Annually, Canada welcomes thousands of international students, who arrive in the country through issued study visas and permits; with specific conditions that they must uphold during their studies.
What follows below will summarize these study permit conditions. Note that the specific conditions relevant to each student’s case can be found on the permit document issued to them by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Generally, there are many conditions that may be included on a study permit, ranging from work authorization to travel capabilities and start/end dates for the permit. General examples of these conditions include:
- Being enrolled at a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI) – exemptions apply, see below
- Displaying active pursuit of one’s studies – exemptions apply, see below
- Informing the Canadian government any time a student changes their post-secondary school
- Ending one’s studies if they no longer meet the requirements of being a student
- Leaving Canada when your permit expires
- The student’s specific level of study
- Whether the student is allowed to work on or off campus
- Whether the student needs to report for medical procedures
- Whether the student can travel within Canada
- The date by which the student must stop studying
Most international students pursuing a Canadian education want to make money simultaneously. If allowed by the conditions of their work permit, students can either work on or off campus without a separate work permit.
Note: In either case, students can only begin working we they start their studies, not before
Temporarily, until December 31 this year, certain international students can work more than the usual 20 hours per week (more details here).
In any of the following cases, international students must stop working on campus:
- On the day the student stops studying full-time (except when in their final semester, assuming they meet the other requirements)
- When their study permit expires
- If they are on authorized leave from their studies
- If the student is switching schools and they are not currently studying
To work off campus, international students must be full-time (more details here) at a DLI, be enrolled in a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program (or a secondary-level vocational training program if in Quebec)*, have a valid study permit and possess a Social Insurance Number (SIN).
*International students must be enrolled in a program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate and is at least six months long
In any of the following cases, international students must stop working off campus if:
- Their study permit says they aren’t authorized to work off-campus while they study
- They are only enrolled in an English or French as a second language (ESL/FSL) program
- They are only taking general interest courses
- The student is only taking courses required to be accepted into a full-time program
- The student’s situation changes, and they no longer meet all of the requirements to work off-campus
Many Canadian international students express a desire to travel outside of Canada while they study in this country, either abroad for a vacation or back to their country of origin to visit family and friends.
Canada allows foreign students to travel freely outside of Canada during their study permit’s validity period, but it is important for international students to remember the following about travelling outside of Canada (and then re-entering).
Re-entering Canada with a valid study permit
In addition to having a valid study permit and/or approval for a study permit or study permit extension, international students looking to re-enter Canada after travelling must:
A study permit is not itself a travel document
To travel to and from Canada, international students may need to obtain either a visitor (temporary resident) visa* or an eTA. In other cases, students may be able to travel using just their passport, but this depends on which countries require an eTA or visitor visa.
Note: Possession of an eTA or visitor visa does not guarantee re-entry into Canada and travellers must prove to border services that they meet all re-entry requirements before being allowed back into the country.
An exception to the above note for visitor visa holders (not eTA holders) is that visa holders with an invalid document will still be let back into Canada if they only travel to the United States, St-Pierre or Miquelon and their study permit is still valid.
*Students must ensure that their visitor visa is/will be valid when returning to Canada and are responsible for extending it prior to their departure if it is set to expire during their travels.
Students with a pending study permit extension will not be able to enter Canada until their extension is approved.
Consequences for not meeting study permit conditions
Failure to meet study permit conditions may mean the student will:
- Lose their student status and study permit
- Be asked to leave Canada
- Be required to wait six months to apply for a new Canadian study permit, visitor visa or work permit
Note: Future immigration application results/decisions can be impacted by not following study permit conditions and/or working or studying in an unauthorized manner
Who is exempt from study permit conditions?
Certain study permit holders are exempt from having to prove that they are enrolled at a Canadian DLI or that they are actively pursuing their studies.
Among the individuals exempt from this condition are:
- People with refugee status in Canada
- People who are the spouse or dependent child of a Canadian study or work permit holder
- People who are studying in Canada under an exchange agreement between Canada and another country
A full list of individuals who qualify for exemption from this study permit condition can be found here.
Note: International students exempt from the above condition must still meet all other study permit conditions to maintain their status in Canada