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A step-by-step guide to applying for a Canadian student visa

Amelia Carruthers
Last Updated: 15 November 2021 • 6 min read

Canada is a fantastic country for international students, with plenty of world-class institutions and vibrant, multi-national student communities. If you’re interested in studying in Canada (and who wouldn’t be!?) – one of the first things you’ll need is a Canadian study permit.

Whilst some people can apply for a study permit from within Canada, you’ll probably have to do this before you arrive in the country. There are several key stages in the Canadian student visa process you’ll need to get right – so today, we go through these step-by-step.

From the important Canadian student visa requirements for international requirements to fees and exemptions – here’s everything you need to get your application off to the best possible start.

How to apply for a Canadian student visa

  1. Formalise your Canadian university application
  2. Check whether you need a Canadian student visa
  3. Start your Canadian student visa application
  4. Know what Canadian student visa fees are due
  5. Canadian student visa requirements for international students
  6. The Canadian student visa process: Interviews and biometrics
  7. Applying through the Student Direct Stream

1. Formalise your Canadian university application

 If you haven’t already – the first step when applying for a Canadian study permit is confirming your acceptance at a Canadian university!

 You will need to have received a firm acceptance (alongside an acceptance letter) to begin your Canadian student visa application.

 If you’re still searching for inspiration for your Canadian studies, the following institutions (all fantastic Edvoy partners) are great places to start:

 2. Check whether you need a Canadian student visa

 Whilst most students need a Canadian student visa for their time in the country – there are a few allowances. 

There’s an official government tool to find out whether you need a study permit, but the main exemptions include:

  •  Anyone who’ll complete their course in six months or less
  • If you are under the age of 18 or 19 (depending on the province you’re studying in)
  • If you’re a member of armed forces on active duty whilst studying
  • If you’re a family member of an official foreign representative in Canada

3. Start your Canadian student visa application

So, you’ve finalised your university application and need a study permit? Well now it’s time to get your Canadian student visa application started!

In Canada, student visas are referred to as a “study permit”. The study permit itself doesn’t actually allow you to enter Canada. If approved, you’ll also be issued with a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorisation (eTA).

The first thing you should do is start your online application (via the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website) well before you arrive in Canada.

When you apply, you’ll need the following documents:

  •  A letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution (DLI) – if you’ve been conditionally accepted, you might have to take English or French language courses before commencing your studies.
  • Proof of identity – a valid passport or travel document, along with two passport-size photos
  • Proof of financial support – you must prove you've got enough money to support yourself and any family members whilst in Canada. This could include student loans, bank statements or official letters from sponsors. Excluding tuition fees, you’ll need a minimum of $10,000 Canadian dollars per year (or $833 per month) to cover your living expenses.
  • Letter of explanation ­– this is like a personal statement, helping visa officers understand why you want to study in Canada, and that you understand your responsibilities as a student.

4. Know what Canadian student visa fees are due

 The Canadian student visa application fee is currently $150 Canadian Dollars.

 You might also have to pay additional fees for medical exams, biometrics data collection and language tests (such as TOEFL, PTE Academic and IELTS Academic). 

Don’t forget any tuition fees payable to your institution too! Make sure to include all these fees when assessing your budget.

5. Canadian student visa requirements for international students

 As part of the Canadian student visa application process, it’s important to understand the requirements and responsibilities placed on international students. 

This is essential for maintaining your study permit and may form part of the interview process.

Requirements whilst studying in Canada include:

  • Always maintain your enrolment at your institution of study.
  • Making demonstrable progress towards completing your program.
  • Respecting all conditions of your study permit, for instance restrictions on paid employment.
  • Leaving Canada when your study permit expires – it is usually only valid for the duration of your studies (plus an additional 90 days).

6. The Canadian student visa process: Interviews and biometrics

Once you’ve filled in your online application form and submitted the associated documents – you’re nearly there!

You may also have to book an appointment at a Canadian visa application centre in your country to have your biometrics data taken. This includes things like fingerprints and official photos. 

The standard biometrics fee is $85 Canadian dollars – which is in addition to the regular Canadian student visa fee of $150.

 As part of this process, you might also be called to an interview with a Canadian immigration official. If so, this is nothing to worry about! Student visa interviews are solely to make sure you’re a genuine candidate and understand your responsibilities in the country.

In this case, make sure you’ve done plenty of research and just be genuine - you’ve got this!

7. Applying through the Student Direct Stream

The Canadian student visa process can take up to 90 days. So bear this in mind and give yourself plenty of time when applying.

If you are a resident of certain countries, you might be able to speed up your application through the Student Direct Stream. This usually takes around 20 days and is open to students from several countries including Brazil, China, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam.

Further information on eligibility and how to apply for a Canadian student visa is available from the Canadian government’s website.

You’ll receive confirmation via the online portal once your Canadian student visa is approved. If you’ve applied from outside Canada, you’ll be sent a “port of entry letter of introduction” saying you’re allowed to study in the country. You’ll need to show this to border services, alongside your visitor visa or electronic travel authorisation.

If you’re currently going through the Canadian student visa application process, we wish you the very best of luck. Edvoy specialise in simplifying the process of studying abroad – so why not get started today to find the perfect course and institution for you?

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Amelia Carruthers
Written By
Amelia Carruthers

With a background in academic publishing, education and digital marketing, Amelia Carruthers is a freelance writer with a love of history, philosophy and the written word.

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