Study permits: Who needs a study permit

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.

When a study permit is required

Foreign nationals are required to obtain a study permit for engaging in academic, professional, vocational or other education or training that is more than six months in duration at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada.

The following activities are not considered studies for the purposes of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and do not require a study permit:

  • pre-school (pre-kindergarten);
  • courses of general interest or self-improvement;
  • distance learning; and
  • audited courses (typically by sitting in on an academic course, but without obtaining credit for it, or having the ability to obtain credit for it retroactively).

Who is exempt from the requirement for a study permit

A foreign national is exempt from the study permit requirement in the following situations:

Minor children inside Canada [A30(2)]

See guidelines on minor children.

Family members and members of the private staff of accredited foreign representatives [R188(1)(a)]

Family members or members of the private staff of a foreign representative who is properly accredited by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) 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 do not require a study permit [R188(1)(a)].

All persons coming to Canada on posting, including their family members, will be in possession of diplomatic or official visas.

Entry is initially authorized for a period of six months. During this period, the passport is sent to the Office of Protocol at GAC. The Office of Protocol will imprint a diplomatic (D), consular (C), official (J) or international (I) acceptance counterfoil to the person’s passport indicating that the person is accredited to Canada and entitled to remain in Canada for the duration of status.

Dependent children under 19 years of age who are considered members of the family forming part of the household will be issued an acceptance counterfoil by the Office of Protocol. They do not require a study permit. Children from 19 to 24 years of age are only issued an acceptance counterfoil if they are registered as full-time students. Dependent children of diplomats in Canada who are 25 years of age or older are no longer eligible to receive an official acceptance and must change their official status to regular immigration status.

Restoration of status for dependent children of diplomats

Dependent children of diplomats in Canada who are 25 years of age or older are no longer eligible to receive official status in Canada and must restore their temporary resident status (initially granted upon entry) within 90 days of the expiry date of their official status.

Dependent children of foreign diplomats whose official status ceases upon termination of their parent’s official status must regularize their temporary status in Canada through restoration of status.

Questions related to foreign representatives in Canada should be directed to the Office of Protocol at GAC. Officers can also consult the GAC’s website.

Members of the armed forces of a country designated for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act [R188(1)(b)]

Members of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state, for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act, coming to attend training for a duration longer than six months do not require a study permit [R188(1)(b)]. These individuals are also exempt from the requirement of obtaining a temporary resident visa (TRV) as per paragraph R296(2)(b) and a medical examination as per paragraph R30(1)(d).

A member also includes a person designated as a civilian component of that visiting force. Family members are not exempt from obtaining a study permit, TRV or medical examination. However, minor children of a member are governed by subsection A30(2).

Family members are, however, exempt from the TRV fee [R296(2)(b)] and the study permit fee [R300(2)(e)].

A DLI number was created for foreign nationals who are not exempt under paragraph R188(1)(b) and have been accepted into military educational institutions that are federally administered: Military Educational Institution O241487822222.

Short-term courses [R188(1)(c)]

Foreign nationals may enter Canada or remain in Canada without a study permit to attend a course or program of study of six months’ duration or less [R188(1)(c)]. This exemption helps to facilitate access to short-term courses, regardless of their subject matter. The course or program of study may be part-time or full-time and should be completed within the period authorized upon entry (i.e., up to six months).

While a study permit is not required for short-term courses, an officer must accept and process an application for a study permit, even when the duration of the course or program of study is six months or less [R188(2)].

Holding a study permit for short-term courses may allow students to apply later, from within Canada [R215(1)(a)], to renew or change the conditions of their study permit for further studies. Study permit holders may also be eligible to participate in work programs that are available to international students [R186(f) and R205].

The duration of the course or program of study is often a more important consideration than the number of months the foreign national intends to study. With the exception of exchange programs, even if foreign nationals plan to study for six months or less, if the course or program is longer than six months, they need a study permit.

While a foreign national may attend a short-term course or program without a study permit at a non-DLI, they may not be issued a study permit to attend courses at a non-DLI [R216(e)].

Subsequent course or program of study

Generally, foreign nationals in Canada without a study permit wishing to enrol in a subsequent course or program of study must apply outside Canada and obtain a study permit in the normal manner (e.g., at a Canadian visa office abroad).

Foreign nationals without a study permit will not be granted an extension of their authorized stay as a visitor simply for the purpose of completing a short-term course or program of less than six months that would last beyond their original authorized period of stay. Paragraph R188(1)(c) was not put in place to allow foreign nationals to take short-term courses, one after the other, simply by extending their temporary resident status—in effect, making it possible for them to complete a whole certificate, diploma or degree without ever having a study permit. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recognizes that long-term visitors and foreign workers may engage in occasional studies or programs of study lasting six months or less at any time during their stay in Canada.

It is therefore recommended that foreign nationals be encouraged to apply for a study permit for a short-term course or program of study if they intend to apply for another program afterwards or work on the campus of the university or college at which they are a full-time student. Section R215 provides an exemption to allow certain foreign nationals to apply for a study permit after entry to Canada.

Family members

As per subsection R219(2), family members of a study permit holder (principal applicant) whose application for a work or study permit is approved in writing before the foreign national enters Canada are eligible for an open study permit (i.e., not attached to a DLI [letter of acceptance-exempt]). The duration of the study permit must be same as the work or study permit issued to the principal applicant. Compliance verification is not required for holders of open study permits.

Registered Indians [R188(1)(d)]

As per paragraph R188(1)(d), registered, Indians or Indians entitled to be registered as defined under the Indian Act, are exempt from having to apply for a study permit.

Scenarios

Officers should examine the scenarios below to learn whether a study permit would be required in that instance.

A student plans to come to Canada for a program of less than six months at a post-secondary DLI.

No. Although the student may complete a short-term program of study without a study permit, they may not be able to apply for a study permit from within Canada if they wish to enrol in subsequent courses that cannot be completed within their original period of authorized stay.

A student plans to come to Canada for a program of less than six months at a post-secondary institution that has not been designated to host international students.

No. Although students may apply for a study permit to complete a short-term program of study, the issuance of study permits is limited to those attending DLIs. In this scenario, the student must reapply as a visitor.

A student plans to come to Canada for a one-semester (four months) Grade 12 high school exchange program.

No. Although Grade 12 is technically 10 months long, if the exchange program is defined as one semester, then no study permit is needed, as the program will be completed in less than six months. However, foreign nationals from visa-required countries have to apply for a TRV.

A student plans to come to Canada for Grade 12 in a non-semester school system (but not through an exchange program).

Yes. In this case, Grade 12 is 10 months long; therefore, it will not be completed in less than six months.

A student plans to come to Canada for a four-month university exchange program and wants to be able to work on campus (and meets other criteria for on-campus work).

Yes. The student does not need a study permit to study, but they need a study permit to work on campus. The university must be a DLI.

A student plans to come to Canada for one semester (four months) at a college or university (but not through an exchange program).

It depends on how the course or program of study is identified in the letter of acceptance. If the student has been accepted to study in courses or a program that will be completed within six months, then they do not need a study permit. If the student has been accepted into a two-year program, for example, they need a study permit even if they only plan to attend six months of the program in Canada.

A student plans to come to Canada to attend a four-month English as a second language (ESL) or French as a second language (FSL) course at a DLI and is thinking of following up the course with a three-month computer course at the same DLI.

Yes. Posts should advise students in such cases to obtain a study permit before going to Canada if they are attending a DLI for the first course. This will allow them to apply later for an extension or for changes to any conditions that may have been imposed when they entered Canada.

A student plans to come to Canada to complete a four-month ESL course, followed by a four-year academic program at a DLI. The student is conditionally accepted into the four-year academic program, and successful completion of the ESL course is a prerequisite to the student’s enrolment into the four-year academic program.

While a study permit is generally not required for short-term courses, students intending on attending a short-term prerequisite course should still be counseled to apply for a study permit before travelling to Canada. In this scenario, a study permit or SX-1 visa should be issued only for the length of the prerequisite program of study. Once the prerequisite program has been completed, pursuant to subparagraph R215(1)(f)(iii), the temporary resident who has completed this course or program of study that is a prerequisite to their enrolling at a DLI may apply for a study permit from inside Canada.

A student plans to come to Canada to complete an eight-month ESL course, followed by a four-year academic program at a DLI. The student is conditionally accepted into the four-year academic program, and successful completion of the ESL course is a prerequisite to the student’s enrolment into the four-year academic program.

Yes. In this scenario, a study permit should be issued only for the length of the prerequisite program of study. The foreign national may apply for a study permit for the four-year academic program if they can demonstrate successful completion of the prerequisite program and may do so from inside Canada, pursuant to subparagraph R215(1)(f)(iii).

A student plans to come to Canada to take a three-month course, leave Canada for a week to visit friends in the United States (U.S.) and return to Canada to take another two-month course in another program.

A student who has completed their first three-month course may leave to enter the U.S. and return to Canada if they hold a study permit issued before they left on the visit and they return before the period of their initial authorized stay ends.

A student plans to come to Canada to take a five-month chef course at a DLI during which they will be required to work as a chef in a restaurant for a month.

Yes. Students in such cases should obtain a study permit as well as a work permit under the Co-op Work Permit Program.

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