Mahal Resources on Education in Canada

Immigration and Visa Requirements for Canada

All persons who want to study in Canada need to apply for a student authorization and obtain the written approval of a visa officer. To apply for an authorization you must:

  • have a valid passport;
  • have a letter of acceptance from an educational institution;
  • have enough money to support yourself;
  • complete an application form; and
  • pay a fee.
Definitions of terms used and information on completing the form follow the instructions below. If you want to study in Canada you must meet some important immigration requirements and you may require a visitor visa. If you do require a visitor visa, the visa officer will issue it at the same time as the documentation necessary for your entry to Canada as a student. Before you apply for a student authorization, you must be accepted as a student by an approved educational institution. The institution will decide if you meet its academic and language requirements.
Note: To obtain such acceptance, you must deal directly with the educational institution in which you are interested.

What is a student authorization?
A student authorization is a form issued by an immigration officer. It allows you, after your admittance, to remain in Canada to take an academic, professional or vocational training course at an approved university, college or other institution.

Who needs a student authorization?
If you are not a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Canada or a dependant of a diplomat accredited to Canada, you must obtain a student authorization.

Are there any courses for which a student authorization is not required?
A student authorization is not required if the course is:

  • an English or French language course that lasts a maximum of three months;

  • not academic, professional or vocational; for example;
    • self-improvement, general interest courses such as arts and crafts;
    • courses included in tour packages as a secondary activity for tourists; and
    • day care or nursery school programs which are not a compulsory part of the elementary school system.

Where do I apply?
You apply to the nearest Canadian visa office. You must obtain permission to study in Canada before leaving for Canada. However, the following persons may apply from within Canada:

  • dependants of athletes, media representatives, members of the Clergy, or military personnel on assignment in Canada;
  • dependants of officials of foreign governments working in Canada with a federal or provincial agency under an exchange agreement;
  • dependants of a person who has a valid student or employment authorization; and
  • a person who is a holder of a Minister's permit and his or her dependants.
In addition, the following persons may apply at a Canadian port of entry:
  • citizens and permanent residents of the United States, St. Pierre and Miquelon, or Greenland.

Do I pay a fee?
Yes, a processing fee is charged.

What are the basic requirements for student authorization?
You must satisfy the visa officer that you meet the requirements of the Canadian Immigration Act and Regulations and that you will be in Canada for a temporary stay. You must also:

  • satisfy a visa officer that you will be able to return to your country or be admitted to another country after your studies;
  • have been unconditionally accepted by an approved educational institution;
  • have enough money during your stay in Canada to pay for:
    • tuition fees;
    • living expenses for yourself and accompanying dependants; and
    • return transportation for yourself and accompanying dependants;
  • be law abiding and have no record of criminal activity (you may be asked to provide a Police Clearance Certificate);
  • not be a risk to the security of Canada;
  • produce any additional documents requested by the visa officer to establish your admissibility;
  • complete a medical examination, if required; and
  • pay the fee.

May my spouse and dependent children accompany me to Canada?
Yes. They may either accompany you to Canada or they may join you at a later date. Your spouse and children must meet all the requirements for visitors to Canada. They may be required to provide evidence that they are law abiding and have no criminal record. They may also be required to have a medical examination, and to obtain a visitor visa.

If they will accompany you, include them on your application by providing their names and other information in the appropriate space on the application form. You will be required to provide a marriage certificate and birth certificates for any accompanying dependants.

If they wish to follow you to Canada at a later date, they must make a separate application for admission.

Application Process

This section explains how an application is made, how long it will usually take and how it will be processed by the visa office.

When should I apply?
The time required to process an application to study in Canada may vary at different visa offices. You should apply as early as possible, and allow at least six months to plan and prepare for your move.
Note: Canadian universities suggest you apply for admission at least one year in advance of your planned arrival.

How do I apply for a student authorization?
Complete the application form, and include the fee and the documents listed below. To complete your application you will need to know the cost of your education including tuition fees and books, medical insurance, return transportation costs and living costs for yourself and any dependants while in Canada. Living costs vary in each province.

What documents are required?
You are required to provide the following documents for yourself and any accompanying dependants:

1. Proof of unconditional acceptance

  • for attendance at a university, college or technical institution, a letter from the educational institution to show:

    • the name of the institution;
    • confirmation of your acceptance and/or registration as a student;
    • the course of study;
    • the duration of the academic program; and
    • the latest date you may register.

  • for attendance at a primary or secondary school, a letter from the school board having jurisdiction for the school you are attending (or for private schools, a letter from the school itself), indicating:
    • the name of the school;
    • the level of study; and
    • the duration of the course.
For attendance at an educational institution in Quebec, you will also require a "Certificat d'acceptation du Québec" (Quebec Certificate of Acceptance, or CAQ) issued by the Ministère des Affaires internationales, de l'Immigration et des Communautés culturelles du Québec (MAIICCQ) (see Appendix 2, "Quebec immigration requirements").

2. Proof of identity

  • a valid passport or travel document or identity document that guarantees re-entry to the country that issued it (citizens and permanent residents of the United States, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and Greenland do not require a passport but do require proof of status such as a national identity card or an alien registration card); and

  • two recent passport size photos for each family member (the name and date of birth of the person should be written on the back of each photo).

3. Proof of financial support
  • evidence that you can support yourself and accompanying dependants while you study in Canada. Such evidence may include:

    • proof of a Canadian bank account in your name if money has been transferred to Canada;
    • your bank statements for the past four months;
    • a bank draft in convertible currency;
    • proof of payment of tuition and residence fees;
    • for those with a scholarship or those with a Canadian funded educational program: proof of funding paid from within Canada;

  • if foreign exchange control measures exist in your country, you must provide proof that you will be permitted by the exchange control authorities of your country to export funds for all of your expenses; and

  • if additional documents are required, a visa officer will inform you.

Note: Children under 16 years of age who are travelling alone must have information (name, address, phone number) about the person or school who will be responsible for them. If the child is the subject of a custody order, proof of custody and the other parent's consent must also be provided. Minors travelling without their parents require a letter of permission from the non-accompanying parent(s).

Will I need to attend an interview?
After reviewing your application, a visa officer will decide if an interview is necessary. If so, the visa officer will inform you of the time and place.

Will I or my accompanying dependants need a medical examination?
In some cases you will require a medical examination. A visa officer will decide on this and send instructions if a medical is required. It may add over three months to the processing of your application.

What happens if I make a mistake on my application?
Your application may be delayed or returned to you unprocessed.

Upon your arrival to a Port of Entry

What happens when I arrive in Canada?
When you arrive in Canada, the immigration officer at the port of entry will determine whether you may enter Canada and how long you may stay. You must leave Canada on or before the date set by the immigration officer or have your status extended by an immigration officer in Canada.

May I change schools?
Your student authorization is valid only for the educational institution and program of study named on your authorization. If you wish to change schools or study programs, phone your nearest Canada Immigration Centre in Canada to obtain an application.

May I work during my stay in Canada?
Generally, foreign students are not allowed to work while studying in Canada. However, there are some exceptions for full-time students at post-secondary institutions who may obtain employment authorizations. These are only issued if:

  • the intended employment is an essential and integral part of your course of study (this does not apply to accounting students, medical interns or medical residents);
  • the intended employment is related to an approved research or training program;
  • the employment is on campus at a community college or university where you are registered as a full-time student; and
  • you have successfully completed a community college or university program in Canada and wish to work for a maximum of one year in employment related to your course of study.

Note: Some student authorizations are arranged with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). These students must obtain an approval letter from CIDA to be eligible for an employment authorization related to their course of study.

How do I obtain an employment authorization if I am a student?
If you have received a job offer on campus as a Graduate Assistant or Research Assistant, or for work that is related to a research or training program, you may obtain the employment authorization at the same time as your student authorization. To do so, include written proof of the offer of employment with your application for a student authorization.

If you do not have a job offer before leaving your country, you must apply for an employment authorization by phoning your nearest Canada Immigration Centre and you must obtain it before you start working.

Note: Full-time post-secondary students may apply in Canada for an open employment authorization to work on the campus of the post-secondary institution they are attending. The employer may be a private contractor operating on the campus.

Are there any medical restrictions on the work I seek?
Yes. If you have passed an immigration medical examination you may apply for an employment authorization to seek and accept any type of employment on campus. Students who have not undertaken an immigration medical examination may also apply for an employment authorization to work on campus. However, such students will be prevented from working in areas involving child care, primary or secondary teaching, health services, and certain agricultural occupations.

May my spouse work?
A spouse of a full-time student at a community college or university may apply for authorization to work in the general labour market. The spouse should phone a Canada Immigration Centre in Canada to obtain more information about submission of an application.

A spouse may work only during the validity of the student authorization. Any income earned while in Canada should not replace the need to meet the financial requirements for the student authorization. Also, a medical examination may be required.

May my children attend school?
Your dependent children may be able to study in Canada. Before attending classes, you must apply for and obtain a student authorization for your children. Phone the nearest Canada Immigration Centre in Canada for an application.

May I leave Canada and return?
Yes. However, should your student authorization expire while you are out of Canada, you may not be allowed to return to study. An immigration officer at the port of entry will decide if you still meet the requirements for admission.

If you initially required a visitor visa in addition to a student authorization, you will be able to return to Canada providing your visa, passport and student authorization are all valid.

How do I obtain an extension of my student authorization?
Phone your nearest Canada Immigration Centre in Canada at least two months before the expiry of your student authorization, to obtain an application in the mail.

Note: Canada Immigration Centres are listed in local telephone directories under Government of Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

An extension of a student authorization does not affect your visitor visa. To obtain a new visitor visa, you must apply outside of Canada. It is your responsibility to ensure your visitor visa remains valid. The entry of international students into Canada is regulated by the Government of Canada. Nevertheless, your admission to an educational institution may be subject to policies in the province where you want to study.

Accompanying dependant: the applicant's spouse and any child of the applicant or spouse. Dependent children are normally less than 19 years of age.
Approved educational institution: a university, college or other educational institution that operates according to the educational standards or practices of the province in which it operates.
Full-time student: this is defined by an approved educational institution or is a person whose course of study is at least six months in duration and involve at least twenty-four hours of instruction per week.
General interest courses: terms which describe courses that are characterized by the absence of a formal curriculum, a formal examination and an official credit towards a degree or diploma. Such courses may be offered by local school boards or as "hobby courses" or "life skills" and can vary from flower arranging to language studies.
Visitor visa: a document issued by a visa officer and placed in the passport of an authorized visitor to Canada. It is an official way of showing that the person has met the requirements for admission to Canada as a visitor.

Your educational institution will give you all necessary information about the procedures that apply in Quebec. If the country where you are living is served by the Quebec Immigration Service (SIQ), you should apply there for your "Certificat d'acceptation du Québec" (Quebec Certificate of Acceptance, or CAQ). Otherwise, you should apply for your CAQ at the the Regional office of the Ministère des Affaires internationales, de l'Immigration et des Communautés culturelles du Québec (MAIICCQ) that serves your educational institution in Quebec. The Regional office will contact the Canadian Embassy or Consulate nearest you to confirm the approval of the CAQ. The following persons who plan to study in Quebec do not require a CAQ:

  • students chosen under a Canadian government assistance program for developing countries;
  • students enrolled in a part-time course of studies;
  • students enrolled in intensive French or English courses for less than three months and at least 20 hours per week; and
  • students enrolled in a general interest course in a private school.
Requests for information may also be made at MAIICCQ's information service in Montreal by phoning (514) 864-9191.


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