Immigration: Study Permit

Coming to Canada as a student remains one of the more reliable paths towards permanent residence.

To qualify for a study permit, the applicant must have been formally admitted into a qualifying Canadian educational institution (known as a Designated Learning Institution) and be able to prove that he or she has sufficient funds to pay for studies and living expenses during the time he or she is in Canada. Canadian immigration authorities will also assess the applicant to determine whether they believe the person will likely return to his or her home country after completion of studies in Canada.

Based on my own experiences with study permit applications, I am of the opinion that approval of a study permit is typically based on three major considerations. The first consideration is whether the applicant will abide by Canadian immigration laws if admitted to Canada. In other words, will the applicant stay illegally in Canada past the end of the study permit, or work illegally, or make a groundless refugee claim?

The second consideration is whether the applicant's study plan is consistent with the applicant's past education and/or work experience. In other words, is the applicant studying something that is completely unrelated to his or her prior work and education? If so, getting approval on the application will likely be difficult. This relates to the notion of genuineness. Are the applicant's educational intentions genuine or merely an attempt to enter Canada? Younger applicants usually have an advantage over older applicants in this regard. A 50 year old barber attempting to enter an ESL program or study tourism management may be regarded with a degree of skepticism by Canadian immigration officials. However, an applicant in his or her late teens or early 20s will usually be given the benefit of the doubt in terms of his or her educational intentions.

The third consideration is one of dollars and cents. Does the applicant have the funds to support himself or herself in Canada? Put another way, will the applicant actually be able to complete his or her studies or will this person become a net economic drain on Canadian health and social services? In my experience, many would-be students drastically underestimate the cost of pursuing an education in Canada. A rule of thumb is that you can expect to pay $10,000 to $15,000 a year in tuition as an international student. On top of that, you are expected to have funds to support yourself during your stay. While a student is able to work part time (up to 20 hours a week) during periods of study, and even more during breaks between academic years, a part-time low-wage job will only cover so many expenses. In a place like Calgary, for example, I suspect it is difficult to live on anything less than $1500 a month.

For more information about study permit applications, please check out these study permit FAQs.