ARCHIVED – Operational Bulletin 321 - July 13, 2011

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

This document has expired. Please refer to the appropriate Program Delivery Instructions for current information.

Procedures for the assessment of study permit applications from students destined to suspended or closed private career colleges in Ontario and British Columbia


Effective July 13, 2011, officers reviewing study permit (SP) applications from applicants destined to private career colleges in Ontario or British Columbia (BC) should determine whether that institution is suspended or has had its registration cancelled prior to issuing a SP. New SPs should not be issued to students wishing to attend suspended or closed private career colleges in Ontario or BC.


The purpose of this Operational Bulletin (OB) is to clarify for officers that the registration status of private career colleges in Ontario and British Columbia (BC) should serve as a determining factor in assessing the bona fides of SP applicants.

This supplementary guidance will be added to the “Student Manual (OP 12),” section 5.8 at a later date. This may include future extension of these specific procedures to additional provinces and territories, where and as applicable.


In most provinces, private career colleges must follow legislated registration or licensing procedures in order to operate. Ontario and BC have gone beyond these procedures by enacting legislation controlling the private education and training sector, and have developed the accompanying enforcement and compliance frameworks.

In Ontario, institutions that offer vocational training are usually classified as private career colleges. They must be registered and have their programs approved by the Superintendent of Private Career Colleges. The Superintendent may suspend or cancel a private career college’s registration due to violations of the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005. Similarly, in BC, the Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA) registers private career training institutions that offer vocational training. PCTIA may suspend or cancel the registration status of an institution that does not meet educational standards or registration requirements. Private language schools in BC that also offer career training/vocational programs meeting the threshold for PCTIA registration – even one – must register with PCTIA.

Private career colleges in Ontario and BC that have had their registration suspended may continue to train existing students but cannot advertise programs or enrol / offer to enrol new students, whether domestic or international. Private career colleges whose registration is cancelled are effectively closed and cannot continue to train existing students or enrol, offer to enrol new students, collect tuition or advertise programs. In cases of closure, provincial authorities will provide students who are attending with an alternative program at another institution, if available, or a refund of tuition paid.

Note: Private career training institutions registered with PCTIA may also voluntarily seek PCTIA accreditation by meeting quality standards over and above PCTIA registration requirements. If PCTIA has suspended an institution’s accreditation (but not its registration) it may still offer to provide and enrol students in its training programs.

Current Procedures for All Provinces/Territories

Section 5.8 (Concerns about institutions) of the “OP 12 Manual” states:

“When a processing officer is made aware that an educational institution may not be in compliance with the provincial education regulatory body, this officer should inform the student of that fact and determine whether the applicant is bona fide. The fact that a school may not be in compliance with provincial requirements is not on its own a basis for refusal.”

The manual does not distinguish between levels of non-compliance with provincial statutes. As such, this may result in applicants receiving SPs to attend private career colleges whose ability to enrol new students has been suspended or whose ability to provide any training has been removed for significant non-compliance.

Supplementary Procedures for Ontario and BC ONLY

Determination of Registration Status

When assessing SP applications from applicants destined to private career colleges in Ontario or BC, officers should verify if that college’s ability to operate has been suspended or cancelled by the provincial government. To do so, an officer should access the web sites of the applicable provincial government (refer to links below). For example, in Ontario all registered private career colleges in good standing and their approved programs are listed on the Service Ontario web site below. If the private career college and the program a student is intending to attend is not listed on the Service Ontario website, this private career college and/or program does not have legal authority to operate and admit students to the vocational program. In all cases, officers should ensure that they have up-to-date registration information when assessing these particular SPs applications. This will help reduce the risk of applicants being granted study permits to attend private career colleges that are not able to enrol students, offer career training programs or that may no longer be able to operate.

Assessment of Bona Fides

Section 5.15 (Bona fides) of the “OP 12 Manual” states:

“Bona fides of all students must be assessed on an individual basis; refusals of non-bona fide students may only withstand legal challenge when the refusal is based on the information related to the specific case before the officer.”

Each application should continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, an important component of the assessment of the bona fides of an applicant is the intention to study. This is severely compromised in cases where a private career college’s level of non-compliance is to the extent that the provincial government has suspended its ability to enrol new students and advertise its programming or cancelled its authority to offer vocational training to any student. Where registration is cancelled or suspended, and the officer is not satisfied that the student is bona fide as a result, the SP application should be refused.

In these cases, applicants should be informed of the inability of these career colleges to enrol new students and/or to continue to operate. Officers should also advise impacted applicants that they can submit a new SP application if a new letter of acceptance is obtained at an eligible educational institution.

It is vital that officers articulate the appropriate grounds for decision in both the refusal letter and file notes.

Exceptions / Exclusions

  • All public educational institutions, private universities and private degree-granting institutions;
  • Vocational programs that are under 40 hours in duration or cost less than $1,000. (Please refer to the applicable Ontario / BC statutes below for specific definitions of vocational training and/or other details of the registration requirements and exemptions);
  • All private language training programs in Ontario, and any institutions in BC offering only language training programs:
    • In Ontario, ESL / FSL programs of study are not impacted by these guidelines as the provincial registration and enforcement is related to vocational programs only;
    • In BC, any private career training institution registered with PCTIA and offering ESL / FSL programs in addition to its career training programs are required to register the ESL / FSL programs with PCTIA. If PCTIA suspends an institution, it is prohibited from enrolling students in any of its programs, including ESL / FSL.

Notwithstanding the above exclusions, in all cases officers should exercise care and due diligence when reviewing any application or assessing individual bona fides and legislative requirements.


Officers should first carefully review the above guidelines and consult the applicable provincial websites below for information to support the determination of whether a private career college’s vocational program is approved, if applicable, or if it has had its registration suspended or cancelled.

Additional Resources

Provincial Legislation

Provincial Registration and Enforcement



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