Study Permits are governed by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SC 2001, c. 27 and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227.
Foreign Nationals Except Some Minor Children
IRPA s. 30(1) states that a foreign national – that is to say, any person who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident (but may have some other status such as a temporary resident, a protected person, or a person registered under the Indian Act) requires authorization to work or study in Canada (repeated in IRPR s. 212). IRPA s. 30(1.1) states that the requirements for authorization will be set out in the Regulations, and they are largely set out at IRPR ss. 213-222.
However, IRPA s. 30(2) states unequivocally:
Every minor child in Canada, other than a child of a temporary resident not authorized to work or study, is authorized to study at the pre-school, primary or secondary level.
Children without any status, children of refugee claimants, children who are refugee claimants, and the children holding many other forms of status do not need a study permit to study in Canada.
The Regulations add some common-sense clarifications, including that if you are coming to Canada in order to study, you generally need a study permit (IRPR s. 9). Persons on study permits benefit from “implied status”, meaning that if they apply to renew/extend their study permit before it expires, they can continue studying until they get a decision (IRPR s. 189).
Under IRPR s. 188, you don’t need a study permit if:
- You’re a diplomat or the family member (e.g. spouse or dependent child) of a diplomat (IRPR s. 188(1)(a));
- You’re a member of the armed forces of a country designated under the Visiting Forces Act (IRPR s. 188(1)(b));
- You are “an Indian” (IRPR s. 188(1)(d)); or
- “[I]f the duration of their course or program of studies is six months or less and will be completed within the period for their stay authorized upon entry into Canada” (IRPR s. 188(1)(c))
Benefits of a Study Permit
There are a handful of benefits to holding a study permit that might make it worthwhile to apply even if it is not necessary. There is an effectively meaningless waiver of the requirement to obtain a visa to re-enter Canada after a visit to the US or St. Pierre and Miquelon (IRPR s. 190(3)(f)). More helpful is the several ways holding a study permit can facilitate working in Canada, for example:
- If you have a study permit, you can apply for a work permit from within Canada (IRPR s. 199(c)).
- Although the ability to support oneself without working is generally a prerequisite for granting a study permit (IRPR s. 220), having suddenly run out of or been cut off from funding is grounds for a work permit to be issued (IRPR s. 208(a)).
- Having a history authorized study in Canada – meaning with a study permit or while exempt under IRPR s. 188 – can garner additional points when applying for some immigration programs (IRPR s. 83(1)(b) and (b.1) with (2)); IRPR s. 105(1)(b) with (3)).
- If you have a study permit and you are studying full-time at a university or college, you can work on campus without needing a work permit at all (IRPR s. 186(f))
Having recently engaged in unauthorized study in Canada is a reason to refuse an otherwise acceptable work permit application (IRPR s. 200(3)(e)). The work permit cannot be issued if the unauthorized study was within six month (and, in practice, even older unauthorized study may cause an officer to find that you will not respect other conditions and therefore to refuse the application). Therefore if there is any doubt about whether you require a study permit, and you hope to transition to work in Canada, it is far safer to obtain the study permit first.
So if I don’t need a study permit, I can study?
Unfortunately, that’s more complicated, because immigration is run by the Federal Government, and education is run by the provinces/territories. Moreover, there is a difference between being able to study, and being able to study for free, even at a publicly-funded school.
First, you have to consider whether you are a minor under provincial law.
|British Columbia||19||Age of Majority Act, RSBC 1996, c. 7, s. 1, https://canlii.ca/t/84gw#sec1|
|Alberta||18||Age of Majority Act, RSA 2000, c A-6, s. 1, https://canlii.ca/t/8218#sec1|
|Saskatchewan||18||The Age of Majority Act, RSS 1978, c. A-6, s. 2, https://canlii.ca/t/h71m|
|Manitoba||18||The Age of Majority Act, CCSM c. A7, s 1, https://canlii.ca/t/8ggl#sec1|
|Ontario||18||Age of Majority and Accountability Act, RSO 1990, c. A.7, s. 1, https://canlii.ca/t/7r#sec1|
|Quebec*||18||Youth Protection Act, CQLR c P-34.1, s. 1, https://canlii.ca/t/xj3#sec1|
|New Brunswick||19||Age of Majority Act, RSNB 2011, c 103, s. 1, https://canlii.ca/t/8psd#sec1|
|Nova Scotia||19||Age of Majority Act, RSNS 1989, c 4, s. 2, https://canlii.ca/t/87mj#sec2|
|Prince Edward Island||18||Age of Majority Act, RSPEI 1988, c A-8, s. 1, https://canlii.ca/t/k3tn|
|Newfoundland & Labrador||19||Age of Majority Act, SNL 1995, c A-4.2, s. 2, https://canlii.ca/t/jz80|
|Yukon||19||Age of Majority Act, RSY 2002, c. 2, s. 1, https://canlii.ca/t/kfw4|
|Northwest Territories||19||Age of Majority Act, RSNWT 1988, c. A-2, s. 2, https://canlii.ca/t/51xgs|
|Nunavut||19||Child and Family Services Act, SNWT (Nu) 1997, c. 13, https://canlii.ca/t/548ms and Age of Majority Act, RSNWT 1988, c. A-2, s. 2, https://canlii.ca/t/51xgs|
Second, you have to consider the requirements for enrolment and for fee exemptions in each province.
In Ontario, the Education Act, RSO 1990, c. E.2 determines who can attend school. It is mandatory for children between the ages of six and eighteen to attend some sort of approved education (s. 21(1)). Exceptions are made for homeschooling, children living in extremely remote locations, children who cannot attend school due to illness “or other unavoidable cause” (s. 21(1)(a)-(c)). Exceptions are also made for those who graduated early, absent temporarily for religious reasons or specialist instruction, or if otherwise provided for under the Education Act (s. 21(1)(d)-(h)). Payment from the province for students attending school is based on school boards and taxation. The Education Act requires schools to charge fees to temporary residents and study permit holders (s. 49(6)). However, a school board is prohibited from charging fees to various categories of children or dependents, including refugee claimants, people who have submitted applications for permanent residence in Canada, and the dependents of work permit holders (s. 49(7)). Furthermore, a school or school board is prohibited from refusing to enroll a child because of their lack of status or their parents’ lack of status (s. 49.1). This is also set out in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 136 from the Ontario Ministry of Education. Potential students who are not exempt from fees can pay very high tuition; for example, the Toronto District School Board charges $16,000 per year. Families facing difficulty enrolling their children in school in Ontario should contact Justice for Children and Youth.
Recent amendments to the Quebec Education Act, CQLR c. I-13.3 also entitle many children without status to free education. Those who do not qualify must pay fees similar to those in Toronto, at least in Montreal where they are about $13,000. The organization Education Across Boarders Collective/Collectif éducation sans frontières works in this area in Quebec.
In Alberta, the Education Act, SA 2012, c. E-0.3 appears to exclude persons without status from guaranteed education. Section 3(1) entitles to education anyone who is between 6 and 19 years old, “a resident of Alberta”, and “who has a parent who is a resident of Canada”. Such attendance is compulsory under s. 7, with some exceptions. Under s. 1(4)(a) and (b), both require that the person be “lawfully entitled to be or to remain in Canada”, and excludes tourists and visitors. Once those who must be enrolled under s. 3 are enrolled (or in other words, if there is room once all legal residents are enrolled), boards may enroll non-residents and may charge them fees (ss. 12 and 13).