Canada Student Visa-Step By Step Guide

Canada Student Visa Process 

What is Canada Student Visa?

The so called Canada Student Visa or Canada Study visa is actually a Canada Study Permit that allow an international student to study in Canada for a specific period of time at a Designated Learning Institution. Actually, IRCC issues you a study permit to stay in Canada for studies and a visitor visa or eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) for entry to Canada.   (These are 2 different permissions; 1 for staying in Canada for studies and 1 for entering the Canada). Don't worry, if IRCC issues you a Canada Study Permit, it will also issue you a visitor visa or eTA

Canada Student Visa Categories

There are 2 categories for making an application for a Canada study visa:

  • SDS (student direct stream) category
  • General Category

The basic difference in these categories is eligibility requirements to apply for a Canada student visa.

1. SDS (Student Direct Stream) category

  • The very basic requirement to apply Canada study visa under SDS category is that the applicant must be a legal resident of either of these nations: China, India, Morocco, The Philippines, Senegal or Vietnam.
  • You must be outside of Canada while making an application under SDS category
  • Proof of 1st year tuition fee payment in full 
  • Language score in either IELTS Academic exam of at least 6.0 in each section (English language) or TEF of at least 7 in each skill (French Language)

2. General category

If someone is not from a country eligible to apply under SDS category, he/she can apply under general category. You can apply under this category, even if you are from a country eligible for SDS category but you are not satisfying the eligibility requirements i.e. having a little low scores in English/French language exams i.e. overall 6.0 with one or two modules 5.5 in IELTS Academic exam etc. or having scores in English language exam other than IELTS i.e. PTE/TOEFL etc. or unable to pay tuition fee for full 1st year etc.

Canada Student Visa Process:

1. Scoring in English Language Exams: 

The very first step in the process for applying a Canada Study visa is scoring in an English language exam. For getting admitted to an institution in Canada, it is must to have English language scores i.e. IELTS Academic/PTE Academic/TOEFL (iBT) etc. But it is advised to preferably score in IELTS Academic exam, as most of the institutions/universities in Canada requires an IELTS score for offering admission. However, PTE Academic score or TOEFL (iBT) or even Doulingo English Test scores are also acceptable at a number of universities/institutions, but with IELTS scores you have a large pool of institutions to apply at. 

In IELTS Academic exam, you should score at least overall band score of 6.0 with no individual score less than 6.0. With this score, you can apply for Canada Student Visa under SDS category, which requires limited documents to be submitted with a visa application and also, it has better success rate as compared to applying Canada Study Permit under General category, which requires a number of additional documents to be submitted with visa application & more time to process.    

2. Getting admitted at a university/institution in Canada

The next step after getting an English language score is choosing an institutions & a course in Canada for your further studies. For choosing an institutions/university in Canada you should always remember that while making a choice for an institution in Canada, you must choose a Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) & a course which is eligible for Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) in Canada at a DLI. For checking this, whether an institutions is included in the DLI list or not & a course is eligible for PGWP or not, you can use DLI list available at IRCC website. There are some more important points which have to be considered while choosing a course to study in Canada:

  • Always choose a course relevant to either your academic or employment history/background
  • If you have chosen a different course than your academic or employment history/background, you must give sound explanation for this in the statement of purpose for your visa file.
  • Before applying to a course, you must check application deadlines for admission to a course you are interested in (apply well before the application deadlines), its academic requirements as well as English language score requirements or other requirements from respective university’s website.

For getting admitted at an institution in Canada, there are few basic requirements:

  • Color scanned copies of your academic documents (degree certificates & academic transcripts)
  • Color scanned copies of your English Language score
  • Scanned copies of your passports front (page with your personal details) & back page (page with your residential address & parent names)
  • Employment related documents; appointment letter, salary slips & experience letter etc. (if employed)
  • A personal Email ID (Ensure that the Email ID you are going to use for submitting your admission application must be valid & running well because your future correspondence with the respective university/institution is possible only through this Email ID till you won’t get your Canada Student Visa/Canada Study Permit)
  • Application fee (if applicable)

Apart from these basic documents some other documents are also required for admission to master’s degree programs at Canadian Universities:

  • Statement of purpose
  • GMAT/GRE score
  • Detailed CV/Resume
  • Official transcripts of your academic documents
  • Letter of references 

Once you submit your admission application to an institution in Canada, you have to wait for 15-45 days to get your admission offer. However in some cases, Canadian colleges issue an admission offer within a week or less. Till you don’t get your offer, you must check your Email ID regularly. Respective institution might ask you for an additional information or document to assess your admission application. The concerned institution can issue you either a conditional or unconditional offer. If the admission offer is unconditional, you can proceed with your fee payments, but if it is conditional, you must clear those conditions specified in your admission offer before paying your fees. Once you cleared your offer conditions, the concerned institutions will issue you the unconditional offer & now you can proceed with your tuition fees payments.   

3. Paying Your Fees

On receiving an unconditional admission offer, you can pay your tuition fee for respective course either through Wire Transfer, Global Pay/Western Union  or through a nationalized bank in your native country (prefer to pay your fee from your own/parents account & through the method specified in your admission offer). For the bank details of respective institutions in Canada, you must carefully read your offer letter. Once you made your fee payment, it will take 12-24 hours to credit the fee amount in respective institution’s account. On successfully receiving the fee payment, the concerned institution will intimate you about this through an email and within few days (7-14) will issue you the LOA (Letter of Acceptance) & payment receipt, one of the key documents for making a Canada Student Visa application.   

4. Purchasing a GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate)

It is a mandatory requirement to purchase a GIC for Canada Student Visa application when applying through SDS category. A GIC is nothing but an investment of $ 10,000 CAD (this amount might be revised by IRCC or may vary for country to country, so before purchasing a GIC you must visit IRCC website & check eligibility requirements for SDS category) in IRCC recognized financial institutions/banks which assure the availability of funds for living expense for the period of 1st year of study to an international student in Canada. There are a number of financial institutions/banks which offers GIC & meets the criteria for SDS:

  • RBC Royal Bank
  • ICICI Bank
  • Scotiabank
  • HSBC Bank of Canada or
  • Habib Canadian Bank etc.

You can visit these banks official websites for purchasing a GIC; you can find every detail regarding your purchase for GIC here. Remember when you purchased a GIC, the concerned bank will issue you a document from either of these within a period of 7-10 days:

  • A letter of attestation
  • A GIC certificate
  • An investment directions confirmation or
  • An investment balance confirmation  
5. Completing the Medical Examination 

Before you submit your Canada study visa application, you should complete the medical examination. For undergoing the medical examination for Canada immigration you can directly contact (telephonically) the Canada Panel Physicians in your home country & confirm an appointment to undergo the medical examination. You can find the list of Canada Panel Physicians & their contact details at IRCC website. 

Remember to carefully note down the instruction provided by the doctor while booking an appointment, there are some documents required by the concerned doctor to complete the medical examination for Canada Immigration. Usually you are asked to carry these documents for Canada Immigration medical examination:
  • Original passport
  • 2 Color copies of your passport’s front (page with your personal details) & back page (page with your parents & residential details)
  • Eye glasses if you wear them
  • Any previous reports regarding your medical history (optional) 
  • Offer letter (optional)
  • 4 Passport size color photographs  
  • Medical fees (confirm the amount while making appointment)  

On completion of medical examination, the concerned doctor would provide you the medical receipt. Keep this receipt safe as you are going to need this while submitting your Canada Study Permit application. The concerned doctor will submit your medical reports to IRCC directly within few days. 

6. Gathering documents for Canada Student Visa application:

There are a number of mandatory documents required for Canada Study Permit application. These include:

  • Certified color copies of your passport’s front & back page
  • Certified color copies of academic mark-sheets/transcripts
  • Certified color copy of English or French Language exam reports  
  • Digital photograph with light background & 80 % face (please visit Visa photo specification page for more details)
  • LOA-Letter of Acceptance (provided by the university/college in Canada)
  • Tuition fee payment receipt (provided by the university/college in Canada)
  • Work as a mandatory component of studies confirmation letter if work is an essential part of the course  (provided by the university/college in Canada) 
  • GIC Certificate
  • Medical Examination receipt
  • Application for Study permit made outside Canada form-IMM 1294-Fill the form on computer & don't take print out of this for signing it. There is no need to sign this manually, while submitting your visa application online, IRCC will request you to sign your visa application digitally
  • Family Information form-IMM 5645-Fill the form on computer & take print out of it to sign & then scan to PDF file
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Use of representative form-IMM 5476-Fill the form on computer & take print out of it to sign it & then scan it to PDF file (fill this form only if you are appointing someone to assist you with your visa application)
  • Birth Certificate & its English Translation if originally not in English (if you are under 18)
  • Employment documents (appointment letter, pay slips, experience letter & salary statement for last 6 months-preferable)
  • SOP (Statement of Purpose) so called letter of intent or explanation letter
  • CAQ letter if applying to study in Quebec

In case you are applying under General category & not through SDS, these additional documents would also be required:

  • Proof of enough funds to meet your tuition fee, living expense & other expenses related to your study in Canada in terms of FDRs (fixed deposits) or saving bank account statement
  • Income proofs of your financial sponsors i.e parents or someone else who is going to financially support you for your studies in Canada. These might include; Income tax returns, form 16 (in case of government employee), agriculture income certificate (if agriculturist). You may also include Jamabandi Fards/land records & their certified English translation in case your parents are agriculturist
  • Signed sponsorship affidavit 

Note: while arranging your academic mark-sheets/transcripts, keep recent ones at the top in PDF file. Also, while making scanned PDF files of all for these above said documents, keep their size below 4 MB. 

7. Submitting Canada Study Visa Application:

The best convenient method to submit a Canada Student visa application is applying through Online GC Key account. It is quite beneficial to apply online as processing is faster for an online visa application than applying on paper. To create a GC Key account, you have to visit IRCC website ( 

On IRCC website page, click on sign in or create an account to apply online. From here you can register yourself for GC Key by clicking on Register yourself for GC Key. 

Now follow these steps:

  • Click on Sign Up tab
  • Accept terms & conditions
  • Create User Name (try to keep it unique)
  • Create your password
  • Create recovery Question
  • After successfully signing up, accept terms & conditions again 
  • Now Create your GC Key account (remember to fill Given Name/Last Name section exactly according to your passport. In case you don't have a last name in passport, fill your given name in last name & left given name blank)
  • Now create security questions
  • Ones you set your security questions, your GC Key account will be created 
  • Now click on Apply to Come to Canada given under Start An Application label  
  • Now click on Visitor Visa/Study &/or Work Permit tab given under determine your eligibility & apply online label
  • From here on you have to answer some simple questions & you will be directed to your documents checklist interface
  • Now you have to upload your documents in specified columns  given for a particular document
  • On submitting all your documents at their specified place, IRCC will ask you to sign your application digitally. Now follow the instructions given by IRCC to sign your application digitally. 

8. Paying your Canada Student Visa Fees:

On signing your visa application for Canada Study Permit you are asked to pay your application fees for Canada Study Permit along with fees for Bio-Metrics enrollment. The combined fees for both is $ 150 CAD (Canada Study Permit Application fees) + $ 85 CAD (Bio-Metrics Enrollment fees) = $ 235 CAD. You can pay your fees by using either credit card, prepaid card or debit card.

Acceptable Credit & Prepaid Cards:

  • Visa
  • MasterCard 
  • American Express 
  • JCB
  • Union Pay

Acceptable Debit Cards:

  • Visa Debit

On paying the fees for your Canada Student Visa application, it would be successfully submitted in IRCC records for further processing. 

9. Canada Biometrics Appointment:

Once your Canada Student visa application is submitted, you will receive a bio metrics enrollment letter in your GC Key account within 2-5 days. Now you have to submit your bio-metrics at a VAC Canada (Visa Application Centre) in your home country. Now follow these steps to book an appointment at a VAC: 

  • Open website, select your country & continue 
  • Now on opening the website click on schedule an appointment
  • Now scroll down the page & click on online tab 
  • Now click on the Please click here to schedule an appointment tab
  • Create an account using your Email ID & a Contact No. by clicking on New User tab 
  • Now you have to activate your VFS account through your Email ID 
  • Once your account with VFS is activated, you can use it to schedule an appointment for bio-metrics enrollment
  • For booking an appointment, login to your VFS account & then click on schedule an appointment tab
  • Now select your preferred VAC, No. of Applicants & Select the category (Bio-Metrics Enrollment) & click on Continue 
  • From here click on Add Applicant tab
  • Submit your details here as per your passport
  • Now verify the OTP send to your registered Email ID
  • Once your verify the OTP, you will be asked to choose a suitable date & timing to confirm your appointment. On confirming your appointment, you will receive an appointment  message in your Email ID as well as Registered contact No. 
  • Now you just have to visit the respective VAC & submit your bio-metrics.
  • Once you submit your bio-Metrics, it will be automatically submitted/updated to your GC Key account

10. Canada Student Visa Processing Time: 

Once you submit your bio-metrics, IRCC takes 2-4 weeks to finalize the Canada Student Visa application under normal circumstances. In some exceptional circumstances, it may take more than 4 weeks (even 12 weeks) to finalize a Canada Student Visa application, where IRCC requires some additional verification of documents provided with the visa application or as in case of some emergency due to which IRCC process only limited visa applications i.e. COVID 19 Pandemic. Canada Student Visa Processing time may be updated from time to time based on the rush of applications in IRCC and usually varies from country to country

For knowing an updated processing time for your country/region you can access IRCC's Check Processing Times page.  

11. Submitting your passport for visa stamping:

Once your visa application has been finalized and you have been approved a Canada Student Visa, you will receive a passport submission request in your GC Key account. You can submit your passport at the same VAC where you submitted your bio-metrics. This time you don't need to book an appointment for passport submission, you can go directly to the VAC. Remember to carry your original passport along with passport submission request letter issued by IRCC. Within a week or maximum of 10 days you will receive your passport at the address you provided at VAC while submitting your passport. Once you received your passport, you can travel to Canada from the starting date of your study permit mentioned in your passport.  

Important: it is very important for you to note down your user name, password & recovery questions/security questions, so that you can easily access your GC Key account. Check validity of your passport before submitting at VAC. Remember to validate the IMM 1294 before submitting the visa application. It must be valid enough for the period you wish to study in Canada i.e. if your course is 2 years duration, then your passport should be valid enough for at least 2.5 years. Preferred to submit a passport with at least 5 years remaining validity so that in future you can use same passport for applying PGWP (Post Graduation Work Permit). While travelling to Canada keep your correspondence letter/letter of Introduction with you that you received in your GC Key account regarding approval of your Canada Study Permit along with other documents.

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