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.

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 one of the following:

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

On this page

Where applicants apply

Foreign nationals require a temporary resident visa (TRV) or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) to enter Canada. For overseas applications, if the application for a study permit is approved, a TRV or eTA is issued automatically. There is no separate fee or application for a TRV or eTA [R296(2) and R294.1(2)] with a study permit application.

Foreign nationals may submit an application package for a study permit by doing one of the following:

  • applying online (electronic applications [e-apps])
  • applying through a visa application centre (VAC)

Applying from overseas

An application package for a study permit can be obtained through the IRCC website.

For TRV-required foreign nationals, including those eligible to apply for an eTA through eTA expansion, the TRV should be issued for multiple entries. It should be valid for the same period as the study permit or passport, whichever expires first, unless otherwise specified.

For eTA-required foreign nationals, the eTA is valid for 5 years from the date of issuance or until the foreign national’s passport expires, whichever occurs first, regardless of whether or not this date is after the expiry date of the study permit.

Foreign nationals who are eligible for eTA expansion receive a TRV upon the issuance of their initial study permit. If these clients are issued a renewed study permit, they are automatically issued an eTA. However, these foreign nationals still require a TRV to travel by any mode of transportation other than air.

Note: While a study permit is not required for short-term courses, officers must accept and process an application for a study permit, even when the duration of the course or program of study is 6 months or less [R188(2)].

Prerequisite courses

When assessing bona fides and available funds, IRCC offices abroad should consider the applicant’s main program of study before issuing a study permit for a prerequisite course or program.

Some students must 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. Students in this situation are issued a study permit for the duration of the ESL or FSL program plus 1 year. The permit includes the condition that the holder is not permitted to engage in off-campus employment in Canada. The student may apply to change their conditions once they

  • have successfully completed their ESL or FSL program
  • are enrolled at a designated learning institution (DLI) in an academic, professional or vocational program of study

Issuing an eTA

Once the study permit has been approved, if the foreign national requires an eTA, per section 12.04 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), an eTA control document should be created. If this needs to be done manually, officers should refer to the Global Case Management System (GCMS) instructions to find out how to generate an eTA control document. They must select “eTA/AVE”.

Per section R12.05, the eTA validity must be set for 5 years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever occurs first, regardless of whether or not this date is after the expiry date of the study permit.

Note: If an eTA is automatically created in error in GCMS, it should be cancelled before the approved study permit is printed.

Who should not be issued an eTA

An eTA should not be issued with a study permit renewal if the foreign national

  • has an unenforced removal order
  • has been issued a status document stating that “this document does not confer temporary resident status”
  • has overstayed their authorized period of stay
  • is a temporary resident permit (TRP) holder and is inadmissible to Canada

In all of the above cases, officers must cancel all valid eTAs, including those issued through the expansion of eTA.

Applying at a POE

The foreign nationals who may apply for a study permit when entering Canada [R214] are any

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

Note: To apply for a study permit at an air POE, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who is travelling to Canada must apply for and obtain an eTA before boarding their flight to Canada.

Applying from within Canada

The foreign nationals who may apply for a study permit after entering Canada [R215], including to change or vary their existing conditions, 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)]
    • have completed a course or program of study that is a prerequisite for their enrolment at a DLI [R215(1)(f)(iii)]
  • foreign nationals and their family members who hold a valid study or work permit [R215(1)(a) and (c)]
  • foreign nationals who have obtained 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), and whose application is made within the period starting 90 days before and ending 90 days after the expiry of the authorization [R215(1)(b)]
  • foreign nationals and their family members who are subject to an unenforceable removal order, including refugee claimants [R215(1)(d)]
  • foreign nationals and their family members who hold a TRP, pursuant to subsection A24(1), that is valid for at least 6 months
  • foreign nationals who are in a situation described in section R207
  • in-Canada permanent residence applicants and their family members who are determined eligible for permanent resident status as one of the following:
    • spouses or common-law partners
    • protected persons within the meaning of subsection A95(2)
    • people who have been granted an exemption pursuant to subsection A25(1)
    • people who are subject to humanitarian and compassionate considerations
    • live-in caregivers
  • family members of participants in sports activities or events in Canada, either as individual participants or as members of a foreign-based team or Canadian amateur team [R215(2)(g)]
  • family members of
    • designated members of the armed forces [R215(2)(e)]
    • officers of a foreign government [R215(2)(f)]
    • employees of a foreign news company [R215(2)(h)]
    • people responsible for assisting a congregation [R215(2)(i)]

In-Canada situations

Applications for a study permit approved abroad

Foreign nationals whose application for a study permit has been approved abroad, but who did not obtain their study permit at a POE on their initial arrival (for example, they failed to present a letter of introduction), may contact the IRCC Call Centre. The Call Centre informs the Operational Support Centre (OSC) of the situation. The OSC assesses the foreign national’s eligibility against the case management system to verify their status. If there is insufficient information in GCMS, case processing agents at the OSC may email the IRCC office abroad that originally processed the application to obtain the information required to assess the foreign national’s eligibility. Once the foreign national’s eligibility is confirmed, the Case Processing Centre in Edmonton (CPC-E) mails a study permit to the foreign national’s address in Canada.

Note: The foreign national may not engage in studies until a study permit is issued.

Study permit renewals

An application for a study permit renewal does not constitute an application for a TRV. Therefore, visa-required foreign nationals must apply separately for a TRV and pay the corresponding fee.

Per subsection R12.04(5), an application for a renewal of a study permit for a visa-exempt foreign national is considered to constitute an application for an eTA. Therefore, an eTA should be issued upon approval of the study permit (that is, SP-EXT in GCMS). Clients eligible for an eTA through eTA expansion are also issued an eTA upon the issuance of a study permit renewal.

Note: If an eTA is issued with a renewed study permit for an eTA expansion client, and if the client holds a valid TRV, the officer should not cancel the existing TRV. The client can continue to use the TRV to travel to Canada by air, land or sea until it expires.

Visitors in Canada

Foreign nationals who are in-Canada visitors are not eligible to apply for a study permit from within Canada unless they are exempt under section R215. They must submit their application package online or to a VAC. If their application is approved, they 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. The applicant must provide a letter of acceptance from the DLI at which they are enrolled or will be enrolled.

Visiting students are students who have been 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 student’s 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 students who have been admitted to an institution as visiting students. However, they are not subject to any tuition fees from 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 6 months. However, they may still apply for a study permit. For programs of 6 months or longer in duration, exchange students must apply for a study permit. Students participating in exchange programs are eligible to work off campus only if they hold a study permit. The processing officer must include the appropriate work authorization conditions when issuing a study permit to exchange students.

Note: 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 6 months or less [R188(2)].

Foreign nationals who are in Canada as visitors and are authorized to apply for a study permit from within Canada under section R215 may begin their studies once they have submitted their study permit application, provided the application has been submitted before the expiry of their visitor status. They are required to cease studying if their study permit application is refused.

Prerequisite course or program of study in Canada before the main program of study

As of June 1, 2014, visitors in Canada who have completed a course or program of study that was previously identified as a prerequisite for their admission into a program of study at a DLI may also apply for a study permit from within Canada [R215(1)(f)(iii)] if they provide both

  • a letter of acceptance received from a DLI before or after the completion of the prerequisite course that confirms the course is a prerequisite for admission to the main program
  • proof of successful completion of the prerequisite course, such as a letter from the destination DLI explicitly confirming that the student has completed the prerequisite course or program of study or a notification of completion from the institution at which the prerequisite course was taken

Foreign nationals are not eligible to apply for a study permit from within Canada [R215(1)(f)(iii)] if they are either of the following:

  • unable to provide a letter of acceptance issued by a DLI either before or after the prerequisite course that proves the course is a prerequisite for entry to the main program
  • admitted to a program with a language requirement, but a specific language training course or program is not specified in the letter of acceptance as a prerequisite for entry to the main program (for example, wording such as “must provide proof of English proficiency” does not indicate the need for a prerequisite)

Students taking a prerequisite course or program of study may work on campus provided they meet all other eligibility requirements. They are not eligible to work off campus while completing their prerequisite. However, they are able to work off campus once they have completed their prerequisite and started their main program.

Transition between levels of study (primary, secondary and post-secondary)

As of April 11, 2019, students transitioning between levels of study (primary, secondary and post-secondary) are no longer required to apply for a new study permit, provided their current study permit is still valid.

Dual-credit programs

Students do not need to change their study permit when participating in a dual-credit program if they have both of the following:

  • a valid study permit authorizing them to attend any secondary school
  • registered and enrolled at only a secondary school

Changing post-secondary institutions

Students engaging in post-secondary studies in Canada may transfer between 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 apply for and obtain a study permit, including renewals, on or after June 1, 2014, must notify IRCC through their MyAccount when they transfer to another DLI.

Determining applicants’ status

The instructions below are to help determine whether or not the applicant has temporary resident status at the time of application. This can be a factor when applying for a study permit extension.

Status as of the date the application is postmarked

It has been determined that the postmarked date (or 7 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 expiry of status may be a factor.

Out of status

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

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