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

For international students looking to study in Canada, obtaining a student visa is an essential part of the application process. After all, you won’t be able to enter Canada, let alone go to school, if you don’t have a visa. However, a visa isn’t the only important document international students need in order to begin studying in Canada.

study permit allows a foreign national to study at designated learning institutions in Canada. Seems straightforward, right? The problem is many people use the terms “student visa” and “study permit” interchangeably. In fact, they’re two different things!

To get clarification on this issue, we asked ApplyBoard’s Hari Ghai – a Registered Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) – to explain the difference between a student visa and study permit.

Student Visa vs. Study Permit

“A Student Visa is an authorization to enter into a country,” says Hari. “[This is a] conditional authorization, which means that even if you have a student visa, the officer at the border has the authority to deny you entry into the country.”

“A Study Permit gives you the authority to stay in the country. 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.”

In other words, think of the difference between Student Visa and Study Permit as follows:

Student Visa – Allows you to enter Canada
Study Permit –  Allows you to stay in Canada

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Entering Canada and Your Study Permit

Technically, the Government of Canada doesn’t issue a “Student Visa”. When your study permit is approved, you’ll also receive a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA), either of which will grant you entry into Canada.

According to the Government of Canada website, your final approved study permit will be issued by a border services officer. The officer will use your permit reference number, found in the letter of introduction sent by the visa office when they approved your study permit, to issue your approved study permit. Remember to make sure your study permit contains your correct personal information and expiry date.

For more information on student visas and study permits, consult the Government of Canada’s Study Permit guide. You can also check out our “Ask Hari” video series on our YouTube channel.

Have a question for Hari? Contact him directly at hari@applyboard.com. We may answer your question in an upcoming “Ask Hari” video!