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Postgraduate Study Permits in Canada

If you’re hoping to study a Masters abroad in Canada, you’ll usually need a study permit to do so. A Canadian study permit is very similar to a student visa, allowing you to live in Canada and attend a university there for the duration of your studies.

This page covers all the essential information you need to know about applying for a study permit, including fees, processing times and work permits.

Canadian study permit requirements

A Canadian study permit is a document that lets you live and study at a ‘designated learning institution’ in Canada for the duration of your Masters (with an additional 90 days to give you a chance to apply for an additional work permit if you want to stay in the country).

It’s not quite the same as a student visa, in that it doesn’t entitle you to enter Canada by itself – often you’ll also need an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) or a temporary resident visa, but this will be handled during your application for a study permit.

Who needs a permit to study a Masters in Canada?

Almost all foreign nationals will need a study permit to enrol on a postgraduate programme in Canada.

However, you might not require a study permit if:

  • Your studies will take you six months or fewer to complete
  • You’re stationed in Canada as a member of a foreign military force
  • You’re a family or staff member of an accredited foreign diplomat in Canada
  • You have Registered Indian status in Canada (i.e. you have an Indigenous identity)

Even if you don’t necessarily need a study permit, it’s often a good idea to apply for one as they allow you to work on-campus during your studies without an additional work visa.

Financial requirements

There are slightly different financial requirements for a study permit, depending on which Canadian province you’re studying your Masters in.

If you’re studying outside of Quebec, you’ll need to prove that you have the following funds available to support yourself (and any family members with you) during your studies, in addition to tuition fees:

  • $10,000 per year for yourself
  • $4,000 per year for the first family member accompanying you
  • $3,000 per year for any other family members with you

If you’re going to be studying in Quebec, you’ll need the following funds (in addition to tuition fees):

  • $11,000 per year for yourself
  • $5,100 per year for the first adult family member
  • $5,125 per year for any additional adult family members
  • $3,800 per year for the first under-18 family member
  • $1,903 per year for any additional under-18 family members

Please note that all of these figures are given in Canadian dollars.

There are several different ways in which you can demonstrate that you have the finances available to support yourself during a Masters, depending on your funding situation:

  • The previous four months’ worth of bank statements
  • Proof of a bank loan that covers your studies
  • Written confirmation from a person or institution that is sponsoring you
  • Proof from your university that you’ve paid tuition fees and / or housing costs
  • Details of any scholarships you’ve successfully applied for

You’ll have the opportunity to submit these supporting documents when you begin the process of applying for a Canadian study permit.

Health insurance

Healthcare in Canada is the responsibility of individual provinces, so procedures and requirements depend on where you’re studying. As a rule of thumb, you should contact your university and find out exactly what level of health insurance coverage you need and make sure you have this in place before your arrival in Canada. Many universities offer their own healthcare plans for international students, although other providers exist.

Canadian entry visas

A study permit isn’t the same as a student visa and doesn’t automatically entitle you to enter Canada. You’ll usually need a temporary resident visa (TRV) or an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) in addition to a study permit, depending on your nationality. The Government of Canada will issue a TRV or eTA as part of your application for a study permit.

Exceptions apply if you’re a United States citizen or if you’re from a visa-exempt country and arriving in Canada via land or sea from the United States.

You can see a full list of countries and visa requirements on the Government of Canada’s website.

Applying for a study permit

Before beginning your application for a study permit in Canada, you’ll need to make sure you have the following documents ready:

  • A letter of acceptance from an accredited Canadian university, using an official letterhead and detailing your tuition fees and the start / end dates of the programme
  • A valid passport or travel document, along with two passport-sized photos of you
  • Proof of your ability to support yourself financially for the duration of your Masters

You can make your application online via the Government of Canada website, scanning and uploading copies of the relevant supporting documents. If internet access is a problem, you can request a paper version of the application form.

Applying for a study permit in Quebec

If you plan on studying a Masters at a university in Quebec, there is an additional condition for gaining a study permit. You’ll need a Certificat d'acceptation du Québec (CAQ), issued by Quebec’s Ministère de l'Immigration, Diversité et Inclusion (MIDI). Find out more on the MIDI website.

Language requirements

You won’t usually have to provide proof of language proficiency as part of your application for a Canadian study permit. However, if English isn’t your first language you’ll probably have to complete an English language test as part of the admissions process for your Masters.

Biometrics

After submitting your application for a study permit, you may also need to supply the Government of Canada with your biometric details (i.e. your fingerprints and a photo).

Currently, applicants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa need to provide biometrics. From 31 December 2018 onwards, people from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas will also need to provide this information.

If you do need to supply your biometrics, you’ll receive a notification from the Government of Canada telling you that this is the case. You’ll have to pay a biometric fee of $85.

You can give your biometrics at one of Canada’s visa application centres (VACs) around the world or at an application support centre (ASC) in the United States. Find out where your closest biometric location is.

Medical exams and police certificates

Depending on where you’ve been living and travelling before your arrival in Canada, you may need to undertake a medical exam.

If you’ve spent six or more consecutive months in certain countries in the year before arriving in Canada, you’ll need to have a medical exam. You can see a list of the countries and territories for which an immigration medical exam (IME) is required on the Government of Canada website.

If you do need a medical exam, you must use an approved doctor from Canada’s list of panel physicians.

The Government of Canada maintains a useful guide on what a medical exam involves.

The visa office may also ask that you provide a police certificate showing that you have a clean criminal record and aren’t a threat to Canada’s national security.

Cost of a Canadian study permit

There are a few fees and costs associated with gaining a study permit for Canada. When you make your application, you’ll have to pay a fee of $150. Make sure you keep hold of the receipt for this payment, as you may need to supply proof later on in the process. An eTA or TRV is included in this $150 fee.

You’ll also need to pay a biometrics fee of $85 (if relevant) and any fees related to a medical exam / police certificate.

Processing time

The processing time for a Canadian study permit depends on a few different factors, ranging from application method to which country you apply from.

In general, it’ll be quicker to apply online for a study permit rather than via post. Processing times also differ from nation to nation, and could be anywhere between one and 10 weeks. This doesn’t include the time taken to supply biometrics or to attend a medical exam.

You can check the average processing times for your country of residence.

Student Direct Stream

The Student Direct Stream is a procedure open to students from China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines, allowing them to enjoy a speedier application process. There are some extra requirements, including proof of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate of $10,000 and a score of 6 in the IELTS test. Find out more about the Student Direct Stream.

Outcomes

If your application for a study permit is successful, you’ll receive a ‘letter of introduction’ from the Government of Canada confirming this. You’ll also receive an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) or a temporary resident visa, depending on your nationality.

The letter of introduction isn’t your study permit, but you’ll need to present it to the visa officer when you arrive in Canada along with the following documents:

  • A valid passport
  • An acceptance letter from your university
  • Proof of your finances
  • Any other documents stipulated by the Government of Canada while making your application for a study permit

If your application is unsuccessful, you’ll receive a letter explaining the reasons why.

Working in Canada as a student

Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be able to work part-time without a work permit during your studies at a Canadian university, either on-campus or off-campus.

Working off-campus

If you want to work off-campus during your Masters, your study permit will need to include a printed condition that allows you to do so. You’ll also need to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN), a nine-digit code that lets you work in Canada, as well as receive state benefits. Also, you must be studying full-time at an accredited university.

You can only work for 20 hours off-campus during term time, but can work full-time during university breaks (for example, the summer or winter holidays).

If your study permit doesn’t include a printed condition allowing you to work, you can ask the Government of Canada to amend it.

Working on-campus

You can work on-campus at the Canadian university you’re attending if you have a study permit and a SIN, but you must finish your employment as soon as your Masters finishes or your study permit expires.

Unlike off-campus work, you don’t need a printed condition on your study permit for on-campus work. There isn’t a limit to the number of hours you can work with an on-campus employer, which could be any of the following:

  • The university itself
  • A private company
  • A student organisation

You can also be self-employed on-campus.

Post-graduation work permit (PGWP)

If you want to stay on in Canada after your Masters has finished, you’ll need to apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP). This allows you to live and work in Canada for a set period of time, dependent on how long your course was:

  • If your programme took fewer than eight months to complete, you won’t be eligible for a PGWP
  • If your programme was between eight months and two years long, the PGWP will be valid for the period of time it took to complete your studies
  • If your programme was two or more years long, the PGWP will be valid for three years

You must have studied at a ‘Designated Learning Institution’ which is also eligible for a PGWP (not all institutions have this status). You can check on the Government of Canada website for PGWP-eligible universities.

You’ll need to apply for a PGWP within 90 days of completing your course, which costs $255. Like the study permit, you can apply online or via post, but the online process is usually quicker.

Other useful resources

The Government of Canada maintains a comprehensive guide to study permit applications, along with information on arriving in Canada as an international student and working in Canada as an international student.

Learn more about studying abroad in Canada

We’ve written dedicated guides to studying a Masters in Canada, postgraduate life and Canadian university rankings. You can also take a look at the many Masters programmes in Canada that are listed on FindAMasters.com.

Last updated 05/02/2019

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