How to Apply For a Student Visa in Canada

February 24, 2023


  • Shireen Fisher

The Great White North is the ideal study abroad destination. The country boasts the highest quality tertiary education worldwide, with some of the world’s best universities and colleges. And with affordable tuition fees and a welcoming society, you will not find a better setting. But before leaving your home country to study in Canada, you must apply for a Canadian student visa. In this blog, we show you how.

Canada, A Top Study Abroad Destination

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reports, 450,000 international students received Canadian student visas in 2021. And from January 1, 2022, to the end of August 2022, over 452,000 study permit applications were processed.

Students choose Canada for their academic journeys for many reasons. Here are just some:

  • Canada has a low cost of living
  • The Standard of living is high
  • Canada is one of the safest countries in the world
  • Tuitions fees are affordable compared to other first-world countries

Canada's Top Universities

Canadian provinces and territories have a list of institutions deemed eligible to accept international students. These are called designated learning institutions (DLIs). If you need a study permit, you must obtain an acceptance letter from a DLI. Your application will only be accepted if you do.

Canada’s Top Universities include:

  • University of Toronto
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Montreal
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Ottawa
  • McGill University

Who Needs a Study Permit?

Most foreign nationals who wish to study in Canada will need a study permit. There are, however, the following exceptions:

  • Short-term students
  • Family members or employees of foreign officials
  • Foreign armed force members
  • Registered Indians in Canada
  • Minor children in Canada
  • Temporary residents and asylum seekers who take French language and culture courses

How to Apply for a Student Visa in Canada

There are several primary requirements to gain your study permit or student visa in Canada. The application process is broken down into 5 simple steps.

Step 1: Get accepted by a Canadian DLI

You can only achieve a student visa if you have been accepted to one of the DLI-approved schools in Canada. If you are accepted to another college, you will not be eligible for a student visa. However, Canada is a host to a wide array of fantastic DLI educational institutions.

The second primary set of requirements falls on the applicant. To become one of the many international students in Canada, you will have to do the following:

  • Be accepted to one of the DLI-approved colleges in Canada
  • Pass a medical exam showing you won't place excessive pressure on the Canadian healthcare system;
  • Pass a police background check showing you have no serious criminal offences; be vaccinated against COVID-19
  • Have sufficient funding to study and live in Canada and be transported to and from Canada.
  • Prove that you will leave once your study permit expires unless you gain further permission to stay in Canada.

These require written proof that the applicant must submit as part of their study permit.

Step 2: Gather Documentation

The first part of any international application process is to gather all the necessary documentation to prove that you fulfill all the criteria.

Proof of Acceptance

You must submit an acceptance letter from one of the DLI-approved colleges in Canada. An electronic or physical copy of this letter must be included when you submit your application.

Proof of Identification

You must have an internationally-recognized identification document, such as a passport, for your application to be valid. Suppose you need clarification on what the Canadian government considers a valid identification document. In that case, you can refer to their website for a complete breakdown of a valid travel document and what exemptions can be made.

Proof of Finances

There are many ways to prove you have sufficient finances to study in Canada. The government accepts proof of finances in the following ways:

  • Evidence of a student loan from a bank
  • 4 months’ bank statements
  • proof of payment if you have already paid for tuition and housing
  • a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) from a Canadian financial company
  • a letter from your financial sponsor
  • proof of a scholarship or financial aid
  • a bank draft that an authority can convert to Canadian Dollars
  • Guarantee you have a Canadian bank account if you have transferred money to Canada

You will have fulfilled this criterion if you can provide any of these financial documents. However, if you are unsure whether or not your financial records are valid, click the button below to speak to a Registered Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) and sign up for an evaluation. An expert will analyze your documentation and ensure you know what is and is not valid.

Other documents

A few other documents from the Canadian government may be required for certain applicants. You may need to include a letter of explanation specifically to explain what you want to study and what type of work you’ll be doing in Canada. You must also demonstrate that you understand the responsibility placed on you as a student.

If you’re applying to study in Quebec for longer than six months, you will need a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) from the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI). Your school will give you instructions on how to apply.

If you are under 18, you may also need a notarized Custodian Declaration from a custodian living in Canada. The custodian and parents or guardians of the minor must sign the declaration.

The Canadian government may request further documentation depending on your country or situation. If they do, you will have 30 days to send the necessary documentation.

Make sure you have all of the specified documentation. In addition to this, you must have a scanner or camera to make electronic copies of your documents and a credit or debit card to pay the application fees.

Step 3: Complete the Application

The Canadian government has a handy application instruction manual showing you how to complete each application form field.

You will be asked a few questions before you’re allowed to upload your forms. Then, after that, the Canadian government will create a custom document list for you based on your answers to these questions.

Step 4: Pay the Fees

You must ensure that you know what exact fees you must pay and that payment is made before uploading your application. The student visa application fees are as follows:

  • Study permit (including extensions) – per person150
  • Restoring your student status costs $200 and a new study permit, $150 = $350

Step 5: Submit your application

Once you have followed the other three steps, it is time to submit your application to the Canadian government. The government of Canada mandates applicants to apply online via the Canadian government web portal. Only applicants with a disability that prevents them from applying online or applicants that are non-national residents, refugees or stateless persons can apply on paper.

When to apply

If you’re a prospective international student living outside of Canada, you must apply for your Canadian student visa before entering Canada. We recommend you apply immediately after receiving your acceptance letter. The Canadian government recommends you apply during June at the latest to give your application enough processing time before the start of the new term.

If you must apply on paper, you can submit your application to your Visa Application Centre.

Take a look at our breakdown of the application process.

After You Apply For Your Student Visa

Once you have submitted your application, the government will check your application to ensure you’ve enclosed all necessary documents. You may also be asked to:

  • Attend an interview with Canadian officials in your home country
  • Provide additional information
  • Go for a medical examination
  • Obtain a police clearance certificate

Remember, if all these boxes are not ticked, your application will be returned. There will be no record of your application until you send in a complete application. This can massively delay the application process.

Student Work in Canada

How many hours you can work off campus

Students can work up to 20 hours a week during a semester. You can work multiple jobs for hours to add up if needed, but you must ensure that you remain within the legal limit. Operating for over 20 hours per week is a violation of study permit conditions. You may lose your student status if you do.

Working More Than 20 Hours Per Week Off Campus

From November 15, 2022, up to December 31, 2023, certain students will be allowed to work more than 20 hours per week off campus while classes run, but there are conditions.

  • You must be a study permit holder and study at a DLI full-time
  • You must have approval for a study permit but haven’t arrived in Canada yet
  • Your application must have been received on or before October 7, 2022.
  • You must have off-campus work authorization
  • You must be in Canada by December 31, 2023.


  • You must be a full-time student
  • You can’t work before the first school semester
  • If your program doesn’t have scheduled breaks
  • You can work up to 20 hours per week

Working more than 20 hours per week violates your study permit conditions. You can lose your student status for doing this, and may not be approved for a study or work permit in the future. You may also have to leave the country.

Get Your Canadian Student Journey Going

If you think you have what it takes to join Canada's millions of international students, it’s time to apply. You now know how to apply for a student visa in Canada and make the process as easy as possible. If you have any further questions or would like to be evaluated before you put together your application, contact an RCIC and get your process to study and work in Canada started.


Are my Working Hours Limited if I am a Self-employed Student?

Yes. If you are a self-employed individual, you still have to keep track of the hours you work off campus. You will also have to comply with student visa conditions.

How do I Calculate my Working Hours if I am a Self-employed Student?

Working hours are any time spent earning a wage, providing a service or selling items, or earning a commission.

Can I Work in Canada After I Complete My Studies

Yes. You can do full-time if you have applied for a work permit before the expiration of your study permit or are starting a new study program.