School and program changes for international students in Canada
Ali, an Iranian citizen, is an international student in Canada. He initially registered for a Bachelor’s degree program at the University of Toronto. However, Ali found the program very difficult. That’s why he wants to continue his studies at a community college. He wonders what steps he needs to take to ensure the school and program changes won’t negatively affect his immigration status.
Table of contents
- Understanding the basics of your study permit
- When to notify the authorities
- Consequences of not reporting a school change
- Transitioning between education levels
- Changing Post-Secondary Schools
- Special Rules for Studying in Quebec
- Changing your DLI from outside Canada
Understanding the basics of your study permit
Before you decide to change your school or program in Canada, it’s crucial to ensure you meet all conditions of your study permit. You must be:
- Enrolled in a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)
- Actively studying while in Canada
Failure to meet these conditions can lead to complications, including possible removal from Canada.
When to notify the authorities
You must contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) if you:
- Are you a post-secondary student planning to change schools
- Hold a co-op work permit and change post-secondary schools to another co-op program
- Need to modify conditions on your study permit
Email Confirmation for student status
You might receive an email from IRCC to confirm your active student status. Follow the instructions by the indicated date to ensure you’re enrolled and actively studying.
Consequences of not reporting a school change
If you switch schools without notifying IRCC, your previous school will report your absence. This could result in:
- A breach of your study permit conditions
- A request to leave the country
- Future barriers to re-entry into Canada
Transitioning between education levels
If you’re moving from one educational level to another, you generally don’t need a new study permit, provided your current one is still valid. However, if your study permit is close to expiring, you’ll need to apply for an extension.
If you are moving from high school to post-secondary, you will likely need a new study permit. Most high-school study permits limit you to secondary training.
If Your Study Permit Expires
If your permit expires, you have 90 days to restore your student status while applying for a study permit extension. You can’t continue your studies until you regain student status and receive an extended study permit.
Changing Post-Secondary Schools
If you switch post-secondary schools, ensure your new school is also a DLI. Always refer to the DLI list to confirm your new school’s status before committing. Moreover, if you intend to remain in Canada and work after your studies, ensure their programs are suitable for a Post-graduate Work Permit (PGWP).
Reporting School Changes Is Free
You can update your post-secondary school information in your IRCC account for free. You don’t need a new study permit when changing schools at this level. However, if your original program doesn’t need a co-op work permit but the new one needs one, you must apply for a work permit separately. Book a consultation for more information.
Special Rules for Studying in Quebec
If you’re relocating to a school in Quebec, you’ll need an attestation for your Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ). Contact the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration if you’re already studying in Quebec and want to change:
- Your educational institution
- Your program
- Your level of study
Changing your DLI from outside Canada
If you’re outside Canada and need to change your DLI, the steps differ based on your application status.
If Your Application Is Still in Progress
You can notify IRCC about the change by submitting a new acceptance letter via the IRCC web form.
If Your Application Is Already Approved
If you’ve already received approval for your study permit and decided to change your DLI, you must submit a new study permit application along with a new letter of acceptance. Application fees for the new permit are also required.
By following these guidelines, you can navigate the complexities of changing schools or programs in Canada while maintaining compliance with your study permit conditions.
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Al ParsaiAl Parsai, LLM, MA, RCIC-IRB
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Adjunct Professor – Queen’s University – Faculty of Law
Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada
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