Who can study in Canada without a study permit?

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: May 2, 2024

In light of the recent news that Canada will be capping the number of international study permits issued over the next two years, foreign nationals may be looking to see if they qualify to study in Canada without a study permit.

Although most foreign nationals who want to pursue an education in Canada must obtain a study permit, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) indicates that there are certain exemptions to this requirement.

Specifically, according to IRCC, this may be a possibility for foreign nationals who qualify under one of the following eight categories.

Discover your options to study in Canada

Short-term students

International students who are coming to Canada for a post-secondary program that is six months or shorter in length do not require a study permit.

Family or staff of foreign representatives

If you are related to (a family member) or work for (a staff member) an individual who is accredited by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) as a foreign representative to Canada, you may not require a permit to study in Canada.

Note: Your embassy can contact GAC to clarify whether you need a study permit.

Members of the foreign armed forces of a country designated under the Visiting Forces Act

Certain members of foreign armed forces groups who are on official duty in Canada do not need a study permit to pursue an education here.

Specifically, this pertains to individuals who are either military or designated civilian personnel) for the armed forces of a country that is designated under Canada’s Visiting Forces Act (VFA). It is worth noting that the family members of foreign armed forces personnel who want to study in Canada, including minor children, may still require a study permit.

Note: Qualified armed forces personnel should possess a letter of acceptance from Canada’s Department of National Defence.

Registered Indians in Canada

Those with Registered Indian status in Canada, even if they are citizens of another country, do not need a permit to study in Canada.

Note: Having Registered Indian status is not the same as being a citizen or resident of India. It instead refers to having status as an indigenous person in Canada.

Minor children in Canada

In the following five scenarios, minor children do not need a study permit to pursue an education in Canada:

  • The minor child is a refugee or refugee claimant
  • The parents of the minor child are refugees or refugee claimants
  • The minor child’s parents are Canadian citizens or permanent residents
  • The minor child is attending preschool, primary school or secondary school, accompanied by a parent who is authorized to study or work in Canada
  • The minor child is attending preschool, primary school or secondary school but they are unaccompanied in Canada

Temporary residents and asylum seekers taking French language and culture courses

Eligible temporary residents or asylum seekers in Canada do not require a study permit to take French language and cultural integration courses in Quebec.

Temporary residents taking settlement and integration courses

Individuals taking provincially or territorially administered settlement and integration courses to help them settle into Canada do not require a study permit.

Workers who can study without a study permit 

Foreign workers in Canada may be eligible to study without a study permit if they:

  • Have a valid work permit that was issued on or before June 7, 2023; or
  • Have been issued a letter on or before June 7, 2023, which authorizes them to work while IRCC processes their work permit application/extension

The benefits of applying for and obtaining a study permit

While there are some opportunities for foreign nationals to pursue an education in Canada without a study permit, there are certain benefits to applying for and obtaining a study permit from IRCC.

For minor children in Canada

According to IRCC, minor children in Canada with a valid study permit may open themselves up to additional opportunities, programs and services, including:

  • Secondary school co-op work permits
  • Social services (in some provinces/territories)
  • The ability to transition between education levels without changing permits or applying for a new one

Note: Minor children who want to continue studying in Canada must apply for a study permit when they reach the age of majority (either 18 or 19 years old, depending on the province or territory).

General benefits of a study permit: working while studying

Only registered full-time students with a study permit at a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI) may work on or off campus while pursuing their education, depending on the conditions listed on their permit.

Students without a study permit, meanwhile, cannot work while studying in Canada and they must instead apply for a separate work permit.

Discover your options to study in Canada

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