What are my options if I need to defer my enrollment after obtaining my Canadian study permit?

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: December 1, 2023

In some situations, international students in this country may need – or be required by their Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI) – to defer their program’s start date to the following semester.

This could be the case for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Family emergency
  • Wanting to accumulate more funds

Note: Deferred enrollment initiated by an international student must be formally approved by their DLI

Discover your options to study in Canada

What follows will outline the three options available to Canadian international students who are in Canada at the time of their enrollment deferral.

Option 1: Resume Studies in Allotted Time

Upon deferring their enrollment at a Canadian DLI, international students wishing to remain in Canada must pursue one of two options (more on option two to follow).

The first available option is to simply resume their studies, either at the beginning of the following semester or within 150 days of when the student’s deferred enrollment was confirmed, whichever comes first.

Option 2: Change Canadian Status

The other option available to international students who want to stay in Canada is to pursue a change of status. This means transitioning from international student status to either visitor status or worker status.

Transitioning to Visitor Status as an International Student

International students who want to stay in Canada after deferring their enrollment can do so by applying for a visitor record. Those who need a visitor record must apply at least 30 days prior to the expiry of their international student status/study permit.

First, it is important to note that a visitor record is not the same as a visitor visa.

A visitor visa (also known as a Temporary Resident Visa) is a required document for travel and entry to Canada. It applies to citizens of certain countries and allows entry to Canada for up to six months.

This visa is placed inside the recipient's passport to verify that they meet Canadian entry requirements as a visitor. A visitor visa will include a date, but this is not the expiry date of the visa holder’s stay in Canada. Instead, this date is the date by which the visa holder must arrive in Canada.

On the other hand, a visitor record allows the holder to stay in Canada longer. These records are either issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Generally, a visitor record will allow temporary residents in Canada to stay in the country longer as a visitor, a worker authorized to work without a work permit or a student authorized to study without a study permit.

Visitor records do not guarantee that the holder can leave and re-enter Canada. For those who plan to travel outside of North America, a valid entry document (ex. visitor visa or Electronic Travel Authorization) is required to return to Canada.

Visitor record applicants seeking to remain in Canada for more than six months must notify the border services officer. Unlike a visitor visa, the date included on the record indicates the expiry date of the recipient’s stay in Canada, meaning the visitor record holder must leave Canada by this date.

Note: Also, unlike a visitor visa, a visitor record is an independent document not placed inside a passport.

Transitioning to Worker Status as an International Student

International students can also transition to worker status with an employer-specific or open work permit.

The key difference between these two types of permits is that employer-specific work permits tie the recipient to a specific employer for a specific period of time in a specific location. An open work permit lets you work for almost any employer in Canada, as long as they have not been deemed ineligible and meet other criteria.

For more on eligibility – which varies depending on if you are inside or outside of Canada – how to apply and the next steps, visit this Government of Canada webpage.

Option 3: Leave Canada

International students who defer their enrollment in Canada may also simply choose to leave the country. This is a particularly common option for those who know they will not return to their studies within 150 days and those who do not know when the circumstances that led to their deferred enrollment (family emergency etc.) will be resolved.

Discover your options to study in Canada

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