How to Apply for a Study Permit Through Canada’s Student Direct Stream (SDS)

Illustration of letter and envelopeThe Student Direct Stream (SDS) enables eligible international students from seven countries to expedite the processing of their Canadian study permit.

“A study permit gives you the authority to stay in the country,” explains Hari Ghai, a Registered Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) and Senior Immigration Consultant at ApplyBoard. “It has the details about your purpose: what is your reason, why you are here, what course level you are studying, what is the duration, and if there are any restrictions in terms of work.”

Most study permit applications made through SDS are processed within 20 business days, although some can take longer.

To take advantage of faster processing, students must:

  • Provide their biometrics (if necessary) as quickly as possible
  • Meet all eligibility requirements

Note: A study permit is not a visa, and cannot be used to travel to or enter Canada. You may also need to obtain a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA)

Read: “What’s the Difference Between a Study Permit and Visa?”

Who Is Eligible for the Student Direct Stream?

If you are a legal resident of one of the following seven countries, you may be eligible for faster study permit processing through the SDS:

  • China
  • India
  • Morocco
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Senegal
  • Vietnam

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To be eligible, you must also:

  • Have an acceptance letter from a post-secondary designated learning institution (DLI)
  • Live outside Canada when applying
  • Have proof of payment of the first-year tuition
  • Have a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of C$10,000
  • Have a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) from the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (if planning to study in Québec)
  • Get a medical exam prior to applying (if applicable)
  • Get a police certificate (if applicable)
  • Have your most recent secondary or post-secondary transcript(s)
  • Have a language test demonstrating:
    • A score of 6.0 or higher across the reading, writing, speaking, and listening sections of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, or
    • A Test d’évaluation de français (TEF) score that is the equivalent of 7 or higher across the reading, writing, speaking, and listening sections of the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)

You may need to supply additional documentation, which can result in longer processing times. Please consult the specific visa office instructions for your country, which you can obtain by selecting your country of residence from the menu.

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Proof of First-Year Tuition Payment

You can demonstrate proof of full payment of your first year of tuition by including one of the following documents with your application:

  • A receipt from the DLI 
  • An official letter from the DLI confirming payment
  • A receipt from a bank indicating that funds have been paid to the DLI 
  • Proof that funds have been transferred into a repository account at the DLI to be applied to the tuition bill later

Medical Exam

You may need to obtain a medical exam from an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) approved doctor if you:

  • Have lived or travelled in certain countries or territories for 6 months or longer in the year prior to coming to Canada
  • Plan to study or work in: 
    • The health field
    • Primary or secondary education
    • Child or elder care

Police Certificate

To determine whether you will need to submit a police certificate, select your country of residence from the menu and consult the visa office instructions.

Spouse or Common-Law Partner and Dependent Children

If your spouse or common-law partner and dependent children intend to accompany you to Canada, they may also be eligible for faster processing on their:

  • Visitor visa
  • Work permit
  • Study permit

Their completed applications must accompany yours to take advantage of faster processing. To include their applications, select the option that says you have family members accompanying you to Canada.

Who Isn’t Eligible for the Student Direct Stream?

According to the Government of Canada, “If you live anywhere other than one of the countries listed above (even if you’re a citizen of one of the countries above), you must apply through the regular study permit application process. If you live in another country (even if you’re a citizen of one of the countries above), or if you don’t meet the eligibility for faster processing, you may still be eligible for a study permit through the regular study permit application process.”

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Submitting Your Application

Students applying for a study permit through the Student Direct Stream can only apply online—there is no paper application process.

To complete your application, you will need to:

  • Review the instruction guide to complete the forms
  • Create electronic copies of your documents
  • Pay for the application with a credit or debit card

Paying for Your Biometrics

Most students will need to provide biometrics and should pay the fee along with their online application. Applicants requiring help providing biometrics or submitting their passport can visit a visa application centre (VAC).

What Happens After You Apply?

After submitting your study permit application through the Student Direct Stream, you will have to book an appointment to provide your biometrics before the visa office can begin processing your application.

Provide Your Biometrics

After paying your application and biometrics fees (if applicable), you will receive an instruction letter with details on where and how to provide your biometrics, which you must do within 30 days. You must bring the letter, along with your valid passport, to your biometrics appointment.

If you didn’t pay your biometrics fee when submitting your application, you will receive a letter reminding you to do so. The visa office will not process your application until you have provided your biometrics.


The visa office processes most applications within 20 calendar days of receiving the biometrics of an eligible applicant.

According to the Government of Canada, “If your application doesn’t meet the eligibility for the Student Direct Stream, we’ll review it as a regular study permit. You won’t get faster processing if this happens.”

What Happens If an Application Is Refused?

If the visa office refuses your application, you will receive a letter explaining the decision. You can direct any questions to the visa office.

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What Happens When My Application Is Approved?

If your application is approved, you will receive:

  1. A letter of introduction, which you will present to a border officer upon arriving in Canada
  2. An eTA or visitor visa, depending on your requirements

Congratulations! With the confirmation of an approved study permit, you are now one step closer to pursuing your dream of studying abroad in Canada!

Ready to start your study abroad journey in Canada? Explore top schools on ApplyBoard.