School and program changes for international students in Canada

changing program as an international student 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.

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:

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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Al Parsai

This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.