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Which Canadian student visa do I need?

Sean Campbell
Last Updated: 21 October 2021 • 8 min read

If you want to study abroad in Canada, you’ll need to get yourself a Canada student visa (or to give it’s proper title; a Canada study permit —but more on that below). 

Navigating the frankly complicated world of visa requirements and applications is difficult to do alone, but fear not, we’ve got you covered at Edvoy. 

In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the requirements and application process for obtaining your own student visa for Canada. Then you can start making plans to head overseas and begin your university journey! 

But while you’re here, why not take a look at our article on the differences between studying in Canada vs the USA

Anyway, let’s crack on with the matter at hand. 

Everything you need to know about Canadian study permits 

  1. Canada study visa vs Canada study permit
  2. When do I not need a Canada study permit?
  3. Can I work in Canada with a study permit?
  4. The need for a university letter of acceptance
  5. How to apply to get a Canada study permit
  6. Getting your documents in order
  7. English language requirements for Canada study permit
  8. How long does it take to get a Canada study permit?
  9. How long can you stay in Canada with a study permit?
  10. Biometric requirements for a Canada study permit

1. Canada study visa vs Canada study permit

There’s actually no such thing as a Canada study visa. Rather it’s a Canada study permit that you need —though the terms are often used interchangeably.

Along with your study permit, you’ll need a visitors visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Don’t worry though, as one of these is issued automatically once your study permit is approved. 

2. When do I not need a Canada study permit?

There are a rare few instances in which you actually don’t need a study permit to study in Canada, even as an international student. If any of these scenarios describe you or your study plans, you won’t need a study permit:

  • If you’re a family or staff member of a foreign representative in Canada, who is accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.
  • If your study programme is less than six months.
  • If you are a member of foreign armed forces from the Visiting Forces Act.
  • If you are a citizen of another country, but you have an Indian status registered in Canada.

If none of these apply to you, then it’s time to read on and learn more!

3. Can I work in Canada with a study permit?

You actually can work part-time in Canada with a study permit, on or off campus, but there are some conditions you need to keep in mind. We’ve gone into more detail on this in our article 6 high paid part-time jobs in Canada for international students!

OK, now let's get down to the nuts and bolts of applying for your Canada study permit!

4. The need for a university letter of acceptance

Before you can apply for your study permit for Canada as an international student, you need to be able to prove that a university has accepted you onto a programme.

If your application to study somewhere is successful, the university will send you an official letter of acceptance. You’ll have to include this on your application pack along with a number of other important documents which we go into further below. 

5. How to apply to get a Canada student permit

The easiest way to apply is online, but you can apply on paper by contacting your country's Canadian embassy who will issue you with an application pack. 

As soon as you have your letter of acceptance, make an account on the CIC website (Citizenship & Immigration Canada) to begin your study permit application process.

It’s a pretty easy-to-follow procedure, and every obligation you need to fulfil is made clear on the website.  

You have to provide your letter of acceptance from your university, as well as prove that you have no criminal record, can support yourself financially during your time in Canada and can pay your tuition fees, and are in good health with medical records to show this.  

To help clear up any confusion, let’s go into more detail on the documentation you’ll need to prove the above. 

6. Getting your documents in order

Here’s a quick rundown of all the documents you need to submit as part of your Canada study permit application, along with your completed application form.

You don’t necessarily need all of these, but the more you can get, the more it’ll help your case:

*Bear in mind that you’ll need access to a scanner to make digital copies of these documents. 

  • Letter of Acceptance from your university
  • Passport or valid travel document (not needed for US citizens)
  • 2 x passport photographs, with your name and date of birth written on the back
  • Proof that you have at least CA$10,000 for every year you’ll live in Canada (bank statements are best here, but proof of a loan or a letter from someone who is funding your stay)
  • Proof of having no criminal record (police clearance certificate from your country of residence)
  • A letter of Intent, written by you. This letter should explain who you are, and why you wish to study in Canada. 
  • Proof that you’ve paid the fee CA$150 fee for the study permit

Also note that if you intend to study in the province of Quebec (for longer than 6 months), you’ll need to provide a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ), provided by the Government of Quebec. This document must be certified and translated in both English and French. 

However, your Quebec-based university will tell you all you need to know about the CAQ and how to apply. 

7. English language requirements for Canada study permit

There actually aren’t any English language requirements to get a Canada study permit. However, you’ll have to demonstrate to your university that you can speak English at a high enough level to keep up with your studies. 

Your English language test doesn’t have to be IELTS (though IELTS is accepted by pretty much all Canadian universities.

In an earlier article we answered the question “Is it possible to study in Canada without IELTS?”. Check it out when you get a moment, but here are the possible alternative English tests you could do to study in Canada, depending on your university of choice: 

8. How long does it take to get a Canada study permit?

Once you’ve submitted your application along with all the required documentation, it can take up to 90 days to process your application and issue your visa. However, it often takes much less time than this. 

International students from China, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, and Vietnam also have the option of using the “Student Direct Stream” to obtain a Canada study permit much more quickly — often in around 20 days. 

9. How long can you stay in Canada with a study permit?

Your Canada study permit allows you to stay in the country for the duration of your entire study period, but also includes an extra 90 days in case you want to apply to extend your stay after you graduate, to study further or work.  

Find out more here about Canada’s recent update to its post graduate work permit eligibility. If you’re interested in staying in Canada to work after you’ve completed university, check out the top graduate employers in Canada to get some ideas!

10. Biometrics for a Canada study permit

Depending on which country you’re from, you might have to provide biometrics i.e. a photograph and fingerprints. However this will be made known to you once you’ve begun your application process.

If you do need to provide biometrics, you can do this at a Canada Visa Application Centre in your country of residence, for a fee of approximately CA$85. 

So you’re thinking about studying in Canada? Great call! Check out why you should consider it if you want a career in tech.

And here’s why Canada is an awesome place to study Business Management. While we’re at it, here are some amazing Engineering courses in Canada (and well paid Engineering jobs too) if that’s what you’re keen on. 

None of these appeal to you? That’s fine, we’ve got plenty more study abroad options for you here at Edvoy. Come explore! Click here to get started or follow the button below.

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Sean Campbell
Written By
Sean Campbell

Sean is a writer, copywriter & editor from Ireland.

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