Every year, tens of thousands of international students finish the school year alongside their Canadian peers. On top of the stress of studying for exams, writing final papers, and planning for next year, international students in Canada may feel like they have an added layer of anxiety: maintaining their immigration status over the summer.
What Exactly is Meant By “Immigration Status”?
Unless you are a Canadian citizen, you need permission to remain in Canada. To do so, the primary documents to keep up-to-date are your study permit (if you have one) and passport. As a general rule you should allow for three months to extend your study permit and (at least) six months to get a new passport. Check the expiry date for both.
Who Needs a Study Permit?
International students studying in Canada must have a valid Study Permit, except in cases where the duration of the study program is six months or less.
Extending Your Study Permit
If your study permit is within 90 days of expiry, it’s time to renew it.
What is the difference between a Visa and a Study Permit?
The difference between these documents is significant. Citizens of certain countries need a temporary resident visa (also called a TRV) in order to enter into Canada. A study permit allows you to remain here as a student. To find out if you need a TRV, click here.
TRVs are issued to citizens of most countries; however, students of some nationalities do not require visas to enter to Canada, instead they may need an electronic travel authorization (eTA).
How to Tell your Study Permit and Visa Apart
Your study permit is a large, letter-sized document folded and stapled into your passport — see image — while your TRV is fixed directly onto a single passport page and cannot be removed.
Most commonly your study permit and temporary resident visa have the same expiry date. If your visa expires (but your study permit is still valid) you can remain in Canada legally, as long as you maintain your studies. Having a valid study permit does not authorize reentry to Canada, however, so if you are planning on leaving and returning, you will need to determine the right path for your specific situation.
Out of Status
If your study permit expires — and you have not applied to renew it — you will be out-of-status. This is a serious situation which will require you to leave Canada or seek help “restoring” your status. If you are out of status you cannot study or work.
Leaving Canada? What You Need to Know
Check your visa and anticipate the day you would like to return to Canada. Then make sure you have the right documents. If you intend to leave temporarily, you will need to have a valid multiple-entry visa, or apply for a new TRV, to facilitate re-entry to Canada. If you are from a visa-exempt country, you may need an eTA — these also have expiry dates. Please note even if you are from a TRV-exempt country, you may have to answer questions about your studies in Canada when you re-enter, and you may be required to show evidence of your enrollment in a school and proof of adequate funds to support yourself. Border officers may also want to see a valid study permit or evidence you have applied for a new permit.
How to Apply for a New TRV
As long as you have valid status in Canada (check your study permit end-date) you may apply for a new TRV from within Canada. It’s suggested you do this before you leave the country, as you must submit your physical passport to an inland office in order to get a visa. If you are still waiting for your passport, therefore, this may interfere with your travel plans. So renew early.
(The exemption to the requirement to have a valid TRV is when making short trips to the United States only – and St. Pierre and Miquelon, a small group of islands near Canada, but belonging to France. In order to take advantage of this exemption, you should make a quick call to a lawyer or get in touch).
Even if you do not intend to leave Canada, you must still make sure your study permit is up-to-date. In this scenario, you may apply for a renewal of your study permit inside Canada, as long as you provide enough time for processing.
Graduating Students Who Would Like to Stay in Canada to Visit
Study permits generally expire 90 days after the end of a student’s study program, even if the expiry date printed on the document extends beyond that point. Contrary to widespread belief, you cannot legally remain in Canada as a visitor after your study permit expires. You will be out-of-status. Before your study authorization expires, therefore, you will be required to change your status from student to visitor if you would like to remain here for travel or tourism.
- Students graduating from Canadian high school and going to college or university in September: If you have just finished high school in Canada and have been accepted to study at a college or university in September, you will need to apply for a new study permit that authorizes you to study at the post-secondary level. You will not be able to study on the same study permit you used at the secondary (high school) level.
It’s important to remember that your immigration documents are not issued longer than the expiry date of your passport. If you have permits and visas, and your passport is due to expire, you will need to take action by calling your consulate or embassy in Canada at least six months beforehand.
Whether you intend to remain in Canada, travel, or return to your home country for a period this summer, you will need to keep your immigration status up-to-date. We hope that this post has given you some insight about what’s required. If you have any questions, feel free to write a comment here or get in touch.
To learn more about your options for studying in Canada, click here.
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