Study Permit in Canada

student visa canada

Are you a student considering international study in Canada? Are you looking for a way to upgrade your education and skills in one of the top educational systems in the world? Perhaps you are a parent moving to Canada with your family. Let us introduce you to all the basics you need to know when considering international study in Canada.

What Exactly is a Study Permit and How Do I Get One?

A study permit grants foreign nationals’ permission to study in Canada. This document comes with restrictions including where the applicant can study and dates of permission. Applicants are required to already have acceptance to the educational institution at which they plan to study. There is also a limited list of institutions that are eligible for the study permit program. Due to this, and other reasons, research and preparation is very important!

Foreign nationals can enter and live, study and work through Canada many routes. Some foreign nationals apply for Permanent resident status or a temporary program. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) accepts students for temporary study through study permits. Keep reading to find out what you need to know. For any questions or information, contact the Cohen Brosh Law Offices.

Note: If you are a student outside of Canada hoping to work or visit Canada temporarily, you may be a candidate for the International Experience Program. The IEP is part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

Academics who are in contact with a Canadian employer who is interested in hiring them may also be eligible for the TFWP. If this sounds like you, take a look at our summary of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program!


Canada has been open to international students studying throughout its 13 provinces and territories for a long time. The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) was founded in the 1940s. Its original name was Friendly Relations with Overseas Students (FROS). Over 7 decades later, there are 642,480 international students in Canada in 2019 according to IRCC. 

Foreign nationals can apply for schools all across Canada. They do tend, however, to mostly go to Ontario or British Columbia. According to CBIE, a combined 72% of international students study in one of those provinces. The CBIE also reports on the reasons international students apply to study in Canada.

Top 3 Reasons International Students Choose Canada

  • The quality of the Canadian Education System
  • Canada’s reputation as a tolerant and non-discriminatory society
  • Canada’s reputation as a safe country

If any of these reasons interest you, contact Cohen Brosh Law Offices to discuss your options.

Process overview

A foreign national who wishes to study in Canada must obtain a study permit. This study permit often must be obtained before arriving in Canada. However, the study permit does not act as a visa. The permit itself is not permission to enter Canada, it is strictly the permission to study.

Note: Each individual permit document will come with different parameters. This includes when the applicant must leave Canada or if they are eligible to work during their study period. These restrictions or allowances can be unique to the applicant.

Remember to closely review the document you receive!

If your Study Permit application is approved, a visa will be sent to you. There are a select few who may also need to apply for a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA)- Click here to see if this applies to you!

Impacts of COVID-19

The coronavirus has affected many immigration programs including the Study Permit stream. These changes are said to be temporary but can be extended indefinitely. For details of how COVID-19 may impact your study permit application visit the Government of Canada website.

All application processing is delayed. Applications are being processed in priority sequence. Applicants who submit a fully complete application will be given priority over incomplete ones. This includes priority over applications which may need to provide more supporting documents. They are also prioritizing applicants who already meet the visa requirements to enter Canada. Click here to find out if you need to apply for a visa to enter Canada.

Applicants are required to ensure the Designated Learning Institution (DLI) for which they are accepted has a COVID-19 readiness plan. Those with a study permit who are already studying in Canada will not be able to return to Canada if they leave and their DLI does not have an approved readiness plan.

Prior to COVID-19, it was not necessary for those planning to study in Canada for less than 6 months to get a study permit. Since the changes caused by the virus, those planning to study for less than 6 months must now apply for a study permit. They are only able to study at a DLI and must apply as a long-term student would.

Before COVID-19, the number of international students that Canada was accepting was increasing each year. There was a 185% increase in international students from 2010-2019 according to CBIE. It is unknown at this time if COVID-19 will affect the growing acceptance rates.

Designated Learning Institutions (DLI)

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A Study Permit is only valid in Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs). This means the government of Canada is only interested in accepting foreign nationals to study at a select list of schools. Parents of children at the primary or secondary school age can rest assured because all primary and secondary schools are DLIs. You do not need to consult the DLI List for children at that level.

Those applying to Post-Secondary School (Colleges or Universities) should consult the list before applying to schools in Canada. The list of DLIs for Post-Graduates is even more limited. Applicants who may be considering Post-graduate studies are encouraged to see which Post-Secondary Institutions will make them eligible to later apply for Post-Graduate studies in Canada.

The Canadian International Education Strategy (IES) for the years 2019-2024 includes the following figure that demonstrates the number of study permit holders in Canada by year and study level.

Canada – Number of study permit holders by study level and by year in which permit(s) became effective

number of study permit holders

Applicants are required to have acceptance to the DLI they plan to study in prior to applying for a Study Permit. All documents required for the application must be obtained prior to applying. This includes the acceptance letter.

Validity Time

The amount of time that an approved applicant is eligible to stay in Canada is partially dependent on the length of their program of study. The study permit will generally be valid for 90 days after the end of the study program. This extra time allows an applicant to prepare to leave Canada, in compliance with the terms of a Study Permit.

There are a few factors that may alter your original Permit Validity Time:

  • Conditional Acceptance
  • Finishing your studies after the Permit expires
  • Finishing your studies before the Permit expires

If a DLI grants you conditional acceptance it means you must complete some prerequisite courses. These courses can sometimes be language courses to fulfil a minimum language requirement. They must be completed before being accepted to the program you applied for. In cases like these, the permit will be valid for the length of those courses and an additional year. Once you complete the prerequisite courses and are accepted to the program, you must apply to extend your permit.

Students who do not finish the program before the end of their validity period must also apply to extend the permit. If they do not, they are required by law to immediately stop their studies after the validity period ends. They must then leave Canada before their deadline.

Some students are able to complete their studies prior to the date on their permit. These students are required to leave Canada within 90 days of the date they completed their studies, even if this date is before the date written on the permit.

Note: In cases like these, the school may be notified to verify the true date of completion. 

Implied Status: Extending your Permit Term

Implied status allows students the opportunity to apply for a permit extension without interrupting their studies. If you already have a study permit and need to extend the validity period, you can do so and continue to study under implied status until a decision is made. Implied status only extends to those students who applied for an extension before their original permit expired. Under implied status, you can continue to legally study in Canada even after your validity period has ended. But once a decision on your extension is made, the period of implied status is over and applicants are required to follow the decision made.

Eligibility: Do I qualify for a Study Permit?

It is the responsibility of the applicant to present a strong case to the visa officer. There may be some cases where the visa officer addresses some concerns or asks for more information- this however, is not required. The roll of the visa officer is to make a reasonable decision based on the information provided. Applicants have the opportunity to submit a Letter of Explanation with their application. This is a great place to address any concerns you think an immigration officer may have when reviewing your application.

Every application is reviewed for completeness, this is the first test of eligibility. Incomplete applications will be returned and not processed. Completeness involves all required forms and supporting documents listed below.

Application Completeness Check

  • All required Forms
  • Letter of Acceptance to DLI
  • Application processing fee
  • Proof of identity

In addition to the general requirements, there are some factors that officers look at that cause a large number of applications to be rejected.

Other Factors Considered

  • Proof of funds to cover expenses and tuition
  • Confidence applicant will leave Canada after studies
  • Reasonableness of studies

Proof of funds

Every applicant must prove that they can financially provide for themselves and any family members that come to Canada with them. They must be able to cover all tuition and housing costs as well as travel to return to their home country. Below is a chart provided on the Government of Canada website.

Minimum Fund Needed to Support Yourself as a Student (and family members who come with you):

Persons coming to CanadaAmount of funds required per year (doesn’t include tuition)Amount of funds required per month (does not include tuition)
Student$10,000 CAN$833 CAN
First Family Member$4,000 CAN$333 CAN
Each additional family member$3,000 CAN$255 CAN

Six-Month Non-Compliance Ban

When reviewing Study Permit applications, The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officer is required to review the applicants case history under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). According to the IRPR, if the applicant has in the past “…engaged in unauthorized work or study in Canada or who has failed to comply with a condition of a permit..” the IRPR requires that a permit cannot be issued until at least a period of 6 months has passed. Any applicant who has violated the work or study terms of any Canadian permit can be subject to this ban. The period of 6 months begins after the applicant has stopped the unauthorized activity.

Reminder: It is important upon receiving a permit or visa to review the terms and requirements for your specific case. Violating the terms on another type of permit may later affect your application for a study permit.

There are many cases in which it is the discretion of the officer whether to refuse or accept an application in accordance with a non-compliance ban.

Here are just some of the examples of cases that are the discretion of the officer:

  • The period authorized for stay
  • Type of work engaged in
  • Location of work
  • Type of studies
  • Times and periods of studies

Note: To determine if this ban might affect your specific application, contact the Cohen, Brosh Law Offices.


Foreign national children who are already in Canada and who have at least one parent with a study permit to Canada can study in any pre-school, primary or secondary school without a permit. Every pre-school, primary and secondary school in Canada is a DLI.  The parent of the minor child must be permitted to study or work in Canada in order for the child to be able to study without a permit.

A minor child who is outside of Canada or does not have a parent with a valid work or study permit should apply for a permit before entering Canada.

When they reach the age of majority, if they are still in Canada at that time, the child will then need to apply for a permit. The age of majority in Canada is 18 or 19, depending on the province the child is studying in. If a child may have a birthday that will take them into the age of majority in the province in which you plan to study (or work) during the term of your permit, you can apply for a permit for the child. In the application, mention the reason that you are applying for a permit for the minor child.

Just as the children of study permit holders in Canada may be eligible to study, spouses or common-law partners of study permit holders may be eligible for open work permits. This permit will be valid for the length of your study period only. Review the Government of Canada website for open work permits or review our article on family immigration.

IMPORTANT: Applicants who hope to have a spouse, common-law partner or child accompany them to Canada must show proof of adequate funds. You must prove you can support each family member while in Canada. You must also show you have adequate funds to arrange travel for each person to return to the home country. 



The process to obtain a study permit in Canada does not begin with the application, it begins before you apply. Foreign nationals must first consult the Government of Canada website to determine if they meet the requirements of the permit. They must also apply and already have a letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada. The acceptance letter is necessary for an application to be considered complete.

Reviewing your Acceptance Terms      

If the applicant is accepted, they must check if a visa was also issued to them. If a visa is not issued, a visa application is required.

A letter of introduction will be sent to every approved applicant. This letter will detail the specifics of the permit including the restrictions/conditions for each applicant. It is important to review these restrictions to ensure that you are conducting yourself in accordance with your permit.

The Permit will State:

  • If you are permitted to work anywhere in Canada during your studies
  • If you are only permitted to work on campus during your studies
  • The level of studies you can attend
  • If you are allowed to travel within Canada
  • When you must leave Canada

The letter will include other specifics. The letter of Introduction does not act as a visa or your permit! However, foreign nationals will need the letter to show at the point-of-entry that they come to Canada. If you live in a country that requires an eTA to enter Canada, the letter will include information about this.

If you leave Canada during your studies, you will be able to re-enter with documentation and proof that you are enrolled in a DLI.

Study Permit Conditions

There are certain responsibilities that students have with their study permit. Failing to fulfil these responsibilities can cause you to lose your study permit- this means you will have to leave Canada.

Study permit holders must:

  • Make progress in their program
  • Respect the conditions of their permit
  • Leave Canada when the period of their permit is over

The Government of Canada website lists the conditions that must be followed by study permit holders. Below is a list of some of those conditions, visit the Government of Canada website for more details.

Study Permit Holder Responsibilities:

  • Be enrolled at a DLI
  • Show you are actively pursuing your studies by:

-Being enrolled each semester

-Making progress towards completing your program

-Not taking authorized leaves longer than 150 days from your study program

  • Report any time you change schools
  • End your studies if you no longer meet the requirements
  • Leave Canada when your permit expires

Study Permit Extensions

When the study permit will soon expire, students can apply for an extensionThey can only do this if they have not yet completed their studies. They can also apply to stay in Canada as a Permanent Resident. If you plan to apply as a Permanent Resident after you have completed your studies, this may be possible. According to the 2018 CBIE International Student Survey, 60% of international students plan to apply for PR status in Canada. But remember that proof that you are planning to return to your home country is very important to your initial study permit application.

Note: Check out our article on Permanent Residence status!

How to Apply


The IRCC encourages foreign nationals to apply for study permits online. This reduces the processing time and delays. Delays happen when an officer requests more information or notices missing documentation. To apply online, a credit card is required to make the $150 CDN payment. Those applying online can access the application here.

On Paper

Foreign nationals who choose to apply by mail will need to download and print a copy of the application. The form changes depending on the country from which they are applying.

Required Documents and Forms

All required documents must be obtained prior to applying. Applicants must receive an acceptance letter from a DLI before applying for a study permit in Canada. Below is a list from the Government of Canada website outlining the general requirements for applicants.

General Eligibility Requirements

  • Proof of enrollment in a DLI
  • Proof of Identity
  • Letter of explanation (if required)
  • Academic Documents (copies of transcripts or diplomas)
  • Proof of funds to cover:
    • Tuition Fees
    • Living expenses for applicant and family members
    • Return transportation for applicant and family members
  • Obey the law, have no criminal record and get a police certificate (if required)
  • Are in good health and get a medical exam (if required)
  • Prove that you will leave Canada when your study permit expires
  • Submit completed application
  • Pay fee ($150 CDN)

Proof of Acceptance

The DLI may send you an electronic acceptance letter or a hard copy in the mail, a copy must be submitted with your application. If you receive conditional acceptance, you must include proof of this. You must then apply again when you have completed your prerequisite courses.

Proof of Identity

Each applicant must provide a valid passport with their application.

Required Identity Documents

  • A valid passport or travel document
    • Online applicants: Upload copy of information page of passport
      • Approved applicants must later show original passport
    • Two recent passport-size photos
      • Name and date of birth of the person should be written on back of each photo
    • Biometrics

COVID-19: If you are applying for a study permit or permit extension from within Canada you are temporarily exempt from submitting biometrics. There are some exceptions to this temporary rule, click here to check if this applies to you.

Proof of Financial Support

Immigration officers cannot accept a permit application without the confidence that the applicant will be able to financially support themselves or be financially supported while in Canada. It is also important to show that the applicant can afford travel back to their home country when they complete their studies.

Ways to prove your financial status:

  • Proof of a Canadian bank account
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) from a participating Canadian financial institution
  • Proof of a student or education loan from a bank
  • Bank statements for the past 4 months
  • A bank draft
  • Proof that tuition and housing fees have been paid
  • Proof of funding if you are receiving a scholarship

Proof must be submitted with the application. If the officer requests the information the processing time will be extended.

Letter of Explanation

This letter is an opportunity to show the immigration officer reviewing your application that you are a great candidate for a permit. It is not required but can greatly help boost your application. It also gives you a chance to address any concerns you think the officer may have with your application.

NoteContact Cohen Brosh Law Offices for assistance with your application and letter of explanation. 

Application Forms

Processing Times

The Government of Canada website attempts to give estimates on the processing times of applications submitted in different ways. These estimates are very general and processing typically takes a lot longer. Consult the link to determine the approximate processing time for your application type and location.

COVID-19: Due to the coronavirus, applications are being processed according to priority. Non-priority applications will take much longer. A study permit is a non-priority application.

An application can be submitted:

  • By Mail
  • Online
  • In person at a point-of-entry

Note: It is not advised to apply at a point-of-entry even with documentation to support your study application. Only applicants who do not require a visa may consider applying at a port-of-entry.

If an application is being submitted by mail, the processing time begins after it arrives at the appropriate office. Due to slow mail times, it is recommended that applicants submit their applications online. This significantly reduces the processing time and allows the applicant to view updates on the application online.

All of the Application types can be submitted:

  • From Within Canada
  • From Outside of Canada

Please consult table below for approximate processing times. Processing times will differ depending on the country from which you are applying. Remember, COVID-19 is affecting these applications and delaying all processing times.

General Processing Times
Outside of CanadaInside of CanadaExtension (inside of Canada)Student Direct Stream (SDS)
Varies by country / location19 weeks11 weeks20 days


Study Permit Processing Time by Location of the Applicant
Brazil39 weeks
People’s Republic of China36 weeks
Ethiopia14 weeks
France8 weeks
Gaza & West Bank12 weeks
India9 weeks
Israel15 weeks
Iran13 weeks
Nigeria13 weeks
Russia7 weeks
South Korea15 weeks
United States of America17 weeks
Vietnam27 weeks


Student Direct Stream (SDS)

Do you live in one of the following countries?

·         China·         The Philippines
·         India·         Senegal
·         Morocco·         Vietnam
·         Pakistan 


If you are a legal resident of one of these countries, you may be eligible for the Student Direct Stream (SDS). The SDS application is only available online. It is an accelerated application process for residents of the above countries. Most SDS applications are processed within 20 days. Missing information or the requirement for more documentation will extend the processing time.

NoteIf a SDS application is approved, a study permit is granted. This permit does not act as a visa. Students will need the permit to study in Canada but some applicants will also require an approved visa to enter Canada. 

Applicants under the SDS must be a legal resident of one of the countries listed above. Applicants must currently live in said countries. Citizens of these approved countries who are not residing in the country at the time of applying are not eligible. 

Cost of SDS: $150 CDN

All required documentation and fees are necessary for a SDS application to be processed. If an applicant is found ineligible for this stream, the application will be processed under the general study permit program. The 20-day processing will not apply.

SDS: Requirements

  • Be a legal resident of 1 of the participating countries
  • Have an acceptance letter from a DLI
  • Live outside Canada when you apply
  • Have proof you have paid tuition for the first year of study
  • Have a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) for at least CAN$10 000
  • Have a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) from the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (only if you plan to study in Quebec)
  • Medical exam (if applicable)
  • Police certificate (if applicable)
  • Submit most recent school transcripts
  • Have a language test result that shows one of the following:

Note: For guidance on the application process for your country under the SDS, consult the Government of Canada website. Or contact Cohen Brosh Law Offices for advice on your specific case.

Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)

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A GIC is an investment in a Canadian bank. The amount deposited has a guaranteed rate of return. GIC’s are also obtained in fixed periods. Once you set up a GIC and prove your identity upon arrival in Canada, the Canadian bank will release a lump sum to you. The remainder of your investment will be incrementally released to you over the course of the fixed term. A GIC is a requirement for applications to the SDS and must be obtained at an institution that is preapproved by the Government of Canada.

Approved Financial Institutions that Offer GICs:

·         Bank of Beijing·         Desjardins
·         Bank of China·         Habib Canadian Bank

·         Bank of Montreal

·         Bank of Xian Co. Ltd.

·         ICICI Bank


·         RBC Royal Bank

·         Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)

·         Industrial and Commercial Bank of China

·         Scotiabank

·         HSBS Bank of Canada

·         SBI Canada Bank

·         Simplii Financial


You can consult the Canadian Deposit Insurance Company website for a full list of approved Financial Institutions.

Note: A GIC is required for applications to the SDS but can also greatly support an application through the general Study Permit stream. Click here for more information on GICs and study permits.



Study permit (including extensions)- per person150
Biometrics – per person (if required)85
Biometrics- per family (2 or more people) (if required)170

Consult Government of Canada website for more details.

What do I do if my application is Rejected?

The best way to avoid a rejection is to submit a very well-prepared application. Doing research and submitting the appropriate documents is the best way to do this.

If an application is rejected, IRCC will send a letter to the applicant. This letter will outline the reasons the application was refused.

Possible Reasons for Refusal

  • Insufficient funds for tuition, travel to return to home country, etc.
  • Insufficient proof the applicant will return to home country after studies
  • Field of study does not make logical sense
  • No confidence that applicant is a genuine student

These are just some of the possible reasons for a refusal. Applicants can review the rejection letter and submit a better application that addresses its concerns. For example, if the application is rejected because the officer does not have confidence that the applicant will return to their home country after their studies, the applicant can include information about family ties, etc. to show that they do intend to return when they reapply.

It is possible to challenge a permit refusal by seeking a ruling in the Canadian federal courts. This path is time consuming, expensive and may oftentimes not be worth the effort. Applicants are not able to present new information in an appeal. They are only able to point out a mistake the visa officer has made.

For example, in the case Omijie v Canada, the applicant’s student permit application was rejected. He applied again with more supporting documents and it was reviewed by another visa officer. The second visa officer also rejected Mr. Omijie’s application on the grounds of unreasonableness.  The program he was applying for was at the same academic level as a program he had already completed in his home country, Nigeria. He pursued a judicial review claiming the officer had not properly considered all the information in his application. He had mentioned that the reason he was applying for the program was because it involved more practical experience in his field. The visa officer rejected the application without giving Omijie the opportunity to address the concern. The court ruled the application should be reconsidered by a different visa officer. This does not guarantee the application will be accepted.

If the application is eventually approved by the courts, which rarely happens in this way, it will be a long period of time before that happens. Re-applying with a better prepared application is generally the best way. For assistance on your application contact Cohen Brosh Law Offices.


Obtaining a study permit is now necessary for every foreign national, regardless of the length of the program. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, application processing times have been delayed. The IRCC is still, however, accepting applications. Remember, a properly prepared and complete application is the most important part of the process. For assistance with your study permit application, contact Cohen Brosh Law Offices.

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