Canada is one of the world’s top study-abroad destinations. The number of international students in Canada keeps growing yearly because of its prestigious universities, diverse culture, and welcoming people.



    If you are a foreign national planning to study in Canada, you must obtain a student visa as an essential part of the application process. After all, you cannot enter the country, let alone take classes, if you don’t have a visa!

    Nonetheless, a visa is one of many important documents you must study in Canada as an international student. You’ll need a study permit too! A study permit allows a foreign national to study at any designated learning institution in Canada.

    It seems straightforward. The problem is that many people use student visas and study permits interchangeably, but they are different!

    Below are the necessary steps for a study permit application process in Canada

    student in Canada

    1. Receive your letter of acceptance from a Canadian university

    You need to apply for admission and be accepted into a Canadian university before commencing your application for a student visa.

    To be eligible for a student visa, your chosen university must be a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) – a school approved by the Canadian territorial government to accept international students.

    2. Gather all the following required documents

    Before starting your online application, you must prepare all the documents for your study permit. According to the Canadian government, the following are required:

    • An original or electronic copy of your letter of acceptance from a designated Learning Institution
    • provincial attestation letter (P.A.L.) from the province/territory where you plan to study
    • Proof of identity (a valid passport or travel document and two recent passport photographs)
    • Provide proof of funds that show that you can financially support yourself during your studies. It must be enough to cover your tuition fees and living costs or a minimum of $10,000 per year of study.
    • A letter of explanation detailing your reasons for studying in Canada and assuring your understanding of your responsibilities as an international student
    • A Québec Acceptance Certificate (C.A.Q.) if you are planning on studying in Québec
    • A Custodian Declaration, if you are under 17 years old
    • The receipt for your payment of the $150 study permit fee

    3. Begin your application

    Once you have gathered all the required documents, including your letter of acceptance from a DLI, you can start your online application for a study permit. Keep in mind that it can take up to 3 months to get a study permit.


    It is helpful to apply when you receive a letter of acceptance from a Canadian college or university. During your application, you must:

    • Read the instruction guide to ensure you understand everything that is required of you.
    • Create an online account and sign in (you will use your account to pay your fees, submit your application, and check your status)
    • Fill out the online forms using your accurate personal information.
    • Upload the necessary documents (acceptance letter, identity, proof of funds, letter of explanation, and others)
    • Pay your fees online.
    • Remember to check your application status regularly for updates or extra requests.

    If your application is approved, your student visa will be valid for the period of your studies, plus 90 days. If you wish to stay, you can prepare for your departure from Canada with the extra time or apply for a visa extension.

    4. Provide biometrics and pass a medical exam

    Suppose you are applying outside Canada and have never given your biometrics before. In that case, you must collect your fingerprints and photos at an official Visa Application Center.

    Additionally, you must pay an $85 fee (plus the $150 study permit fee) and set an appointment at an official biometric collection site. In some cases, you may be exempted from this condition.

    Depending on your country of origin, you must also provide a medical exam by an approved representative physician to complete your application.

    5. Start your application early; it may take months to receive your study permit

    The Canadian government says it may take up to 13 weeks for your study permit application to be processed. So, ensure that you consider the waiting time and start your application process four to six months before your departure!

    The processing time for your visa is dependent on several things. Such factors are the type of application submitted (online or on paper), whether you sent all the required documents, how easily it is to confirm your information, or how long it takes to answer any demands on their side.

    6. Maintain your status

    Once your study permit has been approved, you will enter Canada as an international student. As such, you must meet the requirements below to maintain legal status in Canada:

    • Continually be enrolled at a Designated Learning Institution.
    • Strive to complete your study program.
    • Respect any requirements listed on your study permit.
    • Only study if you meet the conditions.
    • Exit Canada at the expiration of your permit.

    Study Permit Application Process in Canada

    Can I work part-time while studying?

    You may be able to work on- or off-campus while studying. Your study permit will say if you can work while studying. However, your eligibility to work part-time will depend on certain conditions, including the length of your program and whether the work is taking place on or off campus.

    You will be able to work up to 20 hours per week as an international student off campus without a work permit if you meet these requirements:

    • You’re a full-time student at a designated learning institution. You’re enrolled in a post-secondary academic, vocational, or professional training program or a secondary vocational training program (Québec only).
    • Your study program is at least six months long and leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate. You’ve started your studies and have a social insurance number (S.I.N.).

    How early can I arrive in Canada before starting my studies?

    Before starting your studies, you have no specific time frame for arriving in Canada. It would help if you came to give yourself reasonable time to prepare.

    However, you can enter at least thirty days before the commencement of your study program. Additionally, you can only work on or off campus once you begin your studies in Canada.

    Study Permit Exemptions

    Not all foreign nationals are required to obtain a study permit in Canada. The following are the most common exemptions from the study permit requirement:

    1. Short-term studies

    A foreign national only needs a permit to study if they are completing a program of study that lasts six months or less. If it takes longer than six months to complete such a program, they must secure a study permit before the initial six months have passed.

    Study Permit Application Process in Canada

    2. Minor children in Canada

    Minor children under the age of 18 or 19 (the age for minor children varies by province) do not require a permit to study permit to attend kindergarten, preschool, primary or secondary school if they meet one of the following conditions:

    • They or their parents are refugees or refugee claimants
    • They are in Canada accompanying a parent who is authorized to work or study

    3. Studying in Quebec

    Quebec is independent in its immigration processes and policies, so the application process to study at an educational institution here varies from the processes in other provinces. International students pursuing an academic program in Quebec must obtain a Certificat d’acceptation du Quebec (C.A.Q.) before applying for a study permit.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is a provincial attestation letter (P.A.L.), and how do I receive it?

    A provincial attestation letter is a document issued by the provincial government and must be included with your study permit application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (I.R.C.C.).

    The P.A.L. confirms that you have a space to study at a Designated Learning Institute in Canada. It will include your full name, date of birth, and address. Additionally, the P.A.L. is a new requirement by I.R.C.C.

    Who is exempt from the provincial attestation letter requirement

    • Applying to study in a preschool, primary school, or secondary school (up to grade 12)
    • Applying to study in a master’s degree or doctoral degree program
    • If you are in Canada applying for a study permit extension
    • Have a valid work permit
    • A temporary resident who has completed a course or program of study that is a prerequisite to enrolling at a Designated Learning Institute
    • A refugee or protected person
    • A family member of a study permit or work permit holder in Canada
    • A family member of a refugee or protected person in Canada

    What is a designated learning institution?

    A Designated Learning Institution is an educational institution that has received approval from the Canadian government to admit foreign nationals into their programs of study.


    All primary and secondary schools in Canada are D.L.I.s and can admit students from foreign countries. However, not all post-secondary educational institutions are D.L.I.s, so you must consult the Canadian government’s list of D.L.I.s before applying.