Regulation 220.1(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations provides that the holder of a study permit in Canada (a) shall enroll at a designated learning institution and remain enrolled at a designated learning institution until they complete their studies and (b) shall actively pursue their course or program of study.
Non-compliance with this requirement can, subject to certain exceptions that are beyond the scope of this post, result in a person being barred from Canada for one year.
The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC“) website contains guidelines (the “Guidelines”) on interpreting these requirements.
The guidelines are divided into the following sections:
- Full-time and part-time studies
- Progress toward completion of courses
- Changing institutions or changing programs of study at the same institution
- D. Leave from studies
- E. Deferred enrollment
- F. School closures
- G. Change of status
- H. Spouses or common-law partners of full-time students (C42)
- I. Children of full-time students
- J. Working on or off campus not authorized during any leave from studies
- K. Co-op and internship placements not authorized during any leave from studies
I have reproduced or paraphrased much of the Guidelines below. At the end of this post I have summarized Federal Court of Canada jurisprudence on the matter.
A. Full-time and part-time studies
The Guidelines state that at a minimum, students must have part-time status with their institution to be considered to be actively pursuing their studies.
The definition of full-time or part-time varies depending on the educational institution.
Furthermore, the province of Quebec requires students to maintain full-time status with their institution to be considered to be actively pursuing their studies. For more information on full-time and part-time studies, see Study permits: Other considerations.
B. Progress toward completion of courses
The Guidelines state that students should be able to demonstrate that they are making reasonable progress toward the completion of their courses in the time allotted by the program.
Study permit holders must provide evidence of their compliance with their study permit conditions if an officer requests such evidence for either of the following reasons:
- officer has reasons to believe that the permit holder is not complying or has not complied with 1 or more of the conditions of their study permit
- as part of a random assessment of the overall level of compliance with conditions
C. Changing institutions or changing programs of study at the same institution
Students engaging in post-secondary studies in Canada are authorized to change institutions or programs of study within the same institution, provided they are not limited from doing so by conditions imposed on their study permit.
To assess if a student who has changed institutions or programs of study a number of times is considered to be actively pursuing their studies, IRCC will consider the student’s reasons for the changes. The Guidelines state that in cases where multiple program or institutional changes do not appear to support the expectation that the student is making reasonable progress toward the completion of a Canadian credential, then an officer may determine that the study permit holder has not fulfilled their study permit condition to actively pursue their course or program of study.
As well, and perhaps most importantly, a student should begin or resume their studies at their new institution within 150 days from the day that they ceased or completed their studies at the previous institution. If a student does not resume their studies within 150 days, they should either change their status in Canada to worker or visitor, or leave Canada. change their status (that is, change to visitor status or worker status) leave Canada. If they do not change their status or leave Canada, they are considered non-compliant with their study permit conditions.
D. Leave from studies
The Guidelines state that for the purpose of assessing if a student is actively pursuing their studies, any leave taken from a program of studies in Canada should not exceed 150 days from the date the leave commenced and must be authorized by their DLI.
Examples of reasons for leave include but are not limited to the following:
- medical illness or injury
- family emergency
- death or serious illness of a family member
- change in program of study within the same institution, outside a regularly scheduled break
- dismissals or suspensions (dependent on degree of severity)
- postponed program start date (see Deferred enrollment for more information)
A student on leave who begins or resumes their studies within 150 days from the date the leave commenced (that is, the date the leave was granted by the institution) is considered to be actively pursuing studies during their leave. If a student does not resume their studies within 150 days, they should do either of the following:
If they do not change their status or leave Canada, they are considered non-compliant with their study permit conditions.
In cases where a student has taken multiple periods of leave in Canada during their program of study, the officer should consider the student’s reasons for the various periods of leave. If the multiple periods of leave do not appear to support the expectation that the student is making reasonable progress toward the completion of their course or program of study in the time allotted by the course or program of study, the officer may determine that the study permit holder has not fulfilled the condition to actively pursue their course or program of study.
In reviewing the above, it is important to note that the Federal Court of Canada has ruled that officers do not have to follow the “150 day grace period.” As Justice Ahmed noted in Kaur v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2019 FC 1581:
I add that even if the Operational Guideline had been applicable to the Applicant, it is trite law that administrative guidelines are not binding and cannot be applied in a manner that unduly fetters a decision maker’s discretion, unless they constitute delegated legislation (Thamotharem v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2007 FCA 198 at paras 62-72; Herman v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 629 at para 28; Frankie’s Burgers Lougheed Inc. v Canada (Employment and Social Development), 2015 FC 27 at paras 90-92). Therefore, given the facts before her, the Officer reasonably found the Applicant was not actively pursuing her studies.
E. Deferred enrollment
If the study permit holder is in Canada at the time of deferral, regardless of whether the deferral is the result of a request by a student or imposed by the institution, and they wish to remain in Canada, they must begin their studies the following semester or within 150 days from the date the deferred enrollment is confirmed, whichever comes first. Otherwise, they should do either of the following:
In all deferral cases, students should obtain an updated letter of acceptance from the DLI.
F. School closures
Students who abandon or put their studies on hold as a result of strikes or permanent school closures will have 150 days to transition to a new program.
When students transfer from 1 DLI to another, they must immediately update their DLI number in their My Account.
G. Change of status
After changing their status to visitor or worker, students may resume their studies, using their previous study permit, as long as the study permit is valid.
If the study permit is about to expire when the student resumes their studies, the student must apply to extend their study permit in Canada, using the application to change conditions, extend your stay or remain in Canada as a student, before the expiry date.Note:
H. Spouses or common-law partners of full-time students (C42)
If the spouse or common-law partner of a full-time student is issued a work permit as the spouse of a student before the student changes their status, the work permit of the spouse or common-law partner remains valid until it expires or becomes invalid.
I. Children of a full-time student
Even if the full-time student (parent) changes their status to visitor, their children may continue to study without a study permit, as long as the parent’s previous study permit is still valid.
In the case of a parent who holds a valid visitor record, due to taking a leave from their studies that was longer than 150 days, and whose study permit has expired, their children need to apply for their own study permit from inside Canada, as their parent is no longer authorized to work or study in Canada.
However, if the spouse of a full-time student who changed their status to visitor still holds a valid work permit, the children can still study
J. Working on or off campus not authorized during any leave from studies
During any leave from studies, including school closures, study permit holders cannot work on campus or off campus.
K. Co-op and internship placements not authorized during any leave from studies
Students who hold a valid co-op or internship work permit may not undertake a co-op or internship placement during leave or school closure and may not use their co-op or internship work permit to work on or off campus.
Federal Court of Canada Jurisprudence
The Federal Court of Canada has affirmed that lengthy absences can justify a finding of non-compliance. In Gursimran v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 1260, the durtion of the absences was two semesters in three years. As well, the individual failed multiple courses. In Kone v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship), 2018 FC 845, the duration was again a semester. The fact that a person was outside the country or unable to register for courses was determined to not be relevant. Finally, in El Kamel v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2018 FC 730 the following statements were found to justify a finding of non-compliance:
- He had never attended his classes at the Université de Moncton or travelled to Moncton since his arrival in Canada.
- When he arrived in Canada, he had a fever caused by diabetes-related hypoglycemia. As a result, he felt too ill to travel to Moncton, so he stayed in Montréal.
- He contacted the Université de Moncton to withdraw from the program for the fall semester.
- He felt better two weeks after having arrived in Canada and having cancelled his studies for the fall semester.
- He preferred to stay in Montréal because his brother lived nearby.
- In early November 2017, he started working for Impark in Montréal.
- He had applied to the Teccart Institute, which confirmed his eligibility for the DVS Computing Support program.
- The program he was to complete in Canada was not of great concern to him. He simply wanted to quickly complete a program so that he could then apply for permanent residence in Canada.