How to Get Your Study Visa in Canada
Many international students are choosing Canada as their destination to study, and it’s no wonder why. Canada offers excellent educational programs, natural wonders, multicultural society, and an affordable cost of living.
First, let’s discuss how you can get your study permit so you can attend university or college, Canadian-style!
Step 1: Congratulations! A school said yes.
A recognized higher education provider has accepted you! As you hold the standardized letter of acceptance in your hands, you rejoice in the good feeling, knowing the first step is complete and you could be on your way to Canada soon. Students studying in Quebec must also apply for a certificate of acceptance, known as a CAQ, from the government of Quebec, which must be acquired prior to submitting an application for a study permit. You can get this online by printing out a form, or by requesting a paper form from your university, which will also provide advice on this subject. Keep your acceptance letter — the original letter must be included with your study permit application!
Step 2: Apply
International students can apply for a Canadian study permit online or through a paper application, which can be found on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website. Paper applications take longer times to process, so try to verify the processing times.
To apply online, you’ll need to use a scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your documents to upload, and a valid credit card to pay the fee, which can be paid in different ways depending on the fee type and where you are paying from.
The documents you need to provide can vary depending on where you live. The visa office in your home country will provide instructions about what specific documents you’ll need. For assistance, contact a representative at a visa application center (VAC) near you.
You’ll receive a Canadian student visa application package, either from the CIC website, where you can create an account and apply online, or by contacting your local visa office, or the Canadian embassy or consulate in your home country.
Complete your application, and if it gets approved, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will send you a Letter of Introduction, which is an approval letter. You will present this letter when you enter Canada, and the border officials will issue your study permit.
You will receive a personal checklist code if you are eligible, valid for 60 days, which you will need in order to submit your application online. Print out or take a photo of the page containing your code for future reference. The page will also include an application guide, an estimated tuition fees amount, a list of documents you will need to submit with your application, and guidelines for your next steps.
TIP: The CIC strongly recommends that you fill out the application form on your computer because it’s easier to read and process.
Step 3: Complete Everything... Completely
Make sure you send a completed application and be mindful to answer all of the questions. Sometimes people skip questions or leave them blank. Be sure to answer all the questions on your form. Do not leave empty question boxes or blanks. If the question does not apply to you, simply write N/A, meaning ‘not applicable’.
Forms may include a ‘Validate’ button at the top or bottom of the page. If your form has this feature, make sure to click the button once you are done with the form. This will alert you if you’ve filled out all the necessary sections. If you haven’t, it will highlight incomplete sections of the form in red.
When working with the CIC’s online or PDF forms, remember that you can stop and save your work whenever you choose, making it easy for you to locate documents or research your answers and verify paperwork. You can come back to your application later and finish it. It’s so worth the extra time!
It’s also really important to be clear with your answers to avoid confusion during processing. CIC has said that they receive applications that are hard to read or understand, so if their staff do not understand or cannot read an answer, the application will be returned. If you need help with translation, there are free resources online that can help you craft a clear, understandable series of answers. Don’t be vague. Give complete and detailed answers. For example, if a question requests your address in Canada, do not only write “Canada”. Provide the complete address. At minimum, include the name of the town or city and province in Canada. If you’re not sure of the exact location, do not leave it blank. Make sure you search for the right answer and include it.
Step 4: Letter of Acceptance
You will need to fill out a letter of explanation outlining why you want to study in Canada and that you understand the responsibilities of being a student in a foreign country.
Answer the following questions in your letter in clear, accurate, complete sentences:
● Why are you visiting Canada?
● Why you are interested in your major?
● Specify if you will return to your home country after your education is completed, i.e. for family, property, or other reasons.
● Why have you chosen this university or college?
● How will your chosen major help you get a job back in your home country after you complete your education in Canada?
You must include this letter when you apply for a study permit, even if you are exempt.
Step 5: Other Important Requirements
Another part of your application to be careful with is photos. CIC has very specific photo requirements which are explained in every application kit, and they can differ for different applications. Make sure your photos meet their desired specifications — clear, with no shadows, not too dark, the right size, and undamaged. If your photos aren’t what they require, they’ll return the application and request that you send new photos when you re-submit your application.
A recommended approach is to bring the photo specifications in your application package to your photographer. Check the photos when you receive them to make sure they meet our needs. It sounds like a lot of work, but don’t be discouraged — you might soon be taking selfies with your college friends at Niagara Falls or in a major Canadian city if all goes according to plan!
Remember to include all supporting documents: photos, fee receipts and supplementary forms too. Items may also include your passport, medical information, financial statements, birth certificates, language test assessments or sponsor forms. Go through the checklist to see which supporting documents are required and include them with your application.
When applying by mail, send originals, unless the checklist says photocopies are okay. Also, don’t send the wrong types of supporting documents, because the CIC doesn’t accept substitutes! If they ask for a birth certificate, do not send a passport instead. Other identification that provides your complete name and birth date is not always acceptable. Read the questions carefully to make sure that you send exactly what they need.
If you can no longer get an original document like a birth certificate, but that’s required, provide a statutory declaration or affidavit. Refer to the guide in your application kit about how to do this. If you cannot provide an original document that is required, tell CIC why. Do not leave the section blank, and do not write N/A.
Provide the right number of identification documents. Don’t forget to fill out and include any supplementary forms that are required. Check your application guide to locating the forms you will need.
Find out if you are required to provide biometrics (fingerprints). You must not have your biometric fingerprints and photo taken before you submit your application. You can have your biometrics collected after you submit your application and have received a biometric instruction letter.
Make sure you provide all the information for your entire family, such as if you have a family, a spouse, or dependents. If they’re not coming with you to Canada, you must still provide their information as requested on the application.
Include the correct fee. Verify the amount and include it in full. Sign all of the documents related to your fees.
If you need to provide extra information to support your application, you may include a note with your application package. The note should be provided on a separate piece of paper and should include additional details you want to give CIC. However, do not provide documents that CIC has not requested.
Remember to sign and date your application. If you don’t, it won’t be considered complete and valid. Depending on the form you’re filling out, you may need to sign in more than one place.
You might also need a temporary residence permit if you are from a designated country. The following forms are required: Proof of acceptance; Proof of identity; Proof of financial support.
Step 6: Final Steps
If your Canadian study visa application is approved, you’ll receive a Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction. Students from countries which require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) and/or a temporary residence visa will be issued these if required. The eTA will be linked to your passport, so it’s important that you travel with the passport you used when you applied for your study permit. The eTA will be valid for five years or until your passport expires.
Present all the necessary documents with your passport, proof of your finances and your letter of acceptance to a Canadian border agent, who will issue your Canadian study permit and allow you access into Canada.
Be organized and as a result, you will be confident!
Erik Moshe is a freelance writer based in Virginia.
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