In response to COVID-19, Canada has implemented special measures impacting international students. Learn more.
If you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and want to study in Canada for a period longer than six months at post-secondary level, you will need a Canada study permit.
Explore this page, as well as our other study in Canada resources, to learn more about the process of coming to Canada to study.
If you are applying for a study permit during the COVID-19 health crisis, there are special measures in effect that may help you begin your studies from outside Canada while travel restrictions are in place:
COVID-19 special measures for study permit applicants
Normally, an international student living outside Canada has to submit a complete study permit application and receive an approval letter before they can travel to Canada and begin their studies. After receiving their approval letter, the student may travel to Canada where they activate their study permit at the Canadian port of entry (POE).
In response to COVID-19, Canada has introduced a special two-step application process for study permits.
The new two-step process enables students to begin their studies remotely, via distance learning, while receiving a sort of halfway-approval on their study permit. This is because, as many of Canada’s immigration offices around the world are closed or offering reduced services, many study permit applicants are unable to obtain and submit some of the documents required for their study permit applications, including biometrics, medical examination results, and their original travel documents.
The new two-step process is as follows:
Step One: Approval-in-principle & distance learning
Study permit applicants must begin by submitting their application for a study permit, even if they are unable to obtain some of the normally-required documents. Under the new two-step system, study permit applicants may submit their study permit applications without their:
However, study permit applicants will still need to submit:
- Letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada,
- Proof of funds,
- Proof of eligibility for a study permit aside from documents unavailable due to COVID, and
- Only for Quebec schools: Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ).
If a study permit applicant submits an application that would be deemed eligible aside from missing any of the above-mentioned documents, immigration officers will issue the applicant an “approval-in-principle.” With the approval-in-principle, the study permit applicant is authorized to begin their Canadian studies from abroad.
Notably, international students who begin their studies from abroad can count their time spent studying abroad towards their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit, as long as 50 percent of their studies are eventually completed inside Canada. However, an international student cannot begin their Canadian studies until they receive an approval-in-principle on their study permit application.
Step Two: Submit missing documentation & full approval
Once a student is able to obtain and submit the missing documents for their study permit application, they must do so. At this point, immigration officers will assess the final study permit application and decide whether to approve or refuse the application. Receiving an ‘approval-in-principle’ in Step One does not guarantee that a study permit will be issued.
In normal circumstances, once a study permit applicant receives the approval letter for their study permit, they can travel to Canada and activate the permit at a port of entry. However, due to Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, only study permit applicants approved prior to March 18, 2020, are eligible to travel to Canada. Applicants approved after this date must monitor Canada’s travel restrictions for updates to see when they’ll be eligible for travel.
About Canada study permits
What is a Canadian study permit?
A document issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) to someone who wants to come to Canada to study, or continue ongoing studies in Canada.
What are the requirements for a Canadian study permit?
At the very minimum, you will need to present a letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution (DLI) and minimum funds (see below). Additional documentation depends on your circumstances. The Canadian study visa requirements also includes the payment of student visa fees and the ability to provide proof of funds for your Canadian study permit. More information on proof of funds and general requirements for a study permit in Canada can be found below.
Are there activities for which study permit in Canada is not required?
Generally, a study permit is not required for:
- attending preschool;
- completing a distance learning program;
- following audit courses (where a student is permitted to attend an academic course without obtaining credits);
- taking courses included in tour packages as a secondary activity for tourists;
- taking a course which is not academic, professional or vocational in nature that is of general interest and can be completed within the period authorized upon entry to Canada; or
- taking a course or a program of study which is six months or less that can be completed within the period authorized upon entry into Canada.
In addition, certain family members or private staff accompanying a foreign representative accredited by Global Affairs Canada, as well as members of the armed forces from certain countries, may be able to study for longer than six months without a study permit.
Upon completion of a study program, graduates may be eligible to obtain a post-graduation work permit.
Can family members accompany an applicant to Canada?
An accompanying spouse or common-law partner may be able to obtain an open work permit, and minor children may be able to study at Canadian elementary and secondary schools.
Where to submit your study permit application?
The process for submitting your Canadian study permit application depends on the country from which you’re applying. Consult the Canadian government’s official page to find out your requirements.