Studying in Canada

Group of Students Using Computers at CollegeMany foreign students are enrolled in Canada every year to pursue academic, vocational and professional training, in addition to many more short-term French and English language students. Canada encourages qualified foreign students. Most foreign students must have a study permit. You do not need a study permit if your course of study will be six months or less. Citizens and permanent residents of the U.S., St.-Pierre-et-Miquelon, and Greenland can apply at a port of entry. Everyone else has to apply in advance, either online, through a consulate, or through a visa application center (VAC).

Unlike the United States, you may not attend a university just because you have a work permit. You must obtain a study permit. However, minor children whose parents have a work or study permit in Canada can attend school without a study permit.

You must have the following to get a study permit:

  • A letter of acceptance from the school you will be attending.
  • Proof that you have the financial means to pay tuition and your living expenses. You must have the amount of tuition plus about $10,000 per year for living expense.
  • Medical clearance if you live in a country considered to have a high rate of infections disease.
  • Proof that you will return to your home country after your studies are completed.
  • If you are attending school in the Province of Quebec, you must also apply for a Certificat d’Acceptance from Quebec.

Many student visas are denied because the visa officer believes the student will not return to his native country. You will be successful if you emphasize that you are pursuing a course of study that will prepare you for job opportunities in your native country, not just in Canada; and that you have strong social, economic and family ties to your home country.

Students are allowed to work in Canada under many circumstances. Full time students may work on campus without a work permit. Many students can apply for study permits to work off campus after attending school full-time for six months. The permits allow off-campus employment in any job for 20 hours a week during school, and full time when school is not in session. Internships are permitted when required by the academic program. Following graduation, many students may apply for a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). The length of the work permit is based on the length of the course of study, up to a maximum of three years. You must apply within 90 days of finishing your academic program. After one year of work on a PGWP, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class.

Spouses and common law partners (including same sex partners) of foreign students can obtain work authorization for the entire period of the student authorization. This is a big advantage over the United States, where spouses of F-1 students are not allowed to work.