Everything that you wanted to know about study visa but were too afraid to ask

by Jenny Rokhline

Study visa – This is a visa that allows you to temporarily remain in Canada as a student. The immigration officer will therefore be looking at your visa application through the lens of temporary residence. The officer must be that you are a true (bona fide) student, and that the main purpose behind your visa application is your desire to study in Canada.

To apply for a study visa to Canada, the applicant must first provide confirmation of enrollment in a course/program in a Canadian educational institution. It is important that your educational institution appears on the list of approved institutions published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. It is also important that the type of program is not one of distance learning.

Choice of Program – Since the officer must be sure that the applicant is a bona fide student, it is important that the program that is being applied for is understood by the officer. We usually tell our clients that their choice of program needs to make sense. For example, if the applicant works as a doctor in their home country, then an application for a laboratory technician program will raise many questions in the mind of the officer. On the other hand, if this same doctor applies for specialized education in a certain area of medicine – which, for instance, is not well-developed in their home country but is better developed in Canada – there is an opportunity to put together a convincing visa application.

Since a study visa is a temporary residence visa, the officer will also need to be sure that the student will leave Canada at the end of the program or the visa’s duration. To prove this to the officer, you must show:

  • Ties to your home country: Finances, availability of jobs, demand on specialists with the type of education the applicant is planning to receive, etc. The items on this list are not mandatory, and evidence proving “ties to your home country” can be very varied and dependant on each specific situation.


  • Availability of funds for study (financial means): The officer must be sure that the applicant has sufficient means to support themselves in Canada for the period of their studies. Despite the fact that the Information Guide says that it is enough for an applicant to show sufficient funds to pay for only their first year of study, in reality the officer very often examine financial means going beyond that one year requirement. Yes, it is a mistake for an officer to refuse your application on the basis of financial means if the applicant can show means to support themselves for a year. If this happens, you can appeal this decision to a court, but you likely will not, since an application to the court costs far more money than a re-application, and the court will take a long time to decide your matter.


  • Purpose of the visit: The selection of a study program is an especially personal process. Choose a study program that will help you in your profession and your work. If the program you chose differs at its core from your regular area of work, be prepared to explain your decision to the officer in detail, maybe pointing to the lack of a similar program in your home country, or the great quality of this program in Canada (these are just some examples).


  • Initial Intention: Despite the fact that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act  allows applicants to have dual intent when coming to Canada (i.e. come as a temporary resident, and then apply for permanent residence), the officer must be sure that your initial intention in Canada is to stay temporarily.


How we can help

Since we are practicing lawyers, we assemble every application for any program not only with consideration of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, but also its established interpretation and the surrounding jurisprudence. Every self-respecting lawyer will tell you that when they are assembling an immigration application and supporting documents, they always think of how this application would look before a court. Of course, this does not mean that the application will ever get to a judge, but our job is to prepare such an application that if it becomes necessary to appeal to a court, the judge will have before him clear proof the the immigration officer made an error in reviewing the application.

  1. Purpose of the visit – We will help to make your letter to the officer convincing and easy to understand. Relying on both our knowledge of the jurisprudence and our experience, we will assist you to draft a letter that explains to the officer why you want to study, what criteria you relied on in choosing your program, and what you expect from it.
  2. Collection of documents – We will let you know what specific documents would work best to confirm your ties to your home country, your financial means, and the purpose of your visit.
  3. Cover letter – Along with helping you to gather your own documents, we will draft an accompanying detailed cover letter which will be tailored to your circumstances and situation.



Can I apply for a study visa on my own? – Of course you can. And if you are sure that your application is convincing and that you are complying with all of the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, you can apply on your own. If you application is denied, there is an opportunity to apply for the visa again, but this time fixing the problems identified by the officer in your previous application. A re-application after a refusal is far more difficult than an initial application for a study visa. The re-application must address the problems in the previous application and must convince the officer that your new application is different and better than your previous one. Since re-applications require more work than initial applications, our legal fees are higher for re-applications.

How can we assist you?