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What can I do with a Canadian study permit? The dos and don’ts students should know

Canadian study permit rules: Two men are waving the Canadian flag in front of the parliament building in Ottawa
Holding a Canadian study permit comes with benefits and some restrictions, depending on your mode of study. Source: Lars Hagberg / AFP

Are you all cleared to study in Canada? Congratulations! There are many opportunities available to you as a student visa holder, but it’s important to be fully aware of Canadian study permit rules, so that you’re aware of your rights as an international student.

Your study permit is an important document that allows you to travel, live, and work in Canada throughout your years of study. It is directly linked to your Designated Learning Institution (DLI) to ensure that you honour the enrolment terms of your university and your status as an international student in the True North.

For this reason, there are several restrictions that apply to study permit holders, including work hours and university transfers. Here are some important Canadian study permit rules to be mindful of as an international student:

Canadian study permit rules: What can I do with a study visa?

Canadian study permit rules: A group of students walk in front of a building

Canadian study permit holders can work on and off-campus without a work permit, as long as they maintain their active student status. Source: Geoff Robins/AFP

You can…

Work on and off-campus

Under Canadian study permit rules, you are only allowed to work on campus without a work permit if you’re registered as a full-time student at a DLI. You must also have a Social Insurance Number (SIN), which is a nine-digit number issued by the Canadian government that will make you eligible for employment.

On-campus” is generally defined as all the buildings that fall within the campus that you’re enrolled in. You are allowed to work at other locations if you’re employment is linked to a research grant, or you’re working as a teaching or research assistant.

Similar conditions apply for off-campus work, except that you must be studying in a programme that leads to a degree, diploma, or a certificate for at least six months long.

You can only work off-campus as a part-time student in your final semester in a situation where you no longer need a full course load to complete your studies. You would also need to be a full-time student up until that point.

You can’t…

Work more than 20 hours a week during the academic term

This applies to both on and off-campus work. Your working hours are capped at 20 hours weekly to ensure that you have ample time to dedicate your energy to your studies. Even taking a full course load and working part-time isn’t advisable, as the pressure can be too much to bear. However, you may work full-time without a work permit during the summer, as long as you maintain your student status at your DLI.

You can…

Get a provincial identification card

There’s no need to carry your passport around all the time. The provincial card, like the ones issued in Ontario and Alberta, is a government-issued identification that can be used in place of a passport for non-immigration purposes. You can travel within the country and enter places that require IDs.

As long as you can prove that you’re a legal resident of Canada for more than 90 days, applying for the card is quite simple. You can check with the international student centre on campus or your respective province on steps to apply for the provincial identification card.

You can’t…

Switch to another university without approval

Since the DLI is tied to your study permit, changing universities can be a complicated process. To qualify for a university transfer you must first maintain your student status in Canada. You must then contact the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIC) immediately if:

  • you’re changing universities as a post-secondary student changing schools
  • have a co-op work permit and have changed to a co-op programme in another university or
  • need to make changes to your study permit conditions

Your old university will unregister you as a student if you fail to notify the CIC, which could lead you to lose your study permit and eligibility to remain in the country.

You can…

File for tax returns

Since most international students in Canada are considered residents for income tax purposes, you’re eligible for annual tax claims. Filing for taxes can look like a lot of work, but international student centres on campus often have guides and services that can assist you with the procedure.

The deadline to file income tax returns is on April 30 each year, and if you’re filing your taxes for the first time, you will need several documents to support your tax claims. Alternatively, you can always hire an accountant to do the paperwork on your behalf. To know more about how to file your taxes, click here.