Tutorial: How to apply for an initial study permit

Step-by-step instructions, required documents, and other important information about applying for your study permit.

1. Overview of the process

When to apply

You must apply for your initial study permit from outside of Canada and it must be approved before you come to Canada.

As of Jan 22, 2024, new study permit applications require a Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) from the province of British Columbia. A process is expected to be in place by Mar 31, 2024. Some students are exempt from the PAL, such as Master’s and PhD students. 

If you are not exempt from the PAL, such as you are a newly admitted undergraduate student, you should not apply for a study permit until the process for getting an attestation letter has been determined since your application will be returned. However, you can start to prepare your study permit application, such as gathering required documents and writing a study plan. We will update this page when more information becomes available. See IRCC’s page for the latest updates.

If you are admitted into a Master’s or PhD program, you should apply as soon as you get accepted to UBC and have your Letter of Acceptance (or admission letter or offer letter). You can apply for a study permit even if your offer has conditions.

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or a resident of Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon, you have the option to apply upon entry into Canada, either at the Canada-US border crossing or at an international airport in Canada upon arrival. If you are not exempt from the PAL, contact International Student Advising for support. 

If you are inside Canada and exempt from the PAL, you might be able to apply through the inside Canada process

Check current estimated processing times.

Step 1: Learn about study permits

Before preparing your application, review important information about what a study permit is, who needs one, the Student Direct Stream option, study permits for minors, and other important considerations.

Step 2: Prepare your application

  1. Create your document checklist
  2. Gather your required documents
  3. Complete the application form

Medical exams

You may be required to complete a medical exam. In general, it is faster for study permit processing if you take an upfront medical exam, meaning, take a medical exam before you apply for a study permit, and submit the medical exam document together with your study permit application.

You can also submit your study permit application first and wait for a notice asking you to take a medical exam, which may take longer. Generally, if you do not take an upfront medical exam, you will have to provide results within 30 days of receiving a request for a medical exam.

Costs of medical exams vary depending on the individual panel physician (a doctor authorized by Canadian Immigration to conduct immigration medical exam).

Check out the “documents you might need” section on the Gather your required documents page for further information.

Step 3: Apply

The application fee is $150.

Recommended option: Apply online. IRCC now directs most students who are applying for a study permit from outside Canada to submit the application through the IRCC portal. If you are applying for your spouse’s open work permit at the same time as your study permit, you should apply through the IRCC secure account as instructed by IRCC. Our tutorial and Canvas application review course go over the IRCC secure account process, however even if you are applying through the IRCC portal you will find our online resources helpful.

Alternate options

  • Apply in person at a Visa Application Centre (VAC).
  • Apply by paper if you have a disability which prevents you from applying online, or you hold an identity or travel document for non-national residents, refugees or stateless persons.
  • US citizens, US permanent residents, and residents of Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon can also apply in person upon entry to Canada at the border or airport.

Step 4: Submit biometrics and medical exams (if applicable)

Biometrics

Submit your biometrics (fingerprints and photo) in-person at the nearest biometrics collection site after you apply for your study permit within 30 days of receiving a request for biometrics. Book an appointment to provide biometrics as soon as you get your Biometrics Instruction Letter (request for your biometrics). A fee of $85 will be required at the time of application.

Some students may need to travel within their home country or in some cases, apply for a visa to travel to another country to submit biometrics. 

If you provided biometrics in the past 10 years or if you are a U.S. citizen, you are exempt.

Step 5: Study permit approval

If your study permit application is approved, you will be issued a Letter of Introduction.

You will need to present this letter to the Canada Border Services Officer when you arrive in Canada so your study permit can be issued at the airport or border crossing.

Review the Travelling to Canada Guide before making travel plans.

Step 6: Get your TRV/eTA (if applicable)

After your study permit has been approved, you will automatically be issued one of these documents to travel to Canada:

  • Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), or 
  • Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

If you are from a TRV-required country, you will be asked by a visa office to submit your passport to have your TRV (also known as a ‘visa’) inserted.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents are exempt from requiring a TRV or an eTA.

Step 7: Arrive in Canada

  1. Present your Letter of Introduction to the Canada Border Services Officer at the first place you arrive in Canada and request a study permit
  2. Before leaving the officer’s desk, ensure the information on your study permit is correct and that it states you ‘may work’ or ‘may accept employment.’ If these words are not present, respectfully request they be added. If they are not, you will not be able to work on your study permit for many months while you apply for a correction.

Step 8: After entering Canada

After entering Canada, there are a few steps to complete, such as applying for your BC Medical Services Plan (MSP), maintaining your student status, applying for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) and more.