Student Visa for Canada: An Overview

TransferWise content team
02.28.19
6 minute read

Studying in Canada is popular, thanks to the country’s reputation for a great quality of life, welcoming people, and stunning scenery. There are high ranking universities to choose from, and you may also get the opportunity to perfect another language if you choose to live and study in a French speaking region.

If you’re thinking of making a move to Canada for your studies, you’ll need to get familiar with the process and requirements for getting your student visa. Immigration law is always fairly complex, and you’ll need to provide a range of paperwork to support your application. Be sure to start early, to minimise the risk of running into problems.

This guide is a great place to start - read on for an overview of the procedure and paperwork needed to your get student visa for Canada.

Visa Types for Canada

There are several different visa tiers for Canada, which all apply to different personal circumstances. You can apply for the visa you need before you travel to Canada - although there are some circumstances in which you can extend or alter your visa one you arrive, if your personal situation changes.

Here are the main visa categories for entry to Canada:

  • Visitor visas and transit visas for people passing through
  • Temporary visas, including those intended to help people visit their family in Canada
  • Work permits, skilled employee and business visas
  • Student visas and student work permits
  • Emergency, refugee and humanitarian visas

In this article, we will look at the visas which are suited to people wishing to study in Canada.

Which countries are eligible for a student visa in Canada?

To apply for a Canadian visa while you study, you’ll need to fulfil a set of eligibility requirements.

However, your nationality does not necessarily matter - the decision is based on other factors such as having an offer from a university (known as a DLI, a designated learning institution)visa conditions later in this article.

Student visa requirements

To apply for a Canadian study permit and visa, you’ll need to provide the following documents:

  • Proof of acceptance from a DLI
  • Evidence you can pay for your study, life in Canada, and for a return flight home
  • A valid passport

You may also need to give biometric data and provide other documents such as a letter explaining why you wish to study in Canada, and proof of your current visa status, depending on where you are living.

There’s lots of information available online about the documents needed, including how exactly to prove you are able to cover your costs. The amount you need to have depends on where in Canada you will be studying, coming in at around tuition fees plus $10,000 per year outside of Quebec, and slightly more if you’re in an institution based inside Quebec.

How to apply for a study permit

The process for getting a study permit varies depending on where you are in the world, and what nationality you hold. It’s important to remember that you need both a visa, to be able to enter Canada legally, and a study permit, to allow you to take up your studies. These are separate documents, but in most cases, you’ll be issued a temporary visa or electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) at the same time as you receive your study permit.

For most people, it’s easiest to apply for your study permit and visa online before you travel to Canada. However, it is possible to get your study permit once you’re in Canada, or on arrival under certain circumstances. That means, for example, that you could apply for a study permit from within Canada, if you have previously been in the country to take another preparatory course of study, or at high school.

To make your application, you will need to either print off and return the paper application pack, available online, or complete your application directly on the Canadian government website.

You will have to upload scanned copies of your documents, and pay the fee using a credit or debit card. Once your application has been submitted, you may be asked to provide a police certificate, medical clearance, or attend an interview to assess your suitability for a study permit.

The length of time taken to assess your application will vary depending on where you’re from, and whether you’re applying at a peak time. You can get an estimate of how long you will need to wait, online.

It’s helpful to know that there is a separate application process for prospective students coming from China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam. If you hold citizenship in any of these countries, you could apply using the Student Direct stream, available on the Canadian government website.

Can I work and study at the same time?

Some student visas allow holders to work while they are taking a course - others do not.

If your study permit is approved, it will detail whether or not you are allowed to work while you complete your studies.

Student Visa fees

The upfront fee charged for your study permit application is $150. However, don’t forget that you may also have to pay to get copies of some of the documents needed, or to have them translated if necessary. This can add to the overall cost.

Paying for your studies. The best ways

The cost of applying for your study permit is relatively low - but to be considered for your visa, you will have to prove that you have the equivalent of at least $10,000 a year in funds, plus the costs of the tuition fees. This means that you’ll need to have a significant quantity of money saved, or expect to receive support from a scholarship or family members while you study.

Studying overseas is never going to be cheap, but it can become even more expensive if you end up paying high fees to cover your costs using international payments. If you have savings held in Australia, for example, and need to make a cross border payment to cover your tuition fees, you’ll want to find the cheapest way to do so.

A great option, if you need to make overseas payments is to use TransferWise. All international transfers are made using the real mid-market exchange rate, with no markup added. This matters, because many banks and payment services claim that they charge no fee, but instead wrap their profit into a poor exchange rate. Overall this can prove more expensive than choosing a service which applies a transparent fee, and then carries out the transaction using the real mid-market exchange rate.

And if you need to get a Canadian dollar denominated account to make day to day payments while you study, a multi currency borderless account from TransferWise could also be a great option. With this smart new type of account, you can hold your money in dozens of different currencies, make and receive payments, and switch between currencies using the real mid-market rate. That means you could add money to your account in Australian dollars, and then switch it to Canadian dollars only when the rates look good - saving you money in the long run.

If you’re thinking of studying overseas, you’re in for an amazing life experience. Not only will your education take leaps and bounds, you can also learn about a new country, make new friends and broaden your horizons.

It’s exciting stuff. Don’t forget, though, that you’ll need to get your visa and study permit sorted out before you can head off - and that means paperwork. Start early, so you have time to get everything in order, and think carefully about the best way to pay for your tuition fees, rent and daily life while you’re in Canada. That way you’ll be able to enjoy your time there, and concentrate on studying without worrying about money.

All sources accurate as of 21 January 2019

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