Study permits: Making an application

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Where applicants apply

Foreign nationals who wish to study in Canada must apply for a study permit before presenting themselves at a Canadian port of entry (POE), unless they are

  • exempt from requiring a study permit [R188];
  • eligible to apply for a study permit on entry [R214]; or
  • eligible to apply for a study permit after entry [R215].

Foreign nationals from certain countries and territories also require a temporary resident visa (TRV) to enter Canada. For overseas applications, if the application for a study permit is approved, a TRV will be issued automatically. There is no separate fee or application for the TRV [R296(2)].

Visa-exempt foreign nationals, excluding citizens of the United States (U.S.) and a limited number of other travellers, will have to get an electronic travel authorization (eTA) before flying to Canada. For overseas applications, if an initial application for a study permit is approved, an eTA will be issued automatically, and no separate application is necessary. In such cases, there is no separate fee for the eTA. For study permit renewal applications, however, the eTA will not be automatically renewed. If the foreign national wishes to exit and re-enter Canada by air, they must ensure that their eTA is still valid by consulting the check status tool. If their eTA has expired or if they have a new passport, they must apply for and obtain an eTA separately.

Foreign nationals may submit an application package for a study permit by:

  • mailing it to the appropriate office;
  • applying online (e-Apps); or
  • applying through a visa application centre (VAC).

Applying from overseas

Subject to sections 214 and 215 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), in order to study in Canada, foreign nationals must apply for a study permit before entering Canada [R213]. An application package for a study permit can be obtained through the Immigration, Refugees and Immigration Canada (IRCC) website.

Note: For TRV-required foreign nationals, the TRV should be issued for multiple entries and valid for the same period as the study permit or passport, whichever is shorter (unless otherwise specified).

Note: For eTA-required foreign nationals, the eTA will be valid for five years from the date of issuance or until the foreign national’s passport expires, whichever comes first, regardless of whether this date is beyond the expiry date for the work permit.

Note: Students who are required to participate in a prerequisite English as a second language (ESL) or French as a second language (FSL) program before the start of the academic, professional or vocational program will be issued a study permit or SX-1 visa for the duration of the ESL or FSL program only, bearing the condition that the holder is not permitted to engage in off-campus employment in Canada. The student may, upon successful completion of their ESL or FSL program, apply to change their conditions once they are enrolled at a designated learning institution (DLI) in an academic, professional or vocational program of study.

Missions overseas should still take into consideration the bona fides and available funds for the main program, should the prerequisite be passed, before issuing the travel document for the prerequisite study program.

Applying at a POE

The categories of foreign nationals who may apply for a study permit when entering Canada [R214] are the following:

  • national or permanent resident of the U.S.;
  • person who has lawfully been admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence; and
  • resident of Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Note: In order to apply for a study permit at an air port of entry, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. travelling to Canada must apply for and obtain an eTA prior to boarding their flight to Canada.

Applying from within Canada

The categories of foreign nationals who may apply for a study permit (including to change or vary their existing conditions) after entering Canada [R215] are the following:

  • as of June 1, 2014, foreign nationals in Canada without a study permit who
    • are studying at the preschool, primary or secondary level [R215(1)(f)(i)],
    • are a visiting or exchange student studying at a DLI [R215(1)(f)(ii)], or
    • have completed a course or program of study that is a prerequisite to their enrolment at a DLI [R215(1)(f)(iii)];
  • foreign nationals and their family members holding a valid study or work permit [R215(1)(a), R215(1)(c)];
  • foreign nationals whose authorization to engage in studies in Canada without a study permit pursuant to subsection 30(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) or paragraph R188(1)(a) is set to expire within 90 days or 90 days after the authorization expires [R215(1)(b)];
  • foreign nationals and their family members subject to an unenforceable removal order, including refugee claimants [R215(1)(d)];
  • foreign nationals and their family members holding a temporary resident permit (TRP) [pursuant to subsection A24(1)] valid for at least six months;
  • foreign nationals who are in a situation described in section R207;
  • in-Canada permanent resident applicants and their family members who are determined eligible for permanent resident status in one of the following classes:
    • spouses or common-law partners,
    • protected persons within the meaning of subsection A95(2),
    • persons who have been granted an exemption pursuant to subsection A25,
    • humanitarian and compassionate considerations, and
    • live-in-caregivers;
  • family members of participants in sports activities or events, in Canada, either as individual participants or as a members of a foreign-based team or Canadian amateur team [R215(2)(g)]; and
  • family members of designated members of the armed forces [R215(2)(e)], family members of officers of a foreign government [R215(2)(f)], family members of employees of a foreign news company [R215(2)(h)], and family members of persons responsible for assisting a congregation [R215(2)(i)].

In-Canada situations

Application for a study permit approved abroad

Foreign nationals whose application for a study permit was approved abroad but who did not obtain their study permit at a POE on their initial arrival (e.g., they failed to present a letter of introduction) may contact the IRCC Call Centre. The Call Centre will inform the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville (CPC-V) of the situation. The CPC-V will assess the foreign national’s eligibility against the case management system to verify their status. Once the foreign national’s eligibility is confirmed, the CPC-V will mail a study permit to the foreign national’s address. The foreign national may not engage in studies until a study permit is issued.

Visitors in Canada

Unless exempted under section R215, foreign nationals who are in Canada as a visitor are not eligible to apply for a study permit from within Canada. They must submit their application package to a visa office abroad and, if approved, must obtain their study permit at a POE.

As of June 1, 2014, foreign nationals who are studying at the preschool, primary or secondary level [R215(1)(f)(i)], or who are a visiting or exchange student at a DLI [R215(1)(f)(ii)], may apply for a study permit from within Canada. They must provide proof of their academic status in Canada (e.g., letter from the institution confirming enrolment).

Visiting students are defined as students who are admitted to a post-secondary institution for a period of study but who are not admitted into a degree or diploma program. They are students at a foreign institution (often referred to as the student’s home institution) who attend a Canadian institution (referred to as the host institution) for a period of time with the intent of transferring the credits earned at the host institution back to their home institution. Visiting students pay fees to the host institution.

Exchange students are defined as students who are admitted to the institution as visiting students. However, they are not assessed any tuition fees by their host institution, as these fees are covered by an exchange agreement between the host and home institutions. In most cases, exchange students do not require a study permit, since their length of stay is usually less than six months. However, for programs of six months or more, the exchange student will need to apply for a study permit. Students participating in exchange programs are not eligible to work off campus.

Pre-requisite course in Canada before studies at a DLI

As of June 1, 2014, visitors in Canada who have completed a course or program of study that is a prerequisite to their enrolment at a DLI, may also apply for a study permit from within Canada [R215(1)(f)(iii)].

They must provide proof of completion of the prerequisite course or program of study (e.g., a letter from the receiving institution confirming that the student has completed the prerequisite course or program of study or a notification of completion from the institution at which the preparatory course or program of study was taken, plus a letter of acceptance from the receiving DLI).

Transition from primary to secondary and from secondary to post-secondary studies

Students at the primary school level who are moving on to high school and students at the high school level who are moving on to post-secondary studies have to submit a new study permit application or an application to change conditions or extend their stay in Canada as a student

Changing post-secondary institutions

Students engaging in post-secondary studies in Canada may transfer institutions (both public and private) or change their course or program of study without applying for a change to the condition of their study permit, as long as the receiving institution is a DLI. Students attending a DLI may not transfer to a non-DLI.

Students who are already in Canada and are attending a non-DLI as of June 1, 2014, are not required to apply for a new study permit if they transfer to a DLI. Students who apply for and obtain a study permit on or after June 1, 2014, including renewals, must notify IRCC when they transfer to another DLI through MyCIC.

Determining the applicant’s status

Status as of the date the application is postmarked

It has been determined that the postmarked date, or seven days before the receipt of the application if the postmark is illegible, is considered to be the effective date of application. This decision applies in the case of applications mailed to a case processing centre where the expiry of status may be a factor.

Out of status

If, upon receipt of the application, the applicant’s status has expired, the applicant is to be considered out of status. Refer to section A47 to identify cases where a foreign national loses temporary resident status.

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