• Follow us on -
Immigration in to Canada



Subsection 30(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides that a foreign national may not study in Canada unless authorized to do so under the Act. An exception is made in subsection 30(2) for minor children in Canada are authorized to study at the pre-school, primary or secondary level without a student permit, with the exception of the children of temporary residents who are not authorized to work or study in Canada. Regulation-making authority to provide for any matter relating to the application of section 30 and to define terms and prescribe conditions respecting study in Canada by classes of temporary residents is contained in section 32.

Part 11 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRP Regulations) establishes the parameters governing study permits. The Regulations authorize foreign nationals to study without a student permit if the course or study program lasts six months or less. They allow officers to refuse permit applications from students who previously studied in Canada without a permit or who failed to comply with the conditions imposed when they entered Canada.

Purpose of these provisions

The purpose of the provisions is to prescribe which foreign nationals may be issued a study permit.

What the regulations do

The provisions specify:

  • who can be authorized to study in Canada without a permit;
  • who can be authorized to study in Canada with a permit;
  • who can apply for a permit in Canada, whether at the time of entry or after having obtained authorization to enter and remain in Canada;
  • which are the mandatory requirements a course must meet to qualify a foreign national to receive a study permit; and
  • which are the requirements foreign nationals must meet when applying for a study permit.

What has changed

These regulations use new terminology. The student authorizations issued under the 1978 Immigration Act are called study permits under the new system. Under current legislation, students were considered as visitors who had received student authorizations. The new Regulations make foreign students a prescribed class of persons who may obtain temporary resident status and who have been issued student permits. Hence, foreign students have the same obligations as temporary residents.

Under the current Act, all exemptions from the requirement to obtain a student authorization are provided for in the associated regulations. Because access to education is a fundamental principle, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides that minor children in Canada may study at the pre-school, primary or secondary level, with the exception of the minor children of temporary residents who are not authorized to work or study. These Regulations apply in particular to children of refugee claimants.

Any temporary resident may now study in Canada without a permit if the course or study program lasts for six months or less. Under the old system, this exemption was only granted for courses in English and French as a Second Language of three months or less.

The exemption period has been increased from three to six months in order to harmonize it with the length of stay normally authorized for visitors. The Regulations state that, despite this exemption, students may obtain a student permit before applying for authorization to enter Canada. This will allow them to apply later, in Canada, for an extension or for changes to the conditions imposed when they entered in order to pursue studies over a longer period of time.

The new provisions allow officers to refuse to issue or renew student permits for foreign nationals who previously studied without a permit or who failed to comply with the conditions imposed when they entered the country, unless one year has passed since their infringement. Under the old system, a visitor’s infringement of the Act, or of the conditions of his of her entry to Canada, was used only as a reason for not issuing an employment authorization.

In addition, under the old system, students and visitors who failed to comply with the conditions of their admission to Canada could avoid being the subject of a removal action by leaving Canada voluntarily. These students and visitors could obtain new student authorizations if they met the financial requirements, if they were registered at an accepted educational institution and if the course in question made them eligible to apply for a student authorization. These provisions created a legislative gap that made it possible to circumvent the requirements of the Act with impunity.

Schedule III, which proscribed certain institutions, was not retained because one of the regulatory requirements for obtaining a student permit is that the course must be given by an educational institution that is either governed by a federal statute or charter, or is provincially regulated, or publicly funded. Most of the institutions in Schedule III no longer exist, and the one that does still exist, does not meet the requirements that would allow a foreign national to obtain a student permit.


Because education falls under provincial jurisdiction, the requirement for a study permit could be completely eliminated and foreign students treated as visitors. This alternative was not adopted because it would result in inconsistent application across Canada and would not allow us to ensure that the proposed studies were not potentially injurious to Canadian security. The in-formation captured from study permits is important; it tells us about the type of courses these students are taking, where they are enrolling, where they are from, their numbers and their gender. If necessary, the information can be used in analyses and to maintain the integrity of the program. Finally, it helps us assess the economic impact on Canada and helps our partners in educational institutions target potential markets.

Benefits and Costs


Study permits and the requirements for obtaining them were retained in the new IRP Regulations as a control measure to allow us to verify, before granting entry into Canada, that financial pro-visions have been made to ensure the student’s well-being while in Canada, that the foreign national is not taking courses that would be injurious to Canadian security and that the educational institutions will not be used to circumvent the provisions relating to the limits of a temporary stay.

The purpose of allowing minor children to study without a student permit is to facilitate access to education for all minor children in Canada by reducing the administrative procedures. After presenting documentation indicating the purpose of the stay, other than tourism, the provincial authorities and educational institutions may be contacted in order to register the child.

Allowing foreign nationals to take courses or study programs in Canada of six months or less without study permits facilitates the recruitment of foreign students for short periods of study in Canada while eliminating additional administrative procedures. This helps our partners in educational institutions to compete with other countries and increase their share of the market of international students.

In 2000, more than 15 000 student authorizations were issued to people who would not need them under the new Act. This rep-resents 20 percent of all applications processed. Client service will be improved significantly from the point of view of foreign students as they will no longer need to contact an office abroad if they are from a country that is exempt from the requirement to obtain a Canadian temporary resident visa. Having 20 percent fewer student permit applications to process will allow visa offices located in countries that are exempt from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa to allocate some of their human resources to other priority activities.

In addition to increasing our share of the market, this generates significant economic benefits for Canada, since each foreign student spends an average of $20,000 per year on tuition fees and living expenses.

Authorizing officers to refuse study permit applications from foreign nationals who have failed to comply with the Act, unless one year has passed since their last infringement, enhances program integrity. In addition, these provisions encourage foreign nationals to respect their obligations, including the imposed conditions, and to comply with the Act.

Finally, establishing criteria in the Regulations that make it possible to identify the educational institutions for which study permits may be issued, helps ensure consistent application and makes it possible to consider newly created educational institutions using the same parameters.


The direct cost of the new provision allowing students to take courses or study programs of less than six months without a student permit is a net loss of $1,185,000 in annual revenue. This net loss in annual revenue represents the difference between the annual revenue of $1,875,000 from the processing fees for more than 15 000 student permit applications and $690,000 from the annual processing fees in connection with applications for multiple entry temporary resident visas for students from non-exempt countries.


Numerous organizations were consulted throughout the legislative review process, including the provincial governments, and their departments of education, as well as the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). The non-governmental organizations consulted are mainly connected to education, the recruitment of foreign students, associations of public and private sector institutions and representatives of academic, technical and professional institutions. The following are but a few examples of organizations that were consulted:

  • The Advisory Committee on International Students and Immigration (ACISI), which includes representatives of public and private sector educational institutions
  • Canadian Association of Private Language Schools (CAPLS)
  • Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC)
  • Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC)
  • Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC)
  • Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE)
  • Canadian Education Centre Network (CECN).

Compliance and Enforcement

Foreign nationals who do not meet the requirements for a student permit will not be issued one. Foreign nationals who obtain this permit and do not comply with the obligations of a temporary resident and the imposed conditions may be reported as inadmissible under subsection 44(1) of the Act and, as a result, have a removal order made against them.

In addition, the IRP Regulations state that student permits will not be issued to foreign nationals who previously studied without a permit or who failed to comply with their obligations. This pro-vision should have the desired deterrent effect so that students will comply with the requirement to obtain a student permit and with their obligations as temporary residents.


Mark Davidson
Director, Economic Policy and Programs,
Selection Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada,
300 Slater Street, 7th Floor,
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 1L1
(613) 954-4214 (Telephone), (613) 954-0850 (Facsimile).