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.

Leaving Canada at the end of Authorized Stay

In Demyati v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), Justice Shore ruled that in the study permit context the presence of family in Canada could not by itself be seen as a negative factor in a study permit application as if anything it should suggest that the person would have family support.

Procedural Fairness

The requirements of procedural fairness are relaxed for study permit applications.  The onus is on applicants to prove their case, and a visa officer is not required to provide them with a “running score” of weaknesses or give notice of concerns arising from legislative requirements.  However, there are circumstances where a visa officer will be required to inform an applicant of concerns with an application, even where those concerns arise from the applicant’s own evidence.

In Gu v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 522, Justice Mainville set aside a refusal that was based on an IRCC officer’s determination that the applicant had not previously completed her studies under a different study permit.  He wrote:

In the CAIPS notes, the officer was concerned that the Applicant did not establish she had completed any studies in Canada under previously issued study permits or worked in Canada under the work permits issued to her. Indeed, if the Applicant was using work or study permits for other purposes, then this could certainly give rise to a valid concern about her commitment to leave Canada by the end of the new study permit she was requesting.

However, these past permits had been issued and renewed by the Canadian immigration authorities, and there is no evidence of non-compliance with the Act and the Regulations on the part of the Applicant. In circumstances where past compliance issues have never been raised, I agree with the Applicant that if the officer had a concern about her compliance with past permits, the officer should have informed her of the concern and provided her with an opportunity to respond. As noted by Justice Beaudry in Li v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship & Immigration), supra at para. 35:

There is no statutory right to an interview (Ali v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), (1998) 151 F.T.R. 1, 79 A.C.W.S. (3d) 140 at paragraph 28). However, procedural fairness requires that an Applicant be given the opportunity to respond to an officer’s concerns under certain circumstances. When no extrinsic evidence is relied on, it is unclear when it is necessary to afford an Applicant an interview or a right to respond. Yet, the jurisprudence suggests that there will be a right to respond under certain circumstances.

[…]

This is not a case where the officer had concerns with the application which was submitted. Rather the concerns related to past permits and past applications. In light of these circumstances, the Applicant was entitled to be provided with an opportunity to answer these concerns which she could not have reasonably foreseen as being of interest to the officer. Since the application will be returned to another Non-Immigrant Officer for redetermination, the Applicant is now well advised that she must address these concerns with this new officer.

Similarly, in Popova v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 326, Justice Diner set aside a study permit application where in a previous application IRCC only raised concerns about proof of funds. In the subsequent application, IRCC determined that proof of funds was fine, but that this time the reasonableness of the proposed study was the problem. Justice Diner determined that in this case IRCC had to notify the applicant of the new concerns as the applicant had no way of knowing about them based on the refusal reasons for the previous application, stating that ” an interview may be required in student visa applications where the officer has formed an opinion that the applicant would have no way of anticipating.”

Finally, pursuant to Justice Walker’s decision in Al Aridi v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 381,  where an applicant provides sufficient evidence, but an officer simply does not believe that an applicant will be a bona fide student, then this is a veiled credibility concern, and procedural fairness requires that an officer provide the applicant with an opportunity to respond.