How to Get a Canadian Student Visa

Jan 26th, 2020

In order to study in Canada, you will need to obtain a Canadian study permit, which serves as a Canadian student visa for the duration of your stay. You do not need a Canadian study permit if your course or program lasts six months or less. Nonetheless, it may be a good idea to apply for a permit before you come to Canada anyway – otherwise if you decide you want to continue your studies in another program, you’ll need to leave Canada to apply for a study permit through a visa office.

Once you have a Canadian study permit, you can apply to renew it from within Canada if you decide to continue your studies. For full-time students registered at an accredited higher education institution, a study permit also allows you to work part-time on campus. You may also be able to work off-campuswork as a co-op or intern as part of your program, stay in Canada as a permanent resident or find work after you graduate.


Applying for a Canadian study permit

You can apply for a Canadian study permit either online or through a paper application, which can be obtained from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website. Paper applications typically take about twice as long, and it’s always recommended to check the processing times well in advance. To apply online, you’ll need a credit/debit card and the ability to create electronic copies of your supporting documents (i.e. using a scanner or camera). The visa office in your country will provide specific instructions about which documents you need to provide; this can vary depending on your location. If you need assistance, you can get help at your nearest visa application center (VAC).

The process for obtaining a Canadian student visa is as follows:

  1. You must first obtain a standardized letter of acceptance from a recognized higher education provider. Students studying in Quebec must also apply for a certificate of acceptance, known as a CAQ, from the government of Quebec. You must acquire this before you are permitted to apply for a study permit. You can get this online, by printing out a form, or by requesting a paper form from your university, which will also provide advice on this subject.

  2. The next stage is to get a Canadian student visa application package, either from the CIC website or by contacting your local visa office, or the Canadian embassy or consulate in your home country. You may also need to obtain a temporary residence permit if you are from a designated country (find out if you need to get one here), but this will not complicate matters too much as it’ll be processed at the same time as your study permit application.

  3. In order to get your application package you’ll need to answer a few questions about yourself on the CIC website. These questions will determine whether you are eligible to apply online for a Canadian student permit, and what documents you’ll need to provide.

  4. If you are found eligible, you will receive a personal checklist code, valid for 60 days, which you will need in order to submit your application online. Make sure to print out the page containing your code for future reference. The page will also include an application guide, an estimated tuition fees amount, a list of documents you will need to submit with your application, and guidelines for your next steps.

  5. When you are ready to apply, create a MyCIC account, where you will enter your personal checklist code. You will then receive your personal document checklist which allows you to upload and send your documents to CIC. You’ll need a printer or a scanner to do this.

  6. Once you have your documents and application form ready and have paid your fees, you can submit your completed application to CIC.

  7. Some applicants may have to attend an interview at their local visa office.

Additional Canadian student visa requirements 

Some or all of the following additional Canadian student visa requirements may also apply:

  • Applicants from Europe, the Middle East or Africa may need to provide biometrics (photograph and fingerprints).
  • Some applicants may also need to get a medical exam and/or police check before submitting their application. You will not be able to get a study permit if you have a criminal record – you may be asked to provide a Police Clearance Certificate as proof.
  • Unless you’re from the US or St. Pierre and Miquelon, you will need to prove you have a valid passport which allows you to return to your country of origin after your course is complete. Two passport-sized pictures are also required, with your name and date of birth written on the back.
  • Canadian student visa requirements also include proof of funds to support yourself. At present this is deemed to be CA$10,000 (~US$7,650) for every year of your stay (CA$11,000/~US$8,400 if you’re applying to study in Quebec) on top of your tuition fees. You will also need to make sure you have enough money to pay for transportation to return home.

To prove you have this money, you can provide any of the following documents: bank statements, evidence of a Canadian account in your name if the money’s been transferred, a bank draft in a convertible currency, proof of payment of tuition and accommodation fees, a letter from a person or institution providing you with money, or proof of funding paid from within Canada if you have a scholarship or are undertaking a Canadian-funded program.

Applying through the Student Direct Stream

Canada recently introduced the Student Direct Stream, which students from China, India, the Philippines or Vietnam can apply for in order to get their study permit faster. The requirements are similar to the regular study permit, although there are stricter language requirements – you need to have an IELTS score of at least 6, or a 7 in the Niveaux the Compétence Linguistique Canadiens for French, or have graduated from a Canadian-curriculum high school. If you don’t meet the requirements for the Student Direct Stream but do meet them for the regular study permit, your application will be reviewed for the regular study permit option and you won’t get faster processing.

Next steps after applying

If and when your Canadian student visa application is approved, you’ll receive a Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction, while students from countries which require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) and/or a temporary residence visa will be issued these if required. The eTA will be linked to your passport. It is important that you travel with the passport you used when you applied for your study permit. The eTA will be valid for five years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.

Present these along with your passport, proof of your finances and your letter of acceptance (and any other documents that you’ve been advised to take) to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in Canada, who will then issue your Canadian study permit and allow you access into Canada.

Working while you study in Canada 

If you’d like to get a part-time job to help support yourself while studying in Canada, you can now qualify to work on or off-campus for up to 20 hours during university semesters and full-time during breaks such as the winter or summer holidays, without the need for a work permit.

To qualify, you must:

  • Have a valid study permit
  • Be a full-time student
  • Be enrolled at a designated learning institution at post-secondary level or, in Quebec, a vocational program at secondary level
  • Be studying in an academic, vocational or professional training program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate that is at least six months in duration.

You will also need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) from Service Canada to work in Canada or to receive benefits and services from government programs.

Your study permit will become invalid 90 days after you have completed your study program, so you’ll need to acquire a post-graduation work permit if you want to stay in Canada after your studies and seek work. This is valid for three years. For advice on finding a job after university, please download our guide