulate’s Office in the student’s home country.
As part of the application, students need to provide:
- A letter outlining why they want to study in Canada
- Documentation which demonstrates that they have the financial means to support themselves and their education in Canada
Know what you need before you apply. Review the complete list of the documents required to get a study permit.
Steps For Getting a Study Permit
Students must follow the steps below to obtain a study permit:
- Gather all the documents needed for the application.
- Submit the application and all the required supporting documents. Application is not considered complete until the application fee is paid.
- Give biometrics. Students will receive a letter indicating when and how to give their biometrics after submitting their application.
- If required, students must attend an in-person interview and/or send any additional documentation that may be requested after the application is processed. Find out what additional information the student might need to submit.
- The student will receive a Letter of Introduction (LOI) from the visa office once their application is approved. This letter confirms approval of the study permit and is used to obtain a study permit once you arrive in Canada. Along with the LOI, students also receive an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or a visitor visa at that time, which they will need to enter into Canada.
- Send their Passport to the visa office to get the visa stamped. The passport will be requested when the LOI is issued.
Since visa requirements and application process can change over time, applicants should also always refer to the Government of Canada website for the most up-to-date information.
Application Processing Times
The time needed to process the study permit application varies by country, the type of application, and the volume of applications.
Check the processing time estimates from the Government of Canada to find out how long it takes to process most applications.
We recommend applying 90-120 days before the start of academic session to allow for any processing delays, as well as to ensure that the student will have enough time to reapply for the permit if their application is initially rejected.
If the student’s study permit application is denied, they will be notified with a letter which will include an explanation of why the visa was refused. Students are encouraged to address the refusal reasons and reapply, where possible. Common reasons for refusal include:
- Insufficient proof that the student has enough money to support himself why studying in Canada
- Failure to convince the visa officer that the main purpose of travel to Canada is to study
- Failure to convince the visa officer that the student will leave at the end of the study period
Getting the Study Permit
Once the student lands in Canada, they will be greeted by a Canadian Immigration/Visa Officer. The Officer will inquire about the reason for the student’s visit and ask for the supporting documentation that the student had submitted as part of their initial study permit and visa application. The Officer will issue the study permit if they are satisfied that the student’s visit is legitimate and they will comply with guidelines of immigration. Student will then be able to collect their luggage and head to their destination.
Pro Tip: Bring all travel documentation, such as offer letter and proof of tuition payment, in hand luggage. The Visa Officer will ask for those and inquire about the student’s future plans before issuing the study permit.
The study permit will contain information about the student’s purpose of visit, academic program, and duration of stay. The permit will also indicate if a student has any restrictions on working while studying. Learn more in the Working While Studying section of this course.
The study permit is typically issued for the length of the students’ study program, plus an extra 90 days. The 90 days lets students prepare to leave Canada after graduation or apply to extend their stay.
Canada’s welcoming immigration policy allows the spouse and minor children of international students to accompany them to Canada to work and study. Students can apply for their family’s visa alongside their own. The children do not need a study permit to enroll into a primary or secondary school while they are in Canada.
Student Direct Stream (SDS)
The Student Direct Stream (SDS) is an expedited study permit processing program for students from selected countries who demonstrate upfront that they have the financial resources and language skills to succeed academically in Canada.
The SDS program is currently available to legal residents who also reside in: China, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam, Senegal, and Morocco. Most SDS applications are processed within 20 days.
Students applying through the SDS stream must provide the following documents with their application:
- Proof of a language test result from IELTS or TEF (French)
- Proof of Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of CAN $10,000
- Proof of full payment of tuition for the applicant’s first year of study
- Letter of acceptance from a post-secondary DLI
- Most recent secondary or post-secondary educational transcripts
- Proof of completion of upfront medical examination
Visit the Student Direct Stream page on the Government of Canada website to learn more about the SDS eligibility criteria and application process.