Sometimes it is hard to visualize the entire process and journey of an international student in British Columbia. I live in Victoria, British Columbia, which is near Vancouver. Many international students come to Victoria and Vancouver for study. But what processes do these students undergo to be allowed to study in British Columbia? There are many factors to consider. One of the most important steps to fully understand is the immigration process; specifically, the correct way (and incorrect way), of obtaining a study permit. Without following key steps, at key times, you may find that your son or daughter, is suddenly without a permit and cannot leave the country. This blog will focus on the importance of understanding the law with respect to getting a proper visitors visa and study permit.

As a teacher of international students, I am always confronted with the realities of immigration law. For example, our school planned a trip to the United States, which was intended as a mandatory, all grades, trip. Unforeseen by our staff, many of our international students did not have up to date study permits, and this prevented them from exiting the country (if you exit the county on an expired permit you will not be allowed back in). In the end, these unfortunate students were unable to accompany their friends on the trip. It was a tragic situation that should have, and could have been avoided. Let’s look at the correct steps to getting a study permit, and how to make sure it remains up to date.



Understanding if You Need a Study Permit

There are some instances that do not require a study permit. If you are taking any of the following, you will not require a study permit.

  • Attending a pre-school
  • Completing a distance learning program (online learning)
  • A non-credit academic course (also known as an audit course)
  • Courses included in a tour package (such as a secondary activity for tourists)
  • Taking a course that is non-academic, professional, or vocational – that is, it doesn’t relate to career, employment, or academics.
  • Taking any course that is 6 months or less in duration

Having said that, if you are taking any other courses or programs in Canada that are not mentioned above, it is likely that you will require a study permit. Consult this list of Designated Learning Institutions to be sure your intended program is recognized by the Canadian government.

Step 1- Eligibility and Admissibility

Step one begins back in your home country. Several factors will make you ineligible for a study permit in Canada. You should first determine if any of them apply to you before going through with any applications. These factors include: past criminality, serious medical conditions, insufficient finances, having an accompanying family member who has a criminal past. These factors are known in a legal sense, as being “inadmissible” to Canada. So regardless if you’ve been accepted to the school of your dreams, you will still not be able to enter the country. If you are inadmissible for any reason, there are ways to overcome this, but it would require a specialist, such as a certified immigration consultant to properly approach; that is my advice, at least.

Step 2 – Obtaining a LOA (Letter of Acceptance) from a Designated Learning Institution

Once you have determined that you are legally allowed to enter the country (you are not inadmissible), then the second step is to seek out a school and apply. If you are applying to K-12 boarding schools in Canada, I suggest you apply between January and April. This is commonly the time when boarding schools start to reassess their enrollment numbers for the following year, and give out acceptance letters. If you are an international student, sometimes your chances of acceptance are influenced by when you apply. Applying late in the season, such as May or June, will limit your choices, as many spots may have filled up. This is why many international families decide to hire an education consultant. They will take on the application process and ensure everything is done properly. These education consultants also have strong ties to the sector, and will act as an “in” for your child’s application.

If you are applying to a post-secondary institution, college, or university, you may consult the specific program website for application deadlines. Because many of these schools operate year-round, on a semester-based system, you will have several opportunities to apply throughout the year for different entry points. Having said that, planning and preparation