June 20, 2023
A Look at the Differences between Study Permits, Temporary Resident Permits, and Visitor Visas
What is a study permit?
The study permit is a document issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that allows foreign nationals to study at designated learning institutions (DLIs) in Canada. Most foreign nationals need a study permit to study in Canada.
Your study permit is not a visa. It doesn’t let you enter Canada. You may also need a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA). If IRCC approves your study permit, they issue one to you with your study permit.
If you’re a legal resident in certain countries, you may be able to get your study permit faster by applying online through the Student Direct Stream.
What are the eligibility requirements for a study permit?
You can come to Canada to study if you
- are enrolled at a DLI
- prove you have enough money to pay for
- your tuition fees
- living expenses for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada and
- return transportation for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada
- obey the law, have no criminal record, and get a police certificate (if required)
- are in good health and get a medical exam (if required), and
- prove to an officer that you will leave Canada when your study permit expires
Who does not need a study permit?
Most foreign nationals need a study permit to study in Canada. The cases below are the exceptions:
You don’t need a study permit if you’re coming to Canada for a program that lasts 6 months or less. Your visitor visa or eTA must be valid throughout the duration of the program.
Minor children in Canada:
Minor children don’t need a study permit if:
- they are refugees or refugee claimants
- their parents are refugees or refugee claimants, or
- they’re in pre-school, primary or secondary school, and they’re already in Canada with a parent who has a work or a study permit
When minor children reach the age of majority (18 or 19 years old, depending on the province or territory), they must apply for a study permit if they want to continue studying.
Temporary residents and asylum seekers taking French language and culture courses:
You don’t need a study permit to take French language and cultural integration courses in Quebec (linked page is available in French only). To be eligible for the courses, you need to be a temporary resident or asylum seeker in Canada.
Temporary residents taking settlement and integration courses:
If you’re taking settlement and integration courses offered by a provincial or territorial government to help you settle into Canada, you don’t need a study permit.
Can I work while on a study permit?
If you have a study permit and you’re registered as a full-time student at a DLI, you may be able to work on-campus or off-campus. If so, your study permit will include a condition that says you’re allowed to work while studying.
What is a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)?
Generally, individuals who do not meet the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), or who are inadmissible under it, may be
- refused a permanent resident visa (PRV) or temporary resident visa (TRV) abroad
- refused an eTA
- reported as inadmissible under section A44(1)
- allowed to withdraw their application to enter Canada at a port of entry (POE)
- refused processing within Canada
In some cases, however, subsection 24(1) of the subsection 24(1) of the IRPA authorizes designated officers to issue Temporary Resident Permits to inadmissible foreign nationals when it is “justified in the circumstances”. A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) allows the holder either to enter or to remain in Canada.
During the validity period of the TRP, the foreign national has temporary resident status in Canada. If the TRP is valid for at least six months, the foreign national may apply for a work and/or study permit. Upon cancellation or expiration of the TRP, the foreign national must leave Canada.
Officers may issue a TRP when both of the following apply:
- The purpose of the individual to enter or remain in Canada is balanced when the objectives of the IRPA are considered.
- The issuance outweighs any risks that might exist and is compelling and sufficient to overcome any risks that the individual might pose.
What is a Visitor Visa?
A visitor visa (also called a temporary resident visa, or TRV) is an official document confirming that you meet Canada’s entry requirements.
Who needs a visitor visa?
You may need a visitor visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization. The entry document you need depends on:
- the type of travel document you plan to travel with
- the country that issued your travel document
- your nationality
- your method of travel to Canada for this trip
For the most updated information, check the government’s website before coming to Canada.
How long can you stay?
Most visitors can stay for up to 6 months in Canada.
At the port of entry, the border services officer may allow you to stay for less or more than 6 months. If so, they’ll put the date you need to leave by in your passport. They might also give you a document, called a visitor record, which will show the date you need to leave by.
If you don’t get a stamp in your passport, you can stay for 6 months from the day you entered Canada or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.
Who is eligible for a visitor visa?
You must meet some basic requirements to get a visitor visa. You must:
- have a valid travel document, like a passport
- be in good health
- have no criminal or immigration-related convictions
- convince an immigration officer that you have ties—such as a job, home, financial assets or family—that will take you back to your home country
- convince an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your visit
- have enough money for your stay
- The amount of money you will need depends on how long you will stay and if you will stay in a hotel, or with friends or relatives.
- You may also need a medical exam and a letter of invitation from someone who lives in Canada.
Please check your country specific requirements before applying.
Some people are not admissible to Canada, which means they are not allowed to enter the country. You can be inadmissible for several reasons, including being involved in:
- criminal activity
- human rights violations
- organized crime
You can also be inadmissible for security, health or financial reasons. Talk to an immigration lawyer if you have inadmissibility concerns.
Can I work while on a visitor visa?
Generally, while on a visitor visa, a foreign national is not allowed to work and they must apply for a work permit from outside of Canada. However, there is currently a temporary public policy in place that allows foreign nationals who are in Canada as visitors and who receive a valid job offer will be able to apply for and receive a work permit without having to leave the country.