Change Status from Visitor to Student

You’ve spent the last 2 months in Canada and your visit has been wonderful. You still have 4 months left on your visitor visa and you hear about a university here in Canada that has a program you’re interested in. You phone home and tell your surprised parents:

I want to stay here and study in Canada!

Now what do you do?

 

How to go from being a Visitor to Getting that Study Permit

The first step is to make sure that you’re eligible to stay in Canada and apply for a Study Permit. If you are in Canada on a valid Temporary Resident Visa (also called a Visitor Visa), then you have already been screened and accepted as a visitor, so you are almost certainly neither a threat to Canada’s security nor are you a possible criminal. However, just to be sure, it is best to be prepared to have to provide a police certificate at some point in the process that we’ll outline for you below.

The next step is to apply for a Study Permit which will allow you to stay in Canada as a Student rather than as a tourist. Aside from having a valid passport and not being ineligible to stay in Canada for security, criminal or health reasons, we need to find out who can apply for Study Permit from inside Canada.

  • A minor child at the primary or secondary school level. Please note that in Canada, what we call Age of Majority – the age at which you are no longer a minor – varies from province to province, as follows:
    • 18 years of age in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan
    • 19 years of age British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Yukon
    • This means that a minor in the first group of provinces/territories is someone who is 17 or younger, while a minor in the second group of provinces/territories is someone who is 18 or younger.
  • An exchange or visiting student: both types study at a Canadian host post-secondary school for a determined period (often for a single year or for a single term). Exchange students do not pay tuition costs to the Canadian host post-secondary institution. Visiting students do pay tuition costs to the Canadian host institution
  • A student who has completed a short-term course of study (usually for a single term) at a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI), as an obligatory prerequisite to attending the post-secondary school on a full-time basis
  • A sponsored spouse/common-law partner who are in Canada and have applied for permanent residence
  • Someone in Canada who already has a study permit issued abroad and wishes to extend it for further study in Canada
  • Family members of athletes, media members, clergy, or military personnel from abroad who have been stationed or assigned to work in Canada
  • Family and staff of accredited foreign representatives.

If you are not on this list, then you will have to leave Canada and apply for a Study Permit from outside of Canada. How could you avoid this?

One route would be to apply to a school in Canada in order to take a short-term course as a prerequisite to gaining admission as a full-time student. As long as the course is less than 6 months you do not need a Study Permit. You can then apply for a Study Permit from within Canada for full-time studies, as long as the short-term course you are taking is a prerequisite to full-time admission to your school of choice.

The next step is to apply to a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)in Canada. These are post-secondary educational institutions (universities, colleges, community colleges, vocational schools, trade schools, etc.) that have been approved by provincial or territorial authorities to host international students. Go here to see a list of DLI’s in Canada and for further information.

Once you have applied, you have to hope that you will be accepted as an international student at your chosen DLI, before youy visitor visa expires. And of course, that you will be able to take a short-term course (less than 6 months) that will allow you to apply for a Study Permit from inside Canada. But remember this must happen before your visitor visa expires. This is because you must already have a letter of acceptance from a DLI when you apply for your study permit.

In Ontario, for example, October is the earliest you can start applying for the following academic year which generally starts in late August or early September. You can apply closer to the deadline – which is often around February – but the later you apply, the lower your chances of gaining a place as an international student. February to August is 6 months of course, and if you’ve already used up a couple of months of your Visitor Visa, then you’ll have decide whether to:

 

Apply for an extension of your Visitor Visa

This will give you additional time to gather your needed documents as well as to be obtain your Letter of Acceptance from the DLI you are planning to study at. Please note that if you apply to extend your stay you will have to wait for your extension of your Visitor Visa to be approved. You should therefore apply for an extension at least 30 days before your original Visitor Visa expires. To apply for an extension to your visitor visa:

  • use form IMM 5708: Application to Change Conditions, Extend my Stay or Remain in Canada as a Visitor or a Temporary Resident Holder
  • Make sure that your passport will remain valid over the entire period you are planning to stay in Canada. Otherwise, renew your passport before you begin to apply for an extension of your visitor visa, (or before you directly apply for a Study Permit if you get accepted quickly into a DLI). You will need a valid passport as part of your application for a Study Permit.
  • You can apply for an extension as many times as you wish, but each time you will have to complete form IMM 5708 and pay the fees. Remember to click on the “Validate” button before you print the form, which will enable you to print the barcode page which should be included with your application. You must then await the IRCC’s decision. You will need the following when you apply:
    • A valid passport or proof of identity (in the case of US citizens)
    • Full details informing them why you are seeking an extension
    • Proof of current status in Canada (your original or current Visitor Visa)
    • Financial proof that you can pay for your extended stay in Canada
    • Your fees for extending your stay as a visitor in Canada are the following:
      • $100 per person to extend your stay as a visitor
      • $100 per person to restore your status as a visitor

Please note that you must restore your status as a visitor if you lose your visitor status because your Temporary Resident Visa or even your passport has expired, or you have failed to meet other conditions of your legal temporary residence in Canada. You should be careful to avoid this situation if you can because it means additional time and cost and may make you ineligible for a Study Permit in the worst of cases, or at least delay your application and force you to return home and apply from abroad.

 

OR

Visit the US

Apply to visit the United States, (or return to the US if you are an American Citizen) and then apply for a Study Permit – in person or by mail – through the Visa Application Centre in Los Angeles. As well you can also return to your home country and apply by mail to the VAC in Los Angeles. Go here and here for more information. You will be applying for a Study Permit from outside of Canada, so you will need to use form IMM 1294: Application For Study Permit Made Outside of Canada. You will also have to fill out form IMM 5645 or IMM 5707: Family Information. Which one you have to fill out depends on the country you are from. Go here for more information. Your fees are as follows:

  • Study permit: CAD$150
  • Biometric Fee (per person): CAD$85
  • Biometric Fee (per person): CAD$170

Remember to go here for information on how to pay online. You will need:

  • A valid Credit Card,
  • An email address, and
  • Access to a printer

If you are able to remain in Canada because you have successfully extended your Visitor Visa as explained above, then the next step is to go ahead and apply for a Study Permit from inside Canada. To do this you will need form IMM 5709: Application to Change Conditions, Extend My Stay, or Remain in Canada as a Student. This is your application for a Study Permit, like IMM 5708 outlined above for people applying from outside Canada, but in this case form IMM 5709 is for people applying from inside Canada. You will need the following information along with the documents or forms listed in the Document Checklist IMM 5555:

  • Your acceptance letter,
  • Information on your program of study,
  • Your start and finish dates of your program of study
  • Proof of financial support while you study in Canada, including:
    • Bank statements
    • Letters with details of any scholarships you have been granted
    • Information or letters explaining the arrangements between you and any person who will be providing financial support for your study in Canada

 

What if I’m still a minor applying from Inside Canada?

Remember that minors are allowed to apply for a study permit from within Canada if they are attending primary or secondary school. In the case, however, that you are, for example, 17 years old and applying to attend first-year at a DLI in Ontario, or 18 years old and applying to attend a DLI in BC, then the normal route is to apply for your study permit from abroad. However, if you can attend a short-term course of study at the DLI you have applied to and then be accepted at that DLI conditional on competing your short-term course, you may be able to apply from within Canada.

However, if your parents will not be accompanying you during your post-secondary studies in Canada you will need either:

  • A legal guardian in Canada: this is someone who has the legal authority and the corresponding duty to care for the personal interests of the person under their legal guardianship.
  • A custodian in Canada: this is a responsible adult who is either a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada who will take care of and support a minor child. If you do not have a parent or a legal guardian accompanying you in Canada when you study, you will need to fill out a Custodianship Declaration Form, IMM 5645E. Go here to see a sample of one. Please note that the form contains two almost identical pages. Complete BOTH pages completely even if the information you give is duplicated. Then you must:
    • Have your Custodian sign the First Page, and have it notarized (which means certified by a lawyer or attorney) in Canada
    • Have your Parents or your Legal Guardians sign the Second Page, and have it notarized in your home country

The fee for a study permit is $150. If you need to restore your status you'll have to pay $350 ($200 to restore status plus $150 for the study permit).

Unless you have previously been an international student and for some reason lost your status, the fee for restoring status won’t apply to someone trying to change their status from a visitor to a student.

Having said the above, if you don't fall under any of those categories, would you still be able to apply for a study permit without having to leave Canada? The answer is yes, you can. You will need to submit your application under the overseas process procedure. Meanwhile, you need to maintain your valid visitor status in Canada. And you will have to leave Canada to attend an interview at a visa office, if required.

Either way, you’ll have chosen a good post-secondary school in Canada to further your education and have taken the first steps to perhaps living and working in Canada. Good luck!

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