Studying in Canada - Changes to the International Student Program

There have been a number of important changes to Canada’s International Student program that have been introduced to reduce the potential for fraud or misuse of the program while protecting Canada’s reputation as a high-quality provider of education. 

Under the new rules that came into effect on June 1, 2014:

  1. Study permits issued will be limited to applicants who will be studying at a designated learning institution
  2. Students will be required to actively pursue their studies while in Canada*
  3. Full-time international students who are enrolled at designated institutions in certain programs, will be able to work off campus part-time during school months and full-time during scheduled school breaks without a work permit

*Actively pursuing studies means that if you hold a study permit, you must remain enrolled and make reasonable and timely progress towards completing your program of study and if you fail to, it could lead to your removal from Canada.  Your educational institution will be obligated to report to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) on your continued enrolment and academic status. You may also be required to provide evidence of your continued enrollment and academic status.

Under the new rules, your study permit will become invalid 90 days after you have completed your program. If you decide to switch to a shorter program or finish your studies early, your study permit will expire 90 days after your study program has been completed. Your program is considered complete when you receive written notification of program completion (for example, a transcript or an official letter of withdrawal from the educational institution) or once you obtain your degree, diploma or certificate. This does not apply to you if your study permit application was received before June 1, 2014, or if you were issued a study permit before June 1, 2014.

Applying for a Study Permit to a Post Secondary Institution

  • You will need to have a letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution to apply for a study permit.  A list of designated post-secondary learning institutions is available on the Government of Canada CIC website. (The list is updated on a regular basis.)
  • If your study permit application is received after June 1 and your letter of acceptance is from an institution that is not designated for international students, your application to study in Canada will be refused.
  • If your application for a study permit was received prior to June 1, 2014, and your letter of acceptance is from a post-secondary institution that has not been designated for international students, you may still pursue your program of study at that institution for the duration of your study permit; and you will be able to renew your study permit in order to complete your program, but not beyond June 1, 2017.

To apply for a study permit, you:

  • Will need to identify the institution by its designated learning institution number on the application form (that number can be found on the designated learning institution list)
  • Will need to meet the standard eligibility criteria for a study permit.
  • Will be required to prove that you have enough money to pay for your:
    • Tuition fees;
    • Living expenses for yourself and any family members who come to Canada with you;
    • Return transportation for yourself and any family members who come with
  • Must be a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record and not be deemed a risk to Canada’s security. You may be asked  to provide a police certificate.
  • Must be in good health and willing to undergo a medical examination if necessary
  • Must satisfy an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your authorized stay.

If your program of study is six months or less:

  • If you want to take short-term courses of six months or less, a study permit is not needed.  You may enroll in short-term programs at any learning institution, regardless of whether or not it is designated. If you are from a non-visa-exempt country, you must have a valid visitor visa.

Changing Institutions

  • If you change institutions after receiving your study permit, it is your responsibility to notify CIC when you are transferring from one designated learning institution to another. You must also ensure that you continue to meet the conditions of your study permit, as well as the conditions that allow you to work, should you wish to work during your studies.

Working off campus during your studies

  • The new rules make it easier for study permit holders to work off campus. Full-time students at a designated learning institution will be:
  1. eligible to work off campus without a work permit for up to 20 hours per week during a regular academic session and full time during regularly scheduled breaks; and
  2. Able to work off campus immediately rather than waiting six months

Note that you must continue to meet the conditions of your study permit and you must get a Social Insurance Number from Service Canada.

  • If you are studying English or French as a second language (ESL/FSL), or are participating in general interest or preparatory courses, you will not be eligible to work during your studies, unless you become eligible to apply for a work permit with a positive Labour Market Opinion from Employment and Social Development Canada.
  • It is your and your employer’s responsibility to ensure that you are eligible to work off campus without a work permit before you begin working. If you begin working off campus without meeting the eligibility requirements, you may be subject to enforcement action under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

Working as part of a co-op or internship program

You will be able to work as part of a co-op or internship program only if:

  • The work is an essential part of training program offered by a designated learning institution.  In order to work as part of a co-op/internship program, you will need a co-op work permit that is separate from your study permit.

For further explanation and details, please read the full text of the new regulations which is available on the Government of Canada website.