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Obtaining a Study Permit for Education Programs in Canada

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

By: Martin Msowoya


Canada invites the opportunity for international students to study in its diverse society. However, for those considering studying abroad, there are many considerations required by the Canadian government before you may begin your school year. These include: where and what post-secondary institution a student would like to attend, do you have the required funds to not only cover tuition but as well as living costs, will a student be able to work-will they need to obtain a work permit, will a student require a study permit. The relevant rules governing the application process for an international student are found in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). According to the IRPR, international students are categorized as a class of person who, if eligible, can acquire temporary resident status and have been granted study permits as members of the student class.

Study Permits

A study permit is a written authorization that allows an international student to undertake academic, vocational, professional, or other education or training that is longer than six months and at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada. Section 211.1 of the IRPR explains the criteria of a DLI and what is considered a DLI. This is significant given that a student must ensure that the institution they wish to attend is verified by the provincial or territorial ministry of education to meet minimum IRCC standards.

A study permit request may be made through a VAC (visa application centre) or the online IRCC portal. When evaluating an application, a number of factors will be considered, including:

  • The foreign national will have to provide the acceptance letter from the institution they plan on studying (IRPR, s 219).

  • Provide a proof of sufficient funds for payment of tuition (IRPR, s. 220).

  • Complete the biometric requirement (IRPR, s. 10.01).

  • Display the ability to financially support themselves and any family members (IRPR, s. 220).

  • Present a successful pass of a standard IRCC medical examination if necessary (IRPR, s.216 (3)).

  • For those who wish to attend an educational institution in Quebec, whether the primary, secondary, college, university level, they will require a Quebec Certificate of Acceptance (CAQ) by the ministere de l’immigration, de la diversite et de l’inclusion before they are able to obtain a study permit.

Study Permit Applications

The following forms are necessary for a study permit application:

  • Application for a study permit made outside of Canada (IMM 1294).

  • Schedule 1: Application for Temporary Resident Visa (IMM 5257).

  • Use of a Representative (IMM 5476), if necessary;

  • Document Checklist for a study Permit (IMM 5483).

Depending on the country, application forms and processes will vary. Checklists are available to ensure the applicant is aware of study permit requirements.

Application processing times range from a few weeks to several months. Upon acceptance, a temporary resident visa (TRV) if the applicant is a national from a visa-required country, and a study permit will be given together which will allow the applicant to enter and study in Canada. If the applicant is classified as national who does not require a visa, an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) will be provided.

Once an applicant has been approved they will receive an email or letter for which they will have to show a Port of Entry officer upon arrival. If the applicant is refused, a refusal letter will be sent to them outlining the reasons they were denied. It is important the approved applicant show that they have a genuine intention to complete their studies and depart from Canada upon successful completion.

A study permit expires 90 days after the completion of the program. If the applicant wishes to pursue further studies within Canada, section 217 (1)(a) of the IRPR allows the applicant to make a renewal application, so long as this is done prior to the expiry of the current study permit. Moreover, the student must ensure they have remained compliant with the eligibility criteria stated in section 216 of IRPR and all conditions given to the student upon entry have been acknowledged.

Working Without a Work Permit

Opportunities for work while on a study permit is an important consideration for many. Whether on-campus, off-campus, or CO-OP, it is important to know what an international student can and cannot do while on a study permit and whether or not they may require a work permit:

On-Campus Employment

Students who have been issued a study permit, which has not expired, are allowed to work on campus without having to obtain a work permit so long as the student maintains a full-time status at a DLI which is stated in section 186(f) of the IRPR. A student is only able to work on the campus of the DLI they are registered to and attend. Students are also able experience on campus employment opportunities and work as graduate, research, and teaching assistants.

Off-Campus Employment

Similarly to on-campus work, international students do not require a work permit as long as they have a valid study permit and are registered as a full-time student and maintain a full-time status during the course of academic sessions at a DLI (IRPR, s.186(v)).

As enumerated in the IRPR, students cannot work full-time during regular academic sessions; they are are limited to 20 hours a week, whereas, during scheduled breaks, students are allowed to work on a full-time basis even without a work permit.

Work Requiring a Work Permit

Students will require a work permit in specific circumstance such as, for Humanitarian reasons, Post-Graduation work, Co-op or Internship programs, Post-Doctoral Fellows or Research Award Recipients, and Foreign Medical Residents or Medical Research Fellows.

Humanitarian Reasons

Section 208 of IRPR states that in circumstances beyond the students control or if they temporarily become destitute, a student can apply for a work permit. Examples include  war or the failure of the banking system in their home country. It is understandable that in such circumstances a student would need to seek employment in order to manage their daily affairs. To help students who find themselves in vulnerable positions, an open work permit may be granted to work for any employer for a specific amount of time. This specified period is usually in tandem with the academic sessions as opposed to the duration of the whole program or the study permit.

Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

The opportunity to stay and work abroad after graduation is very appealing to students, especially those who wish to eventually settle abroad. The Post-Graduation Work (PGWP) program allows students who have a study permit that is still valid and are about to graduate to apply for an open work permit. An open work permit provides for a student to work for any employer for a certain amount of time.

Through the PGWP program, a student can acquire an open work permit as long as they satisfy the following criteria:

  • The student must have consistently maintained full-time status in a program longer than 8 months in duration at a DLI and must have graduated.

  • The study permit of a student must not be expired when they request to obtain an open work permit under the PGWP.

  • The DLI the student is currently enrolled in must provide a written notification to the student stating that the student is eligible to receive a degree, certificate, or diploma.

  • Upon receiving written confirmation expressing successful completion in an academic program from the DLI the student is enrolled and registered to, the student will have 90 days to apply for the permit. This 90 day period begins either on the day the institution releases the final transcript or the day formal written notice is obtained (whichever document is issued first).

Once the student has obtained the permit under the PGWP, it remains valid for the length of the program study and cannot exceed three years. In the event a student accelerated their studies, the work permit would still be valid based on the length of the original program of study. Upon expiry of the permit, if a student wishes to remain in Canada they will have to apply for either a different applicable program or a labour market impact assessment (LMIA).

Co-op or Internship Programs

Some academic programs offer the opportunity to partake and experience employment in the field students wish to pursue upon completion of their academic program or course. Co-op and internship programs are vital components in some programs of study and would require a student to have a work permit. In order for a student to apply for a work permit in reference to a Co-op or internship program, their DLI must provide written confirmation that these work experience programs are apart of their program of study and need to be fulfilled in order for a student to receive a diploma, degree, or certificate.

The student must satisfy the requirements stated in the criteria.

A work permit extends further than Co-op or Internship programs, students may be able to obtain a work permit based on work conducted in research, educational, or training programs. In order to obtain a permit for this nature of work there are specified programs that these permits are issued under. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., and many others are some examples of the programs that fund work permits in this nature.

Post- Doctoral Fellows or Research Award Recipients

Those who have completed and doctorate and intend on seeking employment in a field related to their course of study will need to obtain a work permit (s.205 (c)(ii)) of IRPR). Research award candidates are “chosen on the basis of academic excellence and the work intended to be completed must be focused and designed to obtain the highest expertise possible in a particular discipline.” Applicants who are awarded and chosen and will be conducting work which involves payment may also seek to obtain a work permit.

Foreign Medical Students or Medical Research Fellows

A work permit can be issued under section 205(c) of the IRPR for a medical or dental resident who seeks to complete their residency in a Canadian facility, whether it be a hospital or clinic. The applicants must have a medical degree equivalent to that of Canadian standards. In addition, the applicant must be recognized as a specialist, have completed residency training, and be seeking to continue their specialized training or to complete medical research at an advanced level. According to section 30 of IRPR, applicants are required to complete a medical examination and provide a letter of employment from the university.


Studying abroad is an experience few get the oporuntiy to do. For those hoping to study in Canada, remember, you will connect with people from all over the world, receive the best education, and be a part of a diverse society. Contact Battick Legal to learn more about study permit applications and how we can support.

Martin Msowoya is a Law Student at City, University London. He has been a student intern with Battick Legal since February 2022.


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