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Study in Canada – International Student Guide

Updated: May 15

Canada has consistently ranked as a top country in the world to both study and live in. Here's everything you need to know before you study in Canada.

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Study in Canada – International Student Guide

Canada has consistently ranked as a top country in the world to both study and live in. Canada’s education system is widely recognized for its standards of excellence and its affordability when compared to other English-speaking countries. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the questions you may be having about life in Canada as an international student.

“My education in Canada has shaped the person I am today and helped me achieve goals that I didn’t even know I could set”

– Neekita Bhatia, University of British Columbia (UBC) graduate

Why Should I Study In Canada?

Reasons to study in Canada are plentiful, but to save you some time, we’ve narrowed down 5 that are likely to get you off the fence:

  1. Canadian Universities consistently rank within top-100 institution lists.

  2. Canada is one of the safest countries to live in the world.

  3. Canada’s population is very diverse, making the country one of the most welcoming towards international students.

  4. International Students can work while studying in Canada.

  5. Canada’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world, offering a long list of both indoor and outdoor activities that will always keep you entertained.

Canada welcomes approximately 500,000 students annually, all of whom choose a quality education, bright career prospects, an expansive personal and professional network, and the adventure of beginning a new chapter.

What Is The Student Life in Canada Like?

International students travel to Canada every year for all levels of education: elementary school, high school, and college/university studies. Some even make the trip for shorter periods, like going on exchange for a few months. A major attraction in Canada is the amount of opportunities students have to grow and thrive in their chosen career paths.

Canada’s higher education institutions provide students with multiple activities to put their skills into practice. These activities include but are not limited to the Co-op program, memberships to extracurricular clubs, and work-and-learn programs. Altogether, these opportunities are designed to help students engage in a mix of learning and doing to prepare them for their future work environments.

Furthermore, the study environment in Canada is largely described as diverse and inclusive. Canadians are warm and welcoming to people from all backgrounds. The academic landscape in Canada encourages curiosity, creativity, excellence and freedom of speech. If you want to study in a country where you can explore new horizons, learn new talents, and dive deeper into subjects that are perhaps not readily accessible to you in your home country, come study in Canada.

How Much Does It Cost To Study in Canada?

To estimate how much it would cost you to study in Canada, you must be aware of two different expense sources: education expenses (including tuition fees, textbooks and school supplies) and living expenses (like the cost of food, accommodation, health, etc.). Annual tuition fees will largely depend on your university, location, and study program of choice. Additionally, the Canadian city you choose as your destination will also determine your living costs.

Statistics Canada stated in a report that in the 2021-2022 school year, international undergraduate students are paying an average of 33,623 Canadian Dollars (CAD) per year for a Graduate Degree, while international graduate students are paying an average of 20,120 CAD per year. You may be paying around CAD 15,000 per year for a certificate or diploma programs. As for living expenses, doing a little research on the average living cost of different cities in Canada can be really helpful to estimate the budget you would need on an annual basis. When making a budget, remember to consider the type of accommodation you’d like to have, the cost of utilities, health insurance, transportation/transit, and occasional recreation expenses.

What Do I Need to Study In Canada?

To study in Canada as an international student, you must first narrow down your destination options. Because certain requirements may vary between different provinces, it’s important that you consider where in Canada you see yourself living for a few years. However certain elements like immigration and language requirements are common to the country and hence all universities. Some of these requirements include having an updated valid passport, language proficiency test results that meet the minimum required grades, and proof of financial sufficiency to support the costs of your stay in Canada.

Once you have an idea of where you’d like to go, you can start to consider which universities you’d like to apply to. Keep in mind though that only Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) in Canada can admit international students. Therefore, make sure you shortlist universities that have attained the status of a DLI before you apply to them. Each institution you apply to will request a series of documents and credentials for admission, including application fees that cost on average between 100-250 CAD.

If and when admitted into a program and school, you can move forward to apply for your study permit. A Study Permit application must include the acceptance letter from a DLI in Canada, your valid passport, and any required documentation by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). If approved, your study permit will have a start date and an end date that adhere to the length of your chosen study program. Do note that you must plan your travel according to your study permit, as you won’t be allowed to enter Canada before the start date of the study permit.

What Is A Study Permit?

In Canada, international students need a study permit to come to Canada and pursue a degree at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). A study permit is an immigration document issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that represents the eligibility of a foreign national to reside and study in Canada for a specific period of time. To receive a study permit, you must submit an application to IRCC well in advance of the beginning of your intended study program.

How Do I Apply For A Study Permit?

The application process for a study permit can be broken down into 4 steps:

  1. Checking your eligibility: to be eligible to apply for a study permit you will need to have received a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from a Canadian DLI, show proof of financial support, and submit the supporting documents required of your country of citizenship and residence.

  2. Preparing your application: if you are eligible to apply, you can proceed to collecting the required documents for your application. Remember, the list of documents you’ll need to submit will depend on your country of citizenship or residence, so make sure you revise your list. This step of the process is crucial because the approval of your application will largely rely on the evidence you provide in your application package.

  3. Submitting your study permit application: you can submit your study permit application online or in paper-version. To submit an electronic application, you need to create an account on the IRCC website. Please note that you can submit your supporting documents as scanned or electronic copies.

  4. Making your travel arrangements: if your study permit application gets approved – congrats, you can come to Canada! Once your application gets approved, a Port of Entry Introduction Letter will be issued to you so you can show it to an immigration official at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE). Please keep in mind that you will not receive your study permit until you arrive in Canada.

What Is The Processing Time For A Study Permit?

There is no standard processing time for a Canadian study permit. The amount of time it’ll take for your study permit to be approved will largely depend on your country of residence. Additionally, processing times may vary depending on the amount of applications received by IRCC. The best-case scenario is a processing time between 4-6 weeks, however, some applicants have had to wait for multiple weeks. Therefore, we recommend that you apply as soon as you receive admission to a Canadian university. Applying close to the start of the Canadian academic year (September) is not a good idea and it may cause you to experience inconvenient delays. 

How Much Does A Study Permit Application Cost?

To submit your study permit application, you must pay a fee of 150 Canadian Dollars (CAD). Additionally, if you are required to submit biometrics as part of your application package, you are required to pay an additional fee of 85 CAD for them.

Can I Use My Study Permit To Travel?

No, you can’t use your study permit to travel. A study permit is not a valid traveling document, it simply verifies your status as a student in Canada as well as your approval to reside in Canada. With that said, you should carry your study permit with you when you travel as additional proof of your status in Canada. To travel in and out of Canada, you will require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV).

What Is a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV)?

A Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) is an official immigration document issued by an immigration officer and stamped in an applicant’s valid passport. A TRV reflects the admissibility of an international student as a temporary resident of Canada, allowing the student to enter and leave the country within the validity of their status.

How Do I Apply For A Temporary Resident Visa (TRV)?

You can apply online or offline for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV). Although the processes are fairly similar, applying for the TRV offline requires you to submit your application to your local visa center or office in person. If you apply online, you’ll be using the Come to Canada Wizard and the MyCIC portals (the same portals used to apply for the study permit online). Similarly to the study permit application, the TRV application process can be broken down to 4 steps:

  1. Gathering your documents: the documents required from your for your application will depend on your location. Please make sure to check if you have the correct list of documents and then if you have all the documents required.

  2. Completing the application: Fill out the application forms applicable to you and save them in your files to revise them before submitting them.

  3. Paying the fees: to submit your TRV application, you must pay a fee of 100 Canadian Dollars (CAD) if you are from a Visa required country and CAD 7 if you need an eTA.

  4. Submitting your application: Once you have filled out all the required forms and collected all required documents, you can submit your TRV application.

What Is The Processing Time For A Temporary Resident Visa (TRV)?

Similarly to the processing time for a study permit, the processing time for a TRV will depend on your location. Typically, the time varies between a couple of weeks to a few months. Therefore, you should apply for your TRV as soon as you can.

Can I Stay In Canada After I Graduate?

The answer is yes! The Federal Government of Canada recognizes the talent and potential of international graduates and therefore has created pathways that enable them to stay in the country after completing their studies. The most common and preferred pathway by many international graduates is Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), which allows you to work in the country for up to 3 years, depending on the length of the program you graduate from. The PGWP, for its part, can lead international graduates towards securing Permanent Residency (PR) in Canada.

To learn more about the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), read our previous blog post. 

A Cautionary Note: The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained, and the readers are asked to refer to the government website for the most updated information.

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