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The Difference between Student Visa and Study Permit?

Mar 23, 2024 7:08 PM
Hana Emily
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For international students interested in attending a Canadian educational institution, acquiring a student visa is a necessary step in the application process. Because, without a valid visa, you won't even be able to enter the country,  and start your study journey. However, a visa is not the only important document that is necessary for international students to possess. To study in Canada, you are going to need a study permit.

An individual from a country outside of Canada who wishes to attend one of Canada's recognized educational institutions must get a study permit. Many people make the mistake of using the terms "student visa" and "study permit" interchangeably. In fact, "study permit" and "student visa" are the two different things that international students need to understand.

Student Visa vs Study Permit

What is a student visa?

A student Visa is the first piece of document that you need to apply in your home country before entering Canada to start your study. This means that a student visa is an authorization to enter the country. Even if you landed in Canada, the student visa does not guarantee that you can enter Canada. In fact, the immigration borders will determine your legibility.  

A sample of Canada student visa

What is the validity of your student visa?

The validity of your student visa depends on the type of program that you enrol at DLI. Typically, the IRCC will grant a 1-3 years student visa with multiple entries. However, the actual length will solely base on the discretion of the immigration officers.

Can I apply for student visa extension?

You can apply for student visa extension in Canada. However, you must have a valid study permit and a valid passport to renew

Can I leave Canada while waiting for my student visa?

No, you can't enter Canada if your student visa expired.

There is only one exception to this. You can return to Canada with an expired TRV visa if:

  • you only visit the United States or St. Pierre and Miquelon and
  • you return to Canada before your study permit expires.

What is a Study Permit?

You are going to require the following things before you apply for a study permit:

  • A letter of acceptance signed by an authorized educational institution (DLI).

  • A valid passport or travel document

If you are granted conditional acceptance into your program, which means that you still need to complete some coursework before you can officially enroll in the program, you will be granted a study permit that is valid for the period of the coursework. You are required to submit an application to extend your study permit once you have been accepted into the program that you have selected at the college or university.

According to the rules of the province that are currently in effect, international students who want to attend a college or university in Quebec must enroll in one of the recognized educational institutions selected by the provincial government. If you want to go to school in Quebec, you'll also need study permission issued by the federal government of Canada.

As an international student with a study permit, you must:

  • Always be enrolled at a designated learning institution
  • Make progress toward finishing your study program
  • Respect the conditions listed on your study permit
  • Stop studying if you no longer meet the requirements
  • Leave Canada when your permit expires

A study permit is the second piece of document that students need to have when first arrive in Canada. A Study Permit is an authorization to stay in a country. International students cannot pursue their studies without obtaining a study permit. In the study permit, it will include the following information:

  • Reason for coming to Canada
  • Course level you are studying in Canada
  • How long can you stay in Canada
  • Can you work while studying

Canada Study Permit 

A sample of Canada Study Permit

What is a DLI?

A designated learning institution (DLI) is a school that has been granted permission by a provincial or territorial government to accommodate students from other countries. The Canadian government recognizes all elementary and secondary schools as recognized learning institutions.

Make sure that the post-secondary institution, such as a college or university, is on the list if you intend to study there once you graduate from high school.

For the updated list of DLI, please refer to this link.

How to obtain a Study Permit?

After landing at major Canadian international airports, you will first need to present your student visa to the border officers who will then determine if you are allowed to enter the country. If the border officer allows you to enter, you must visit the immigration kiosk where they will issue your study permit. At the kiosk, you must present a Letter of Introduction and your passport. After finishing and receiving your study permit, double-check all information on the permit to ensure accuracy and notify the officer if anything is incorrect. 

What is the validity of your study permit?

The validity of your study permit has the same length of your student visa. 

What to do if my study permit is going to expire?

It is essential to remember your study permit expiry date. You must apply for a study permit extension in Canada 30 days before expiration. You can keep studying while waiting for your study permit extension.

If you apply after your study permit expires, you can stay in Canada but must stop studying while waiting for IRCC to restore your study status and send you a new study permit.

Can I work while studying in Canada?

Yes, you can work while in Canada if it clearly states in your study permit. Normally, study permit holder can work up to 20 hours per week in certain industries during the academic semester when they study full-time. During semester break, students are eligible to work full-time. 

You can work off campus without a work permit if you meet all of these requirements:

If you’re a part-time student at a DLI

You can work off campus only if:

  • you meet all of the requirements above, except the requirement to be a full-time student,
  • and
  • you’re only studying part-time, instead of full-time, because:





    • you’re in the last semester of your study program and you don’t need a full course load to complete your program and
    • you were a full-time student in your program in Canada, up until your last semester

If you’re on an authorized leave

If you’re on an authorized leave from your studies, or you’re switching schools and you’re not studying, you can’t work off campus. You can only return to work once you’re back to studying.

Can I leave Canada while waiting for my study permit extension?

You can leave Canada and return while waiting for your study permit extension as long as your TRV is valid. However, you cannot resume studying until you receive your new study permit.

We hope that this post has helped you to understand the main difference between a student visa and a study permit. For any further concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at  +1 315 715 8498 or

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