Each year, Canada welcomes hundreds of thousands of students from around the world to our Universities and Colleges. There are many immigration benefits to studying in Canada, and foreign students can achieve Permanent Residence as a result of the opportunities gained by studying in Canada, as long as careful plans are made. However, to gain the benefits of being an international student in Canada, you first have to be approved for a Canadian study permit. And this is not always as straightforward as it seems.
This article will detail some of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of applying for a study permit to Canada.
A Study Permit is a Temporary Application
Studying in Canada is an exciting opportunity that may eventually help you qualify to become a Permanent Resident, but it’s important to remember that for immigration purposes, a study permit application is a temporary status application. That means that the decision you will receive on your study permit application is based upon the officer’s opinion about whether or not you are a bonafide student and whether you will likely leave Canada at the end of your studies.
To study — as with all requests for any temporary resident visa to Canada — the immigration officer must assess your ties outside of Canada to form an opinion about whether or not you are likely to stay illegally in Canada if approved for a study permit. It’s up to you, the applicant, to provide proof that will satisfy the officer that you have a good life outside of Canada and will leave Canada if you lose your temporary status. In addition to required documents on the Document Checklist such as a valid passport or identity document, a letter of acceptance, photos, etc your supporting documentation should also include documents related to property ownership, bank statements, employment history, family connections, past international travel and social activities. These are all relevant to the officer’s decision.
Your Age and Stage of Life Matter
The farther away from the “normal” studying age that you are, the more you should expect your application to be scrutinized. Applicants who have just graduated from secondary school and are seeking to study University in Canada will receive less scrutiny than 40 something year old professionals from developing nations who suddenly want to study culinary arts in Canada.
The Canadian government is alert to the idea that many older applicants are wanting to study in Canada as a pathway to achieve Permanent Residence because their age makes an Express Entry application impossible. If you find yourself in the older age bracket, you really do need professional help to ensure that your initial study permit application is as strong as possible. Your explanations and supporting documents must go beyond basic eligibility requirements to make a compelling case. You may also want to understand what your options are for achieving Permanent Residence if you are able to enter Canada to study. Age does matter for both study permits and Canada PR.
How Much Money Do You Need to Study in Canada?
Canada wants to be certain that international students, before they enter Canada, have sufficient financial resources when they are living in Canada; therefore, applicants must provide proof of certain minimum levels of funds before they can expect the visa office to approve their study permit.
The prospective student must show a min of CAD $10,000 for living expenses, plus the first-year tuition fees. If the student has accompanying family members coming to Canada with them, an additional $4000 CAD is needed for a spouse or common-law partner and an extra $3000 CAD for each child.
These funds need to be cash or cash equivalents – property ownership or a net worth statement indicating these amounts are not sufficient to show financial support. There must be enough money available to you for your studies and living costs, clearly demonstrated in your application package. When you arrive at a Canadian port of entry, the border officer may confirm these as well.
How to Write a Study Plan for Canada
An application for a study permit should be accompanied by a study plan that answers the basic question, “Why does it make sense for you to study in Canada in this program at this point in your life?” Essentially, the visa officer needs to understand why you can’t just study the same program at your local university, why you have chosen Canada instead of any other international destination for your education, and what kind of opportunities will you have if you complete this program of study in Canada (that you otherwise would not have). If you are going to spend $40,000 getting a diploma in Canada, are you going to be able to improve your job prospects in your home country to the extent that you will eventually recover this initial $40,000 investment?
Creating a viable study plan is one area that a professional can provide a lot of meaningful assistance. There is no one study plan that is going to make sense for every situation. Your study plan needs to make sense based on your personal situation, the local conditions in your home country, your past study and work history (if any) and your stage in life. Apart from having the necessary funds, a solid study plan is going to be the most important part of your study permit application.
Can International Students Become Permanent Residents?
Since the introduction of Express Entry, Canada has been discriminating against applicants from overseas who are 40 or older. If you find yourself in this age bracket without any option to immigrate to Canada directly, you may have considered applying as a student in order to gain additional Express Entry points for education, to have the opportunity to gain Canadian work experience points, and to also make yourself eligible for Provincial Nominee Programs. Be forewarned, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have also realized that many applicants seek to enter Canada by applying to study as their pathway to Permanent Residence, so you can expect the visa office is alert to applications that follow this pattern.
When you are applying for temporary entry to Canada, but you actually intend to stay permanently, this is called dual intent. In itself, there is nothing wrong with dual intent, but these kinds of applications need to be carefully presented or you could find yourself with a refusal letter stating that the officer does not think you are a bonafide student. Any mention of hoping to eventually obtain Permanent Residence needs to be balanced with an assessment of how you would eventually qualify for PR, and a detailed explanation of your plans and intentions to return to your home country if you don’t end up qualifying. This is particularly true if you have previously entered an Express Entry profile on the IRCC website. Even if you have withdrawn your profile or it expired, IRCC has the details that you explored this avenue for Permanent Residence in Canada. It is an actual thing that IRCC refuses applications for a study permit when there is evidence of a prior, unsuccessful, Express Entry profile in the system.
Ready to Apply for Study Permit?
Even if you have an acceptance letter for your program, the minimum funds and all the documents required, the application process in your particular case is also very important. Let’s be honest – filling out an application form is the easy part. And the Document Checklist is just the minimum. The website guidance explaining how to apply online for a study permit is very detailed, but relevant information can also be found in other places on the website besides the study permit part. This is particularly the case if you have family members coming as well.
For anyone managing their own study permit application, you must be able to properly interpret the website and correctly navigate the stages of the application process. The website sets out clear policies for things like the Student Direct Stream, the visa application centre, how to submit biometrics, the medical exam, the entry letter, etc – but it is very easy to misunderstand the terminology that Canada Immigration uses. Another challenge is the online application itself. The platform can be quite tricky to use, and applying online through your IRCC online account will have more ways things can go wrong than with a paper application. Next, are there any local visa office instructions? Or, if you dependents: Do they need an electronic travel authorization, a visitor visa or work permit? Can your child study on visitor status or do they need a study permit? What can you do if there are processing delays? The guides and Document Checklists do not spell out these things.
A professional can ensure the technical aspects of the process, especially any that are specific to your situation, are managed properly. It is not exaggeration to say that immigration officers are looking for easy grounds on which to reject applications – you don’t want to make it easier for them through misunderstanding something. And although you can certainly apply a second time, you will lose momentum, time and money – or perhaps your conditional acceptance in your preferred program. It is always better to focus on getting that approval the first time and not have the added problem of overcoming a failed application the next time around.
The Way Immigration helps students from all over the world, in all stages of life, to prepare successful study permit applications for Canada and guide them through the application process. Now that artificial intelligence is being given more of a role in decision-making for study permits to Canada, it’s become more important than ever to have professional input on your application. Are you hoping to become an international student? Contact our experts today to get started on your dream of studying in Canada.