Federal Court rules that tuition does not need to be paid for study permit applications

Julia Hornstein
Published: February 19, 2023

The Federal Court has ruled that students do not need to pay all or part of their tuition fees for a study permit application in the case of Tehrani v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration).

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Tehrani, a citizen of Iran, applied for a study permit after being accepted to a Project Management program at a Toronto college.

Tehrani’s study permit application was refused because the immigration officer was not satisfied that he would leave Canada at the end of his authorized stay. The decision was based on Tehrani’s marital status, family ties in Canada, and the fact that he only paid part of his tuition to hold his place in the program.

On the issue of tuition payment, the court explained that, according to Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), an applicant only needs to establish that they have been accepted into a program of study. The applicant does not need to prove that any or all tuition has been paid. Rather, IRPR only requires the individual to prove that they have the financial ability to pay for tuition and other expenses.

The officer erred by using the fact that Tehrani did not pay his full tuition as cause for refusing his study permit application. Further, the officer never found that Tehrani did not have the financial capacity to pursue his studies in Canada.

Overall, the court deemed that the payment of tuition was unrelated to whether Tehrani would leave Canada at the end of his authorized stay. The court concluded by finding that the officer’s decision to refuse Tehrani’s study permit was unreasonable, as it lacked justification and failed to engage with the evidence Tehrani provided.

Implications for student permit applicants

The Tehrani case emphasizes educational affordability and the importance of providing accommodations for international students looking to study in Canada.

The ruling removes a barrier to access for foreign nationals looking to study in Canada that may not be able to pay all or part of their tuition at the time they submit their study permit application. As long as an applicant is able to demonstrate that they have the requisite financial resources to pay for tuition and other expenses when required, they are invited to apply for a study permit and will not be penalized for unpaid tuition during the application submission stage.

Canada is a popular destination for international students due to the country’s high quality of education and its affordability, especially compared with other popular international student destinations. In addition, Canada provides accessible work and immigration opportunities post-graduation.

The amount of study permit issued by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has increased a great deal in recent years. In 2022, Canada welcomed a record breaking 551,405 international students from 184 countries. As of the end of 2022, there were 807,750 international students holding valid study permits in Canada.

How to apply for a study permit

Once you receive a letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI), you should immediately apply for a study permit.

In order to be eligible for a study permit after receiving a letter of acceptance, an international student must:

  • Prove that he or she has sufficient financial support to cover the first year of tuition, as well as living expenses and return transportation to his or her home country
  • Obtain a Certificat d'acceptation du Quebec (Quebec Acceptance Certificate, or CAQ) if he or she wishes to study in Quebec
  • Have a clean record. Applicants with a criminal background may be refused. IRCC may request an applicant to supply a police clearance certificate
  • Be in good health. IRCC may request an applicant to complete a medical examination; and,
  • Satisfy the immigration officer that he or she will leave Canada at the end of the stay authorized by the study permit.

How to prepare a strong study permit application

Immigration officers have discretion to accept or refuse study permit applications if they do not believe the applicant will satisfy the terms of their stay as a student.

You should ensure that officers are convinced that the actual purpose of your visit is to study. Between 2019 and 2021, 77% of study permit refusals were due to IRCC not being satisfied that the purpose of the applicant's visit was to study. Further, it is important to make clear that you will leave at the end your authorized stay, another common reason for refusing study permit applications.

Some recommendations to increase the chances of approval are:

  • Providing a clear, logical progression in studies from previous education to Canadian education;
  • Show proof of finances through proper documentation;
  • Explain gaps in your studies;
  • Make evident your intention to leave Canada after you have completed your studies;
  • Include any other documentation that would convince the officer reviewing the applicant of your eligibility.

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