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

Apply as soon as you get accepted to UBC and have your Letter of Acceptance.

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

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.

Check current estimated processing times

Step 1 - Learn about study permits

Before preparing your application, review the study permit page to learn about what a study permit is, who needs one, and other important details.

Learn about study permits

Step 3 - Apply

Recommended options
  1. Online through the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website
Alternate options
  • In person at a Visa Application Centre (VAC)
  • By mail to the appropriate visa office
    • Download the paper application in the "Apply on paper" section of the IRCC website
  • In person at a Canadian border. Only for:
    • US citizens and US permanent residents
    • Residents of Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon

The application fee is $150.

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

Biometrics

Submit your biometrics (fingerprints and photo) in-person at the nearest biometrics collection point. 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. 

U.S. citizens and those who have provided biometrics in the past 10 years are exempt. 

Medical Exams

You may be required to complete a medical exam. In general, submitting an upfront medical exam, or e-medical, reduces delays in application processing (see the ‘documents you might need’ section on the “Gather your required documents” page for further information). Costs of medical exams vary from country to country. 

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 to have your study permit issued on the spot.

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 need to submit your passport to have your TRV (also known as a ‘visa’) inserted.   

U.S. citizens 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.’ 

Step 8 - After entering Canada

After entering Canada, there are a few steps to complete, such as applying for your BC Medical Services Plan, maintaining your student status, applying for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) and more. Section 7 of this tutorial provides detailed information, so read further. 

2. Create your document checklist

The documents you need to provide with your study permit application vary according to your country of citizenship along with other factors.

To create your document checklist, first decide how you will apply.

If you are applying online (recommended) 

  1. Create a MyCIC account on the IRCC website. You will be prompted to answer a set of questions.
    1. For help creating an account or answering the IRCC questionnaire, download our PDF guide: 

  2. When you have completed the questionnaire, you’ll be guided to a screen entitled "Your document checklist" that lists your required documents
    1. Important: This checklist generated by IRCC does not include all the documents required by your country’s visa office.  
  3. Get the full list of documents required by your country's visa office:
    1. Go to the IRCC website and select your country/territory from the drop-down menu (located in the "Apply on paper" section).
    2. Click "Get documents" and then select "Visa office instructions" (the second link). This will launch a PDF specifying requirements for your visa office.

If you are applying by mail

  1. Go to the "Apply on paper" section of the IRCC website.
  2. Select your country/territory from the drop-down menu and click “Get documents”.
  3. You’ll see a list of links:
    1. Click on the first link to review a general document checklist.
    2. Click on the second link to see visa office instructions for your country. These instructions include a document checklist showing additional supporting documents required by your country's visa office.
    3. The remaining links in the list will open the forms listed in the general document checklist.

Depending on your situation (e.g. your age, marital status, etc.), you may not need to provide every document listed in either checklist. The next step in the tutorial provides information on typical documents required.

If you are applying at a Visa Application Centre

Visa Application Centres (VACs) are private companies that have contracts with the Canadian government to provide application support services for a fee. They do not provide advice or make decisions on your study permit application. 

If you will apply in-person at a VAC, follow the same steps as applying by mail to create your document checklist. 

If you are applying at the border

Only US citizens or permanent residents, and residents of Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon can apply at the border.

If you are eligible for this option, follow the same steps as applying by mail to create your document checklist and bring your completed application form and supporting documents with you. 

Be sure to check if you need a medical exam, custodianship, or biometrics in advance. 

3. Gather your required documents

Documents all students need

All students coming to UBC will need all of the following documents.

When possible, documents should be issued within 30 days of submitting your application to be considered recent. 

If you must provide several documents in a section, combine them into one file (such as a PDF) before uploading. The size limit is 4MB per file; you may need to reduce the file size

If your documents are not in English or French, they must be accompanied by:

  • the English or French official translation; and
  • an affidavit from the person who completed the translation

Certified Translators in British Columbia

Letter of Acceptance

Even if your offer has admission conditions that you still have left to complete, you may use your conditional Letter of Acceptance for your study permit application. We do not recommend that you wait to meet the conditions before applying; ‘full acceptance’ letters are not generally issued.  

Undergraduate students: You will receive your Letter of Acceptance/Offer of Admissions by email.

Graduate students: You can download your Letter of Acceptance, which will be the first page of your admission offer, from e:Vision, the graduate studies application system. 

Proof of financial support

It is imperative to show strong proof of financial support that you and/or your sponsors have, such as family members or organizations supporting you. 

Most Canadian immigration officers interpret "evidence of sufficient funds" to mean 4 months of bank statements, savings account passbook, bank drafts, or other proof that indicates you have sufficient funds to cover the cost of one year in Canada equivalent to:

  • Your first year of tuition fees as indicated on your letter of acceptance, AND
  • A minimum of CAD$10,000 for your first year of living expenses (plus CAD$4000 for an accompanying family member and CAD$3000 per additional member)

Note: students studying for less than a year can provide proof of a minimum of CAD $833 per month for living expenses in Canada.

Below are examples of what you can submit as proof of financial support:

  • A letter from UBC that proves you are receiving financial aid/scholarship/award/teaching assistantship/research assistantship
  • Your bank statements from Canadian or overseas bank with a stamp
  • Bank statements of your parents/sponsor from a Canadian or overseas bank
  • Proof of employment for yourself/your parents/sponsor
  • Proof of business ownership/income for your parents/sponsor
  • Approval for an educational loan office
  • Proof of ownership of properties for yourself/your parents/sponsor 
  • Proof of any other type of income, stock, dividend etc. for yourself/your parents/sponsor

If the balance(s) in any of the documentation above is in foreign currency, provide a screenshot of the Bank of Canada currency converter result (if your currency is not listed, use xe.com).

If the proof of funds is from another person’s bank account, such as a parent or family member who is sponsoring you, they must provide proof of where their funding is coming from. Additionally, it is important to have a letter (preferably notarized) from that person explaining that they will support you during your studies in Canada. 

Include a summary or an index page of all the documents you are submitting for this section (see template below). This will also allow you to clarify or explain the connection between documents, if applicable.

Passport

Provide a copy of the bio-data page (the page with your name, date of birth, passport number, expiration date, etc.) and a copy of every page of your passport that has stamps, visas, or markings from any country. Most visa offices require copies of your current passport and all expired passports that you have held; be sure to check your visa office instruction guide for the requirements you must meet.

Important: Your study permit will not be issued past your passport's expiry.

  • If you do not have a passport, apply immediately.

  • If your passport will expire soon, extend it before you apply for your study permit.

    • If this is not an option or passport processing time is too long, apply for a study permit with current your passport. After you arrive in Canada, extend your passport and study permit from within Canada.

Passport photo

Make sure your photo meets the specifications required for the application method you're using.

  • Online: find digital photo specifications on the "Your document checklist" page by clicking on the question mark, in the "Instructions" column, for "Digital photo". 
  • At a Visa Application Centre (VAC) or by paper: you need 2 photos, which must meet IRCC photo specifications.

Documents specific to your visa office

Remember to check for any additional documents required by your country's visa office.

If you're applying online:

  • To avoid delays or rejection, submit the required documents listed on the "Your document checklist" page in your MyCIC account and any visa office-specific documents with your application.
  • Merge all visa office-specific documents into one file (such as a PDF) and upload the file in the "Client Information" section under "Optional Documents" in your online checklist. 

Biometrics

If you apply for a study permit from outside Canada, you will be required to submit your biometrics (fingerprints and a photo) in-person at a biometrics collection point outside of Canada. 

The time it takes to submit your biometrics is not included in the processing time for your study permit and your application will not be processed until biometrics are received by the visa office. You only need to give biometrics once every 10 years.

American citizens, those who have provided biometrics in the past 10 years, as well as certain individuals are exempt from providing biometrics. 

  1. Pay the biometrics fee at the same time you submit your study permit application for faster processing.
  2. Receive your biometrics instruction letter. How and when you receive it will depend on how you submit your study permit application:
  • Online: You will receive an electronic biometrics instruction letter within 24 hours (including online applications at Visa Application Centres).
  • Visa Application Centre (VAC): You can pay for and provide biometrics at the time you submit your paper application without requiring a letter. Check if your VAC requires an appointment or if you can walk-in.
  • By paper: it can take several weeks to receive your letter by mail.

3. Submit your biometrics within 30 days of receiving your biometrics instruction letter.

Find out where to submit biometrics

Note: If you do not have a biometrics collection point available in your home country, you may need to travel to another country to give biometrics.


Documents you might need

Depending on your specific circumstances, you may need one or more of the following documents. 

Letter of Explanation

A letter of explanation is a good way to describe additional factors or include additional documents (see template below). It could include:

  • Issues you would like to clarify or that the officer might find useful
  • Supporting documents, screenshots, or any other proof to support your explanation
  • Additional employment history if you have run out of space in your application

Upload this document under ‘Client Information’ in the ‘Optional Documents’ section of your online checklist if you are applying online.

Study Plan

To address the purpose of your studies, write a detailed study plan that is concise, clear and genuine (see template below). This may be required by your visa office and include specific points to address. 

Upload this document under ‘Client Information’ in the ‘Optional Documents’ section of your online checklist if applying online.

Medical exam

You require a medical exam when applying for a study permit if you:

  1. Have lived in a designated country or territory for more than 6 months in the 12 months immediately before you apply. Canada is not a designated country or territory, so this does not apply to you if you have been in Canada for more than 6 months in the past year
  2. Would like to work in certain jobs in Canada which bring you into close contact with people, such as positions in elementary schools or hospitals. 

If the above scenario apply to you, you will need a medical exam conducted by an IRCC-approved Panel Physician. The doctor will send the full results to IRCC automatically. Ask the doctor for a copy of your medical exam report (referred to as your ‘e-medical’).

You have two options:

  1. Take an upfront medical exam before submitting your initial study permit application, then include your e-medical report in your application. We recommend this option as it will save you time. 
  2. Alternately, apply for your study permit first and wait for a visa officer to send you a medical exam request. This may delay the processing of your application. 

Family Information Form [IMM5707]

This form is required if it is included in your document checklist (see sample below) or if it is required by your visa office (upload under Client Information). You will need to fill out the form, print it, sign the form by hand, then scan and upload the form

  • If you have indicated that you don’t have a spouse or common-law partner, please sign and date Section A
  • If you have indicated that you don’t have children, please sign and date Section B.
  • Please sign and date Section D
Family information form image

Schedule 1: Application for Temporary Residence [IMM5257B]

This document is required only if you answer “Yes” to questions 3, 4, 5 or 6 in the "Background Information" section of the "Application for a Study Permit Made Outside of Canada" form [IMM1294].

Most students will not require Schedule 1. That is why it is listed in the "Optional Documents" section in your MyCIC account, if you are applying online.

4. Fill out the application form

Your application form is an important part of your study permit extension. Missing or incorrect information can negatively impact the outcome of your application. Below are five steps to help create a comprehensive application.

i. Download the newest form

Use the Application for a Study Permit Made Outside of Canada [IMM 1294] form.

IRCC makes periodic updates to their application forms. Always make sure you are using the most current application form by downloading the application form from your Document Checklist on you MyCIC (if you apply online) or a most recent form directly from the IRCC website (if you apply by paper).

Application for a Study Permit Made Outside of Canada

If you see the “Please wait…” message when you are downloading the form:

Click on the download arrow at the top right to save the file onto your computer and then open it with Adobe Reader. If you do not see the arrow, move your cursor to the top of the screen and it will appear.

PDF download screenshot

ii. Get help with commonly asked questions

What is a UCI? 

UCI stands for “Unique Client Identifier,” also known as “Client ID.” It is an eight-digit or ten-digit number. If you do not have a UCI, leave this section blank.

UCI

What is UBC’s Designated Learning Institution (DLI) number?

UBC's DLI is O19330231062. It starts with the letter "O" and not zero.

UBC's DLI

How do I answer “Duration of expected study”?

  • In the "From" field: use the "Program Start Date" shown on your Letter of Acceptance.
  • In the "To" field: Use a date up to 90 days after your anticipated program completion date.
Durationof expected study

How do I fill out the "the cost of my studies" section? 

Provide information on your expenses including your first year tuition fees, rent and food, and other estimated costs for one year. 

You can use these two cost calculators to help you:

cost of my studies

Note: exchange students should indicate ‘$0’ in the ‘tuition’ field as you will not pay tuition fees at UBC, you will pay your home university. Include a letter of explanation to address your tuition fees as an inbound exchange student and provide supporting documents, if available. One-term exchange students may provide estimated costs based on one term only.

How do I fill out the "funds available for my stay" section? 

The amount you indicate in “Funds available for my stay (CAD)” should match the total amount of funds you are showing as proof.

For example, if you have a combination of $20,500 in your bank account, $10,000 from your scholarship, and $33,040 from your parents, you would indicate $63,540.

Remember you must show that you have enough funds to cover your first year tuition fees and a minimum of $10,000 for living expenses. 

funds available for my stay

How do I fill out the "Employment" section?

The information you provide in this section helps IRCC have a fuller picture of your activities within the last ten years:

  • Include all part-time and full-time jobs as well as any internships and practicum placements.
  • Under “current activity”, if you are not currently working/employed, but you are a student, write “student” as activity and your school name as “employer”. Your ‘to’ date can be the month and year of your study permit application; for example, if you are applying in April 2019, indicate this in your ‘to’ field. 
  • If you indicate employment that you are continuing at the time of application, write the month and year of your application submission as your ‘To’ date
  • Fill out the form in chronological order, from most recent to oldest
  • If you need more space, provide additional information in a Letter of Explanation

How do I answer "Background" questions

2(a) Have you remained beyond the validity of your status, attended school without authorization or worked without authorization in Canada?

2(b) Have you ever been refused a visa or permit, denied entry or ordered to leave Canada or any other country?

2(c) Background information: Have you previously applied to enter or remain in Canada?

You must provide honest answers to these questions. Please contact International Student Advising if you answered “yes” to questions 2(a) or 2(b) so that you are fully aware of any implications.

Important: If you have previously applied for a Canadian study permit, a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), or a work permit, whether it is approved or rejected, you must report it to IRCC by checking the box "Yes" on 2(c) and writing down when you applied for each type of document in the box in addition to any details.

How can I sign the form if I apply online?

You do not need to sign your name in the signature field on the bottom of page 5, but you will need to type in the date of your application if applying online. Upload the form without signing.

  • After uploading all your documents, you will be asked to electronically sign your application by typing your name.
  • Do not print and sign the form because you will not be able to upload it to the site.

iii. Validate your form

When you finish filling out your application form, click the blue “Validate” button (found on the first or last page). This will highlight any missing information that is required and create an additional page with barcodes.

  • You can make changes after the application is successfully validated - just remember to validate again.
  • You can edit and validate as many times as you need.

Once your application has been successfully validated, it will show the following:

Barcodes

If you don’t see any barcodes when you validate your application, please visit the CIC help page

iv. If applying online, take screenshots as you apply 

In case there are issues with your application submission, take screenshots of these screens:

  1. The "Your document checklistpage after all your documents have been successfully uploaded to your MyCIC account.
  2. The "Acknowledgment of receipt" page after the application has been submitted.
  3. After uploading/submitting any ‘after-the-fact’ documents that an IRCC officer has requested after your original application has been submitted.

Save your screenshots to a safe place where you can access them easily. 

How to take screenshots

5. Get your study permit

If your application is approved, IRCC will email you a Letter of Introduction.

Print and present this letter to the border officer when you enter Canada. The border officer will then issue your study permit (a piece of paper).  

Do not book travel until you have received your Letter of Introduction.

Letter of Introduction (Sample) 
Letter of Introduction Sample

Note: Some visa offices may issue a note instead of a Letter of Introduction stating “The visa in your passport is all you need to travel to Canada. Migration officials in Canada are able to access the information in our system to issue your study or work permit upon arrival

If your application is refused

Email a copy of your refusal letter and all documents submitted with your application to isa@students.ubc.ca with your student ID number as soon as possible.

Wondering if you need a visa to enter Canada?

Depending on your country of citizenship, you may require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada. If you do, IRCC will issue the TRV or eTA once your study permit is approved. 

You do not need to apply separately for either a TRV or eTA. This is the case only when applying for your initial study permit application.

How to get your TRV 

The usual procedure is that IRCC will contact you to ask for your passport once your study permit is approved. You will then send your passport to your visa office so they can attach your TRV (a sticker) on a page inside your passport.

How to get your eTA 

Once your study permit is approved, IRCC will automatically include your eTA number in your Letter of Introduction. No action is required by you. You can check your eTA status online.

6. Arriving in Canada

Preparing to Arrive

Be sure to bring the following:

  1. Letter of Introduction / POE Letter* (i.e. your study permit approval letter)
  2. UBC Letter of Acceptance
  3. Proof of finances (could be the documents provided in your application, recent is best)
  4. UBC Proof of Enrolment Letter from the SSC under the “Grades and Records” tab (if you are registered in courses)

Pack with care - there are some things you must declare or cannot bring to Canada

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or a resident of St. Pierre and Miquelon, and will apply for your study permit at the airport or border crossing, print your application form, and bring supporting documents with you. 

*Some visa offices may issue a note instead of a Letter of Introduction stating “The visa in your passport is all you need to travel to Canada. Migration officials in Canada are able to access the information in our system to issue your study or work permit upon arrival

When you arrive in Canada

You need to get your study permit when you first enter Canada. For example, if you arrive in Toronto then take another flight to Vancouver, you must get your study permit in Toronto. If you have connecting flights, try to schedule a layover for a few hours to allow time for immigration.

  1. Answer questions on the electronic Primary Inspection Kiosk
    1. You must declare if you have packed currency equal to or greater than CAD $10,000 and/or any food, plant or animal products
  2. Present your kiosk receipt to an officer
    1. Let them know you need a study permit, then the officer will direct you to immigration
  3. Pick up your checked luggage (if applicable)
  4. Proceed to immigration and present your Letter of Introduction
  5. Check your study permit before you leave the officer’s desk
    1. Confirm all personal information and conditions are correct. If they are not, notify the officer
    2. To prevent delays in starting work, ensure your study permit includes at least one of the following conditions: 
  • “May accept employment on or off campus if meeting eligibility criteria, per paragraph R186(f), (v) or (w) and must cease working if no longer meeting these criteria”
  • “May work 20 hours per week off campus or full time during regular breaks if meeting criteria outlined in paragraph 186(v) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations”
  • “May accept employment on the campus of the institution at which registered in full-time studies”

Note: Degree-seeking students and exchange students are eligible to work on and off campus. Non-degree seeking students (such as visiting students and VIRS) are eligible to work on-campus. 

 If you arrive by car, there are no kiosks. Answer the officer’s questions, let them know you need a study permit, then proceed to secondary examination for your study permit. 


For more information, please visit our coming from abroad page.

STUDY PERMIT (SAMPLE)

study permit sample

7. After you arrive in Canada

Keep your immigration and health insurance documents up to date by completing the following important steps:

  1. Apply for your BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) as soon as you arrive in British Columbia.
  2. Add the expiry date of your documents in the Reminder System on the UBC Student Service Centre.
  3. If your study permit has the necessary condition(s), apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN), which is required to work in Canada.
  4. Keep your study permit valid and remain enrolled in classes until program completion:
    1. Visit our study permit page for information on your responsibilities as a study permit holder
    2. If you might apply to remain in Canada for work after graduation, consider maintaining full-time status until program completion. 
    3. Learn how UBC defines enrolment for immigration purposes

8. If you need help

Advising Assistants and International Student Advisors are available to help in person, by phone, or via email.

Whichever option you choose, make the most of your time with an advisor by completing a few key steps in advance.

In-person

Mondays to Fridays from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm at International Student Advising in the UBC Life Building. General information is available from Advising Assistants.

Before dropping by, please do the following:

  1. Review the about initial study permits page.
  2. Review all 7 steps of the tutorial and note where you got stuck.
  3. Gather your supporting documents and bring them with you.

By phone

Phone International Student Advising at 604-822-5021 with your inquiry and we will set up a phone advising appointment as appropriate. 

Once you have a scheduled appointment to speak with an Advisor, complete the following steps before your call:

  1. Review the about initial study permits page.
  2. Review all 7 steps of the tutorial and note where you got stuck.

Via email

Before sending an email, check that you have:

  1. Reviewed the about study permits page
  2. Reviewed all 7 steps of the tutorial.

If you still have questions, send an email to isa@students.ubc.ca and include the following:

  • Your student number in the email subject line
  • Your name
  • Your citizenship(s)
  • All permit and visa expiration dates (if applicable)
  • If you are currently in Canada (YES or NO)
  • Which step in the tutorial you are stuck on
  • Copies of applicable documents, such as a rejection letter, that relates to your specific question(s)