Every year, there is a massive inflow of international students into Canada and this number continues to grow every year. In 2021 alone, Canada welcomed 450,000 new international students, and a good number of these students came from France, Nigeria, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Brazil, Iran, India, and Vietnam.

According to the Canadian government, the diversity of international students is a priority and this trend is likely to continue in the coming years. A Canadian Student Visa permits the holder to start studies in Canada. This visa serves the same purpose as a Canadian Visitor Visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTa), just that it is mainly for students.

However, since international students will also need a study permit granted at the border by an immigration officer, the Canadian student visa can be considered a combination of either a visitor visa and a study permit or an eTA and a study permit.

As a US citizen, you can start your studies in Canada at what are called Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) as long as you have a study permit. This permit also allows you to stay in Canada until you complete your program and, in most cases, work while you are registered in school or work after you graduate.

In Canada, DLIs are schools or universities considered eligible or approved by the provincial or territorial government to allow them to host international students. According to reports, all primary and secondary schools in the country are by default certified DLIs; however, there are a good number of universities or other educational institutions in the country that are not certified DLIs.

Owing to that, you must verify that your institution of choice is considered a DLI. You should avoid applying to any school not approved to host international students, especially since you will not be granted permission to enter the country and attend them even if they accept you.

A Canadian student visa is valid only for the duration of your study program and an additional 90 days. According to IRCC, this additional 90 days is mainly to give room for you to prepare to leave the country or apply to extend your Canadian student visa.

If you fail to complete your program within the duration that your study permit is valid, then you will have to extend it. If you complete the program earlier than the study permit expiration date, you will only have 90 days left to stay in Canada and will be expected to leave the country.

Steps to Apply for a Canadian Student Visa as a US Citizen

Even as a US citizen, you will need a Canadian student visa and a study permit to study in Canada. While you can visit a visa application center in the U.S. to submit your documents, you can only apply for a study permit once you get to Canada at the port of entry.

To apply at the POE, you will first have to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) and then present all necessary documents at the Canadian Port of Entry. The officials there will then evaluate these documents and will decide on whether to grant you the study permit or not. Here are five steps to obtaining a Canadian student visa as a US citizen:

  1. Apply to a Canadian University and Get Your Acceptance Letter

Before you can start applying for a Canadian student visa, you have to first apply and get accepted to study in a Canadian institution. A Letter of Acceptance from your Designated Learning Institution (DLI) is a necessary and vital document for your study permit application.

This one-page document is expected to meet IRCC’s requirement for a Letter of Acceptance and should be from a Designated Learning Institution. In most cases, this is the only academic document students need to include in their study permit application.

  1. Check Your Eligibility

You can start your student visa application as soon as you have accepted an offer of admission from a Canadian University. However, you need to verify that you meet the eligibility requirements for a Canadian student visa. You will need:

  • An acceptance letter from a DLI
  • Proof of financial support
  • Supporting documents
  1. Prepare Your Application

Once you ascertain that you meet all the requirements, you can start to prepare your student visa application. Take your time to gather all documents required to facilitate your move. Note that if you fail to show that you meet the requirements, an immigration officer may reject your application. Owing to that, you should work with a qualified immigration representative to help review your application before you submit it.

  1. Submit Your Visa Application

When it comes to submitting your Canadian student visa application, you have two options:

  • Submit an electronic application: You only have to establish an account on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. You can submit an application electronically using scanned or electronic copies of documents.
  • Submit a paper-based application: Arrange hard copies of your documents and mail them to the Visa Application Centre (VAC) assigned to your country.

At this point, you only have to wait for your application to be processed and approved. Once your visa application is approved, the Canadian government will provide you with a Port of Entry Introduction Letter. You are expected to present this letter to the immigration office once you arrive in Canada to get your study permit.

Requirements Needed to Apply for a Canadian Student Visa as a US Citizen

Even as a US citizen, there are stipulated terms and conditions attached to a Canadian student visa. You will be expected to comply with these terms and conditions to be granted a Canadian student visa and will also have to adhere to them to maintain your status in the country. These terms and conditions include;

  • You are expected to be enrolled at a designated learning institution (DLI)
  • You are expected to be enrolled as a part-time student, or a full-time student if studying in Quebec
  • You will not take any authorized leaves longer than 150 days from your program of study

US citizens are not expected to prove they speak English well enough to study at a university in Canada. You won’t also need to take a medical test or set up a Restricted Bank Account before arriving in Canada. This type of bank account restricts the amount of money you can withdraw every month, and only allows you to access it when you arrive in Canada.

Documents Needed to Apply for Canadian Student Visa as a US Citizen

Some documents are necessary when you are seeking to apply for a Canadian Student Visa. Below is a list of documents that may be requested of you.

  • Acceptance Letter: A letter sent by the school confirming your acceptance into your program of study.
  • Proof of Financial Support: You will be expected to show proof that you have money to support yourself and any family members coming with you. You are expected to show that you can cover your tuition fees as well as your cost of living (accommodation, food, etc.) for your first year in Canada.
  • Identity documents: Valid passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, and passport.


As a US citizen, you will need a student visa to study in Canada. Have in mind that the time it takes to process your visa will vary greatly. The shortest processing time is 1-2 weeks, but it can also take as long as 16 weeks for your application to be processed. Most often, processing times depend on the number of applications received. If you’re looking to apply close to the beginning of Canada’s academic year, then you should expect to experience delays.