Studying in Canada as a minor comes with certain requirements and considerations. Understanding the rules and regulations surrounding study permits is essential for parents and guardians planning to enroll their children in educational institutions in Canada. We will outline the necessary steps and documentation needed for minors studying in Canada both for those already in the country and those applying from abroad.

Who is a minor Child?

The age at which a person becomes an adult, known as the age of majority, varies across provinces and territories in Canada. It is important to determine the age of the majority in the specific region to establish whether a person is considered a minor child or an adult.

Caring for a minor child in Canada

The parents or legal guardians must prove the minor child will have the care and support they need during their stay in Canada. Minor children under the age of 17 must either

  • come with their parent or legal guardian or
  • have a custodian in Canada

A custodian is a responsible adult who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and will provide care and support to the minor child. For minors aged 17 and older, the requirement for a custodian may be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Applying for a study permit for a minor

In most cases, obtaining a study permit is necessary when applying for a minor child’s education in Canada, including primary and secondary school levels. When applying, a letter of acceptance from the educational institution in Canada must be provided. This letter can be either in its original form or in an electronic version. It is important to note that minors attending programs of six months or less do not require a study permit but may still apply for one before entering Canada. However, minors planning to study for more than six months must obtain a study permit before their arrival.

Outside of Canada

If minors from outside of Canada wish to study in the country, they are required to apply for a study permit prior to their arrival. This rule applies even if the minors are accompanying parents who already possess a valid study or work permit. However, minors who are traveling to Canada with parents holding a valid study or work permit do not need to submit a letter of acceptance from a school when applying for a study permit.

Already in Canada

Minors already in Canada should apply for a study permit. Some provinces or territories may need one to receive social services.

Minor children who are already in Canada may study without a study permit if they

  • want to go to pre-school, kindergarten, or primary or secondary school and have a parent who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada
  • are refugees or refugee claimants whose parents are refugees or refugee claimants
  • came to Canada as a visitor for a course or program of studies of 6 months or less
  • will study in a course or program of 6 months or less
  • are in Canada by themselves or on a visitor status
  • have a parent (biological or adoptive) who is authorized to work or study in Canada, including temporary residents who are
    • Work permit holders
    • Study permit holders
    • Not physically in Canada
    • Business visitors and individuals with authorization to work without a work permit

Minors who don’t have a study permit must have valid visitor status during their stay in Canada.

Applying for a study permit in Canada

Minor children need a letter of acceptance if they are in Canada with a family member and that family member had a work or study permit approved before they entered Canada.

Study permits for primary school students are issued for a period of 1 year and can be renewed.

Study permits for students enrolled in secondary school (grades 9 to 12 in all provinces and territories except Quebec, and grades 9 to 11 in Quebec) can be issued for the entire length of the intended period of study at a secondary school in Canada (maximum of 4 years).

Extending a study permit in Canada

When applying to extend a study permit for a minor child within Canada, a letter of acceptance from the educational institution is required. The length of the study permit will depend on the duration indicated in the letter of acceptance. Applying for a new permit at least 90 days before the current one expires is recommended. Failure to apply for an extension before the expiration date may result in a loss of student status. If a study permit expires, minors must maintain valid status during their stay, either by obtaining a new study permit or by possessing a valid visitor visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

Benefits of Having a Study Permit

Although study permits may not be mandatory in some instances, there are advantages to obtaining one for minor children. With a study permit, minors can continue their studies beyond the minor age, acquire a secondary school co-op work permit, and access social services in specific provinces or territories. Additionally, having a study permit enables minors to work on or off-campus, provided they meet the necessary criteria and are registered as full-time students at a designated learning institution (DLI).

There are 2 reasons you may want to get a study permit even if you don’t need one:

  1. Continuing Your Studies

If you already possess a study permit and experience changes in your study situation, you have the option to continue studying in Canada as long as your permit remains valid.

For instance, if you are transitioning between different levels of study, such as moving from primary to secondary or post-secondary education, there is no need to apply for a new study permit if your current one is still valid. By applying to extend your permit before it expires, you maintain your status and can continue studying while awaiting approval for your new study permit. However, if your study permit extension is denied, you must discontinue your studies.

  1. Working On or Off Campus

If you hold a study permit and are registered as a full-time student at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI), you may be eligible to work either on-campus or off-campus. Your study permit will include a condition specifying that you are permitted to work while studying.

However, if you do not possess a study permit, you are not allowed to work while studying in Canada. In such cases, applying for a separate work permit is necessary to work legally in the country.


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