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What’s the Difference Between a Student Visa and Study Permit?

Updated on 12 October, 2023

Akansha Semwal

Akansha Semwal

Study Abroad Expert

If you are on a journey abroad to pursue further education, you will face several stops before reaching your final destination. Standardized entrance tests, language proficiency tests, educational and financial documents, and the penultimate stop on this journey is your student visa process. While applying for Canada, apart from gathering all the documents required, you should know the difference between a study permit and a student visa. 


Obtaining a student visa is an indispensable part of the application process for international students. After all, you won’t be allowed to enter Canada, let alone go to university/college, if you do not possess a visa. However, a visa is not the only vital document international students would require to embark on their study journey in Canada. 

You must be mulling over the importance of a study permit when you have a student visa, right? A study permit enables international students to pursue their studies at designated learning institutions (DLI) in Canada. It seems simple, right? The problem is they are used interchangeably, whereas they are two different documents. 

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Student Visa Vs. Study Permit

After deciding which university to study in Canada, it is paramount to understand the difference between a student visa and a study permit. Below we have encapsulated the difference between them to make it easier for you to comprehend. 

Difference between Student Visa and Study Permit 

Basis Study Permit Student Visa 
Definition The study permit is an indispensable immigration document for all those who study in Canada.It is an authorization that only lets you enter Canada but not stay and begin your classes.
CostCAD 150   No separate cost *
Who Requires One All international students, however; students studying a program for less than six months don’t need it.Foreign nationals who desire to study in Canada. 
When to Apply After receiving the confirmation approval from their applied institute or Certificate of Acceptance of Quebec (CAQ) application.You are not required to apply for a student visa separately. 
How to Apply i) Online At a Port of Entry (Border) – ONLY U.S. Citizens and permanent residents are eligible. OR
ii) Offline Using a Paper application – ONLY if you are NOT eligible to apply online.
No separate procedure is required to apply for a student visa. 
Needs to be Applied Separately Yes No

* Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) fee is CAD 7 

Your Study Permit and Entering Canada  

A Study Permit is a document that gives you the authority/permission to stay in the country. This document entails details about your purpose: why you are here, if there are any limitations in terms of work, what is your reason for studying here, and what course level you are studying. 

Furthermore, you should know that your study permit will be valid for 90 days after you have completed your study program. If you desire to work in Canada, you will have to apply for a post-graduation work permit(PGWP).

Note: The Government of Canada is not responsible for issuing a “Student Visa” to international students. 

After the study permit approval, an international student also receives an electronic travel authorization (eTA) or a visitor visa, which will allow an international student to enter Canada.

Moreover, according to the Government of Canada website, your final authorized study permit will be provided/issued by a border services officer. The officer will utilize your permit reference number, available in the letter of introduction provided by the visa office when they approve your study permit. Remember to double-check that your study permit’s expiration date and personal information are accurate.

The Bottom Line 

A Student Visa is authorization to enter a country. It is a conditional authorization, which indicates that even if you possess a student visa, the officer at the border can deny your entry into Canada. Thus, having a student visa won’t suffice, and you will need a study permit. 

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Do I require a permit to study in Canada?

To study in Canada, most foreign nationals require a study permit. Some people might not in some circumstances. Find out who requires a study permit.

A study permit should be requested before traveling to Canada. A study permit can only be applied for by a select few individuals from within Canada. A letter of admission from a Canadian-approved educational institution is required before you can use it.

Do I need a study permit and a student visa to study in Canada?

You will need a study permit and a student visa to study in Canada. Students should understand that there is a difference between a student visa and a study permit. A student visa will allow you to enter Canada, whereas a study permit will allow you to stay in Canada. 

What is a study permit?

A study permit enables foreign nationals to enroll in courses at Canadian-designated learning institutions (DLIs). To study in Canada, most foreign nationals require a study permit. Before applying, make sure you have all the required paperwork. Possessing is a must before entering Canada.


What documents do I need before applying for a study permit?

You will need the following documents before you apply for a study permit:

  • A valid passport or travel document
  • Acceptance letter from a designated learning institution (DLI)


When is the best time to apply for a study permit?

As soon as you receive an acceptance letter from a Canadian institution or university, we advise you to apply for a study permit. It may take up to three months to obtain study permission.

Akansha Semwal

Study Abroad Expert

Akansha Semwal is a content marketer at upGrad and has also worked as a social media marketer & sub-editor. Experienced in creating impressive Statement of Purpose, Essays, and LOR, she knows how to captivate the attention of Admissions Committee. Her research-driven;study-abroad articles helps aspirants to make the prudent decision. She holds a bachelor's & master's degree in Literature from the University of Delhi.

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