All About: How to Get a Study Permit in Canada

By Logan Bright Modified on January 25, 2024
Tags : Academics | Travel

Want to study here in Canada? First, you'll need a valid study permit. Here's a 5-step guide to getting one.

All About: How to Get a Study Permit in Canada

So, you want to study at a college or university in Canada, but you need a study permit to do so. Here's how to get a study permit for Canada:

Step 1: Find out if you need a permit

In truth, most students who come to Canada will require a study permit. However, Canada offers a tool to help you figure out if you need one.

Use the study permit tool on this webpage to determine if you need a study permit.

Processing time for your paperwork currently takes around nine (9) weeks, but depending on your country of origin, you may be able to take advantage of the Student Direct Stream (SDS), which processes permits faster — the current estimate is approximately three (3) weeks. To be eligible, you must be a legal resident of one of the following countries, living outside Canada when you apply:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • India
  • Morocco
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Senegal
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Vietnam

Being from one of these countries doesn't guarantee you a study permit, it just makes processing times faster. Be aware that to apply under the SDS, you must also have "proof you have paid your tuition for your first year of study, if you're planning to study outside Quebec," and a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (more on this below).

Step 2: Gather your documents

Each international student will require four basic documents:

1: Proof of acceptance

You must prove you've been accepted to a Designated Learning Institution (DLI), usually by sharing your acceptance letter from the school. The college or university will confirm the validity of your acceptance — if they cannot, your study permit application and processing fee will be returned to you.

2: Attestation letter (NEW for 2024)

This is a new requirement. The province or territory you plan to study in must provide an "attestation letter." Your province or territory will send this letter to you. If you're studying in Quebec, you'll also require a Quebec Acceptance Certificate.

You don't need an attestation letter if you're:

  • a minor child applying to study in a primary or secondary school (kindergarten to grade 12)
  • a student applying for a masters, doctoral, or other post-graduate program
  • a student applying to extend their study permit

3: Proof of identity

You must be able to prove your identity. The most common way is through a copy of your passport. (If you're approved, you must send your original passport for confirmation!) United States citizens have a few extra options available to prove their identity.

4: Proof of funding

To be eligible for a study permit, you must meet a financial threshold of $20,635 CAD. (If Quebec is your destination, you must meet the Quebec financial requirements instead.)

You can prove this in several ways. The most common are:

Canadian bank account in your name

If you have a Canadian bank account, in your name, and you transfer the required funds to it, you can share a bank statement with officials to prove your finances.

Guaranteed Investment Certificate

You can get a Guaranteed Investment Certificate worth at least $20,635 CAD from a Canadian bank, showing you have the minimum financial requirement.

There are several other ways to prove your finances as well. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure you have the funds required to succeed in school — and life — in Canada.

5: Other documents, as required

Some students may also need one or more of the following:

See the government sites linked above for more details on these items.

Step 3: Applying for a Canadian study permit

When you have your documents ready, you can go ahead and apply online, whether you're in Canada or not.

The Government of Canada advises all applicants to read the complete guide to applying for a study permit in Canada, which is full of details on each step in the process.

You should also be prepared to pay the required fees. The application fee is $150 CAD, and you'll also have to pay a fee (of approximately $100 CAD) for the required biometrics, which consists of your fingerprints and photo. (Learn more about sharing your biometrics with the Government of Canada here.) The portal accepts cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, and UnionPay.

Some students may have to pay other third-party fees. These are not paid at the time of application, and instead are paid to the third parties themselves. These may include:

When all of this is in order, head to the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada portal to apply for a study permit online.

Step 4: After your application

Typical processing times are currently around nine (9) weeks for most students, except those in the SDS, which averages around three (3) weeks. These estimates don't include the time it takes to collect biometric data. Try to take care of your biometrics as soon as possible to avoid delays.

The Government of Canada offers an Application Status Tracker tool to help you keep an eye on the progress of your application. You may be asked for additional documents, so be sure to monitor your application's status.

If you're not approved for a study permit, you'll receive a letter explaining why. Common reasons include the lack of a valid acceptance letter or insufficient finances, but reasons vary. You can contact the visa office that sent the letter with any questions you have.

If you're approved for a study permit, you'll receive it when you arrive in Canada — or in the mail, if you're already here.

Step 5: Prepare for Canada!

Once you've been approved for your Canadian study permit, it's time to prepare for your next adventure!

Check out the pre-departure guide for plenty of advice on getting ready for Canada. You may also benefit from this border services guide if you're not in the country yet.

Getting a valid study permit for Canada will require work, time, and dedication — but hundreds of thousands of students do it every year! Canada's expected to take in around 365,000 new international students for 2024, so if you want to be one of them, start exploring schools and programs in Canada now.

We can't wait to meet you here in Canada!

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