Step-by-step guide for International Students to study in Canada

Thousands of would-be students desire to study in Canada, home to some of the world’s best higher institutions and great cities full of promise. The country is home to twenty-one (21) of the world’s top 500 universities and thirty-two (32) in the top 1,000. In 2018, Canada was home to approximately 572,415 study permit holders.

It is said that Canadian universities offer some of the world’s best study courses and programs and is home to some of the world’s top academic institutions and leading research universities. So just how do you get to qualify to study in Canada when you know nothing about university admissions in your own country let alone in Canada? We have the answers in this article. Read more for a step-by-step guide to applying for a Canada Study Permit.

Study in Canada: Step-By-Step Guide for International Students

1. Ensure you understand all requirements

Successfully applying to a Canadian post-secondary school requires an understanding of the various requirements for schools and the courses that they offer. Students also need to carry out a careful analysis of the rules and regulations relevant to the study permit application process. Only government-recognised schools and periods of approved study will be necessary.

Ideally, you should start preparing for your Canadian study permit at least a year – if not more – in advance. Major requirements for all colleges and universities include an up-to-date passport, an English language proficiency test, like the TOEFL or IELTS and proof of how you intend to finance your study as well as the cost of living in Canada. Of course, requirements may slightly differ between provinces, which is why you need to be sure to check the school requirements and follow the steps in a careful and systematic manner. Detailed requirements for each course here: Complete list of requirements to study in Canada as an international student.

Step 2: Choose your Preferred Course of study and Institution

The next step towards choosing an education higher institution is to to be sure of its status as a Designated Learning Institution. Only DLIs can admit international students. Please note that you will be required to finalize a specific major course when filing to study in Canada. The Canadian academic structure is flexible towards switching courses, although it is best to compare your options more carefully and choose a course that you are truly interested in pursuing.

Recommended: Admission requirement for different universities in Canada.

Step 3: Take the Language Proficiency Test

In order to successfully gain entry into any Canadian post-secondary institution, every international student will have to show proficiency in English or French. IELTS is the most preferred test for proficiency in English, with some other schools also accepting TOEFL exam score or the Advance Cambridge English exam.

For French, you can opt for DELF, DALF, or TCF, although the TEF exams are the most popular option. Choose the test you are required to take, pay the fee, and book your dates well in advance. Of course, you may have to brush up your language skills in (reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing) to ensure your application does not get rejected.

Recommended: How to study abroad without the IELTS exam.

Step 4: Apply to Universities

Now it is time to start applying to the universities of your choice, obtain their application forms, and submit them well in advance. Having the choice of applying to various higher institutions can be advantageous but you will have to consider the application cost, which varies from $100 to $250. Carefully select the institution you want. Compare your options, choose your preferred course of study, and select one or two alternatives as backups.

You be careful when filling in the application packs and ensure you provide accurate information that can be proved. Once this process is done, it is time to face the agonizing wait until you get your acceptance. Usually, once you confirm your interest, the school will send an acceptance letter, which plays an important role in the formalities ahead.

Step 5: Apply for a Study Permit

Now that you have a school ready to grant you admission, it is time to apply for the Canada Study Permit. You can the local visa application centre in your country or apply online. Your application must include the following:

  • Acceptance letter,
  • Your passport,
  • And documentary proof that you have sufficient finances to study in Canada.

If you registered to an institution in the Quebec province, then you will also receive, along with the acceptance letter, a “Certificat d’acceptation du Québec” (CAQ). Ensure you add this essential document in your study permit application.

Step 6: Travel Time

Once the application has been processed and an interview, if needed, has been conducted, the visa officer will decide whether you are qualified or not, upon your study permit application. If accepted, it is now time to begin preparing your travel to Canada.

A study permit usually has a start date, which is the date from which the permit came into force. Keep in mind that you won’t be allowed to arrive in Canada before this date. Plan your travel carefully.

Step 7: Study Time

The visa officer will check your permit and other documents at the port of entry (POE) before granting you permission to enter Canada. This is the penultimate step of the immigration process and this is where your journey begins as an international student studying in Canada.

Financial Requirements for International Students to Study in Canada

Canada is a major destination for international students looking to obtaining a quality education. We have carefully highlighted the steps and requirements needed to study in Canada above. But one essential document required to pursue studies in Canada is your financial statement documents.

You must demonstrate proof of unencumbered availability of funds enough to cover tuition, living expenses and other necessities.

You can show proof of fund with the following:

  • your bank statements for six (6) months showing enough funds to cover your studies and (if required) a proof you paid tuition fee and living expenses;
  • bank statements from a family member or close relative demonstrating sufficient funds to cover your studies and (if required) a financial support confirmation letter from the close family member;
  • If you have scholarship support or are in a Canadian-funded educational program, you must show proof of funding paid from within Canada.

You should know that the tuition fee is estimated at $15,000 per academic year. However, this amount varies between some higher institutions and study programs.

In addition to the tuition fee, you must have an adequate fund for living expenses, calculated as follows:

Persons coming to Canada

Amount of funds needed per year (in addition to the tuition)

Yourself (1)


With a family member (spouse or common-law partner)


Any additional family member


This is how to calculate the amount of proof of funds?

Example: Tuition fee $15,000 + $10,000 (student) + $4,000 (spouse)

Total proof of funds required: $29,000

How Can International Students Get Scholarships In Canada?

Studying in Canada can be quite expensive, especially if you are not from a wealthy family. That is not the end of the world however, there are ways that international students can help fund their studies in Canada, through private or government scholarships, which are non-repayable financial awards.

These scholarships tend to be awarded to students with outstanding academic achievements, although some also consider students facing financial needs. Community development or volunteering and work experience are also one of the other criteria considered when granting scholarships to international students.

Interested students must apply for these scholarships, but others are awarded automatically.

Scholarship funding for international students who wish to pursue studies in Canada is limited, highly competitive, and available mostly to graduate students.

Nevertheless, here are some important tips and resource to help you explore this possibility.

Start applying for scholarships from your home country

Candidates should first explore scholarships and other funding opportunities in their home country. You may contact the depart­ment of education in your country of origin.

Contact your chosen university

Connect with the financial aid office of the university you wish to pursue your studies and request for information about scholarships for international students and any applicable guidelines.

Research additional opportunities

Learn about scholarships sponsored by private foundations, the Canadian government, provincial governments, and not-for-profit organization.

Here are some scholarship resources to help you get started:

Government of Canada International Scholarship Programs

Global Affairs Canada is the body responsible for the government’s involvement in major international scholarship programs. This website allows users to search for scholarship awards for study and research by country of origin.

The number of scholarship awards that may be given to you may vary depending on your study levels and how long you will spend studying in Canada but basically this scholarship offer between CAD$7,200 (US$5,600) and CAD$14,700 (US$11,400) in scholarship money.

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

This scholarship is available to Canadian and international PhD students studying at Canadian universities. The Vanier CGS program grants postgraduate students with CAD$50,000 (US$39,000) every year for three years of doctoral studies. Each year the Canadian government selects up to 167 new Vanier CGS scholarship recipients.

You must, however, show academic excellence as well as strong leadership qualities on your PhD-level program and be selected by your institution.

Fonds de recherche du Quebec Scholarship and Grant

The Quebec government offers scholarship and grant through its research funds programs FRQs (santé), FRQNT (nature et technologies), and FRQSC (société et culture) for postdoctoral fellowships, doctoral studies, and short-term researchs or professional development.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Doctoral scholarships

Every year, the Trudeau Foundation rewards up to fifteen (15) outstanding doctoral students who are enrolled or about to be enrolled in a humanities or social sciences program. The annual worth of this scholarship is up to $60,000 per students for up to four years.

Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS)

If you want to study in the province of Ontario in Canada, you may be in luck. The OGS is funded by Ontario’s provincial government in conjunction with the school you will attend. It awards graduate international students with CAD$10,000 (US$7,750) or CAD$15,000 (US$11,650) depending on how many terms make up their course of study.

Each year Ontario spends about CAD$30 million (US$ 23 million) on funding the program. You will be evaluated on your research skills, academic capabilities, and volunteering and leadership experience. You must be presently enrolled in a graduate program at Master’s or Doctoral level at a participating Ontario post-secondary school on a valid study permit and studying for a minimum of two terms full-time.

Visit this link for details on other Canadian scholarships for international students.

What Happens After Your Studies are Completed In Canada?

Canada’s federal government are looking for international graduates who have completed studies in the country to address its labour requirements. International graduates fall into the category of people that are young, proficient in the country’s languages, possess knowledge of the culture, have Canadian qualifications and sometimes work experience. There are immigration programs now available to absorb these young and talented individuals and the government is ready to offer them Canadian permanent residency.

After completion of studies, Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) allows international graduates to begin their careers here. The PGWP enables the graduate student to stay in Canada and work for a Canadian company depending on the duration of their studies and their eligibility. There are also multiple provincial immigration streams targeted specifically at international students. Recent transformation to the Express Entry system has also made it less cumbersome for international students to make the transition to permanent residence.

How To Apply For A Post-graduation Work Permit In Canada

One of the main motivators to obtaining a PGWP is to gather skilled Canadian work experience. This helps international graduates qualify for permanent residence in Canada via the Canadian experience class. But, students can apply only if they meet the requirements.

You must fulfil these necessary requirements to be eligible for the PGWP or you cannot remain in Canada after graduation and must return to your home country Ninety (90) days after graduation. To qualify for the PGWP, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age or older;
  • You must have studied in Canada as a full-time student for a minimum of 2 years;
  • You must have show that you finished your study studies in a designated learning institution (DLI).
  • You must apply for a PGWP within Ninety (90) days of your graduation;
  • You must posess a valid study permit at the time of your application for the post graduate work permit.

How To Apply

The application procedure for the post-graduation work permit is quite easy and can be done in-person by lodging a paper application or online using your Government of Canada login or at a Port of Entry (Airport or Terrestrial/Land Border). Since the processing time for online application is usually shorter than paper applications, we suggest trying to apply online if you are qualified to apply.

Once you have lodged all required documents, you will be directed to pay the fees for the PGWP application. Afterwards, you have to wait for processing and then the Canadian government will inform you through email on their decision. If your work permit application is approved, you may start working immediately for the time that has been approved for you.