Generally, to be eligible for a study permit, a potential student must:

  • Present a letter of acceptance from the educational institution where she intends to study. This school must be a Designated Learning Institution;
  • Be able to both pay the tuition fees of the program as well as be able to financially support themselves and any accompanying financial members. Depending on the person’s country of origin, they may be required to take out a GIC with a designated Canadian bank;
  • Be able to cover the cost of transportation to and from Canada;
  • Pass any medical examinations;
  • Possibly show proof of health insurance;
  • Demonstrate that they are a bona fide student and that they will leave Canada at the end of the period authorized by their stay. .

Not every student needs a study permit. Exempt students include:

  • Persons seeking to study for a short-term program (unless they wish to work on campus).
  • Minor students in Canada.

Students from India and China should be aware of the possibility of them participating in the Student Partnership Program.  This program allows for expedited applications for students that will be attending a school that is a member of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges.

Approval Rates

The following chart obtained through an Access to Information request shows the CIC approval rate for study permit applications based on certain countries of origin from 2009 – 2013.

SP-approval-Rates

When to Apply

Most people have to apply for study permits outside of Canada.  There are exceptions to this, however, including those who already hold study permits, those who hold work permits, family members of work permit holders, and temporary residents who has completed a course or program of study that is a prerequisite to their enrolling at a designated learning institution. Pursuant to the Federal Court of Canada decision in Virk v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), it is not necessary that the prerequisite have been completed in Canada.

Bona Fides

In addition to the reasons why any temporary residency application might be refused regarding whether the person will leave Canada by the end of their authorised stay, there are also reasons for refusal that are unique to study permits.  The most significant is whether the individual intends on being a bona fide student.

As Justice Roy noted in Demyati v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 701, arbitrariness is the antithesis of reasonableness, and the prohibition against arbitrariness is one of the principles of fundamental justice which is at the heart of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  In setting aside the decision of a visa officer to refuse a study permit application, Justice Roy wrote:

In the case at bar, it remains unclear why the visa officer concluded that an 18-year-old student, who benefits from a scholarship award from a recognized university, would not be a bona fide student who would stay in this country beyond the expiration of the study permit. Furthermore, there is no reason that is articulated to suggest that this applicant would run afoul of section 220.1 (1) of the Regulations:

Conditions — study permit holder

220.1 (1) The holder of a study permit in Canada is subject to the following conditions:

(a) they shall enroll at a designated learning institution and remain enrolled at a designated learning institution until they complete their studies; and

(b) they shall actively pursue their course or program of study.

I have not found any justification on this record for such a conclusion. If there is a justification, and there may well be, it has to be articulated for the decision to be reasonable.

There are non-arbitary reasons to refuse a study permit application.  Study permit applications are often refused if a visa officer determines that an applicant’s program of study does not reflect a logical educational choice given a person’s educational background. As the Federal Court noted in Perez v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2017 FC 1001, an applicant intending to study in areas totally disconnected from their background and experience typically prompt visa officers to question the true intent behind a study permit application.  However, where an individual is completing a program which complements their background and experience, then an application is much more likely to be approved.

Another issue that study permit applicants face is satisfying visa officers that their proposed program of study is reasonable in light of the costs.  However, as the Federal Court noted in Cervjakova v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), an individual’s decision to study in Canada could well entail financial sacrifices for a study permit applicant and her family but this is often what is required to improve one’s circumstances in life.  The Federal Court recently affirmed this decision in Caianda v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), when it stated that there is nothing wrong with individuals putting a high value on education.