Living away from your spouse or children while studying abroad isn’t easy. If you plan to study in Canada, your immediate family members can accompany you to Canada for the duration of your study permit. Moreover, as an international student, your spouse or partner is also eligible for a Canadian work permit, so they can find a job in Canada and financially support your family while you study.
This article provides essential information and tips on how to bring your family to Canada as an international student, including who you can bring and the types of visas or permits your family members can get.
In this article:
Can I bring my family to Canada as an international student?
As an international student, you can bring your immediate family to Canada with you. For the purpose of this policy, your immediate family includes:
- Your spouse: A person to whom you’re legally married, that is, your wife or husband.
- Your common-law partner: An individual you’re in a conjugal relationship with and have been living with for at least one year.
- Dependent children: Your children or your spouse’s or partner’s children, provided they are under the age of 22 and don’t have a spouse or partner. A child over the age of 22 can be considered dependent if they rely on you for significant financial support (and you’ve supported them financially since before they turned 22) or they have a mental or physical condition that makes them unable to support themselves financially.
Once your study permit is approved, your spouse, partner, or dependent children may be eligible for a visitor visa, work permit, or study permit and can accompany you to Canada. However, other family members, including your parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, do not automatically qualify to come to Canada with you.
How to bring your spouse or partner to Canada as an international student
Once your Canadian study permit is approved, your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible to come to Canada with you as a visitor or work permit holder. If you want your spouse/partner to accompany you when you enter Canada, you must submit your applications together and pay the processing fees for both applications. In your study permit application, you must also mention that your spouse will come to Canada with you.
Open work permit for spouses or partners of international students
As an international student, your spouse or partner can qualify for an open work permit that allows them to work for any eligible Canadian employer for the duration of your study permit. They don’t require a job offer to qualify for an open work permit, and Canadian employers don’t need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to hire them. Moreover, your spouse or partner can work from any location in Canada, switch jobs while their work permit is valid, or even start a business.
How to apply for a spousal work permit
Your spouse or partner can apply for an open work permit from outside Canada along with your application or from within Canada if they accompany you as a visitor initially.
To apply for an open work permit from outside Canada, your spouse or partner should use the Document Checklist (IMM 5488) to gather supporting documents for their application. Typically, they’ll need to submit their proof of identity, proof of relationship with you, educational credentials, past employment records, and proof of funds. Ideally, you should submit their work permit application with your study permit application. If you’re applying for a study permit through the Student Direct Stream (SDS), submitting your applications together will also qualify them for faster processing of their work permit.
If your spouse/partner intends to join you in Canada later, they can apply for their work permit separately. In such a case, they should submit copies of your study permit, visa, and DLI enrollment letter along with their application.
If your spouse or partner is from a visa-exempt country and is eligible to enter Canada on an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), they may be able to apply for an open work permit at their port of entry into Canada, provided they meet all the eligibility requirements.
Alternatively, if your partner or spouse is coming to Canada as a visitor, they can apply for a spousal work permit from within Canada. They will need to submit the application to change conditions or extend their stay in Canada form, along with proof of your enrollment in a DLI, a copy of your study permit, and other supporting documents.
Visitor record for the spouse or partner of an international student
When you come to Canada on a study permit, you can bring your spouse or common-law partner with you as a visitor. If you wish to enter Canada together, you must indicate on your study permit application that your spouse or partner will accompany you to Canada. Depending on your country of citizenship, your family members may require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or eTA to enter Canada. In such a case, you must submit their visa application along with your study permit application. While in Canada on a Temporary Resident Visa or eTA, your spouse or partner cannot work or study in the country.
Ordinarily, visitors can stay in Canada for up to six months at a time. However, your spouse or partner will typically receive a TRV of the same duration as your study permit if you’re entering Canada together.
If your spouse or partner did not accompany you initially, you can still invite them to visit or stay with you after you arrive in Canada. In this case, they will be eligible for a six-month TRV. However, they may be able to get a visa that’s valid for the remaining duration of your study permit if they submit copies of your study permit, visa, and DLI enrollment letter with their application.
Can my spouse study in Canada if I have a Canadian study permit?
If your spouse or common-law partner wants to enrol in a long-term study program in Canada, they must apply for their study permit separately. Your study permit doesn’t automatically qualify them for one. However, they won’t require a study permit to take a short-term course (under six months) in Canada.
Your spouse or partner can apply for a study permit from outside Canada or from within the country if they are accompanying you as a visitor or worker. To be eligible for a Canadian study permit, your spouse or partner will have to get admission into a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) and follow the regular study permit application process. Applicants from 14 countries, including India, China, Pakistan, and Brazil are also eligible for faster processing of study permits under the Student Direct Stream (SDS).
When applying for a study permit, your spouse or partner must submit proof of acceptance into a Canadian DLI, identity proof, and proof of financial support in the form of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC), bank statements, scholarship or education loan documents.
How to bring your children to Canada as an international student
International students with valid study permits can bring their dependent children with them for the duration of their stay in Canada. While filling out your study permit application, you’ll need to indicate that your child will accompany you. If your child is not of school-going age yet, a visitor visa will be issued for them once your application is approved.
If your child is of school-going age, you are legally required to enrol them in school while they are in Canada. In most parts of Canada, school becomes mandatory starting with grade one (at the age of five or six), but in British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, your child must be enrolled in Kindergarten at the age of five. Although minor children accompanied by a parent who has a study permit or work permit do not require a study permit, it is recommended that you still apply for one.
As an international student, your child may be eligible for free public schooling in the province you live in. However, tuition policies vary across the country, so check with the school board in your Canadian city. In Ontario and British Columbia, for instance, your children can attend a public school for free if:
- As the parent, your study permit is valid for at least one year,
- You’re enrolled in a study program that leads to a degree or diploma,
- Your DLI is publicly-funded (in some cases, degree programs from private post-secondary institutions are accepted), and
- You reside in the province.
If your study permit is for less than a year or you’re enrolled in a certificate program, you will likely have to pay tuition fees to enrol your child into public school. The fees are set by each school board. Toronto District School Board and Vancouver School Board, for example, have an annual fee of $16,000 for children who don’t qualify for free public education.
If your child is over 18 (but still qualifies as a dependent) and intends to attend a Canadian university or college, they’ll need a study permit if their study program is longer than six months. To qualify for a study permit, they must secure admission into a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI) and meet the other eligibility criteria. You can submit their study permit application along with your own.
Will bringing my family impact my chances of qualifying for a Canadian study permit?
Although you’re allowed to bring your immediate family to Canada while you study, in certain cases, it can affect the outcome of your study permit application. For instance, if the visa officer is not convinced that you have enough resources to support your family in Canada or that you’ll have sufficient reason to return to your home country after graduating, your study permit application may be rejected.
However, as long as you can prove that your primary reason for coming to Canada is to study and that you and your family won’t stay in Canada illegally after your visas expire, you can still qualify for a Canadian study permit. Be sure to explain your reasons for wanting to bring your family with you in your statement of purpose (SOP).
Can my family apply for temporary residence after I submit my study permit application?
If you intend to bring your family to Canada while you study here, you should ideally submit their visitor visa or work or study permit application along with your study permit application. However, if you didn’t submit all your applications together, they can still apply for temporary residence later by:
- Amending your study permit application: You can amend your application before it is approved, but adding accompanying family members while your application is being processed may be considered misrepresentation. Make sure you can justify the delay in submitting your family members’ applications, and update your statement of purpose to state why your family will be joining you in Canada.
- Submitting their application after your study permit is approved: Once your study permit is approved, your spouse or partner can apply for an open work permit or visitor visa or you can apply for a visitor record for your children. This can be done before or after you move to Canada for your studies. You will have to provide your school enrollment letter and a copy of your study permit as supporting documents for their applications.
- Accompanying you as a visitor and later applying for a work or study permit: If your spouse or partner moves to Canada with you on a visitor visa but later decides to work here, they can get their status changed and qualify for an open work permit. If your accompanying child reaches the age of majority while your study permit is valid, they can apply for a study permit from within Canada after they’ve been accepted into a Canadian university or college.
Tips for bringing your family to Canada as an international student
As an international student in Canada, your life can get stressful and busy. Having your family in Canada can help you feel more at home. Your family can support you emotionally, with household work, and even financially while you focus on your studies. However, there are certain things you’ll need to keep in mind while bringing your family to Canada. Here are some tips to help you bring your family to Canada, and support them:
Prove your relationship
For your immediate family to accompany you to Canada, you must provide proof of your relationship with them. If you intend to bring your spouse along, you’ll need to submit your marriage certificate, birth certificates of your children (if you have any), and documents showing joint ownership or rental agreement of your home, joint bank or utility accounts, or government IDs with the same address. For a dependent child, you must submit their birth certificate or adoption certificate that proves you’re the biological or legal parent.
If you plan to bring your common-law partner along while you study in Canada, you must submit proof that you’ve been living together for at least one year, such as common address proof, proof of shared expenses or financial support, insurance or other documents that recognize you as common-law partners, and birth certificates of your children, if any.
Justify your reasons for bringing your family to Canada
While applying for your study permit, make sure your statement of purpose (SOP) explains why you want your partner and children to accompany you. For instance, your spouse or partner could support you financially, or your children may require the supervision of both parents. You should also clarify that your family intends to return home when your study permit expires, and provide proof of your residential and financial ties to your home country, such as proof of property ownership.
Bring sufficient settlement funds
The visa officer will only approve your study permit application and your family’s visas if you can prove that you’ll be able to financially support your family in Canada. Ideally, you should bring enough money to cover your family’s living expenses for at least six months. You can use Arrive’s calculators to estimate your cost of studying in Canada and your family’s cost of living in your future city to create an accurate budget.
If your spouse or partner intends to work in Canada in an in-demand occupation, their income can supplement your savings. However, if your spouse or partner will be accompanying you as a student or visitor, or if you have dependent children, you’ll likely need to show more funds.
Find suitable accommodation for your family
Housing needs for a family will be different from those of an individual. Many universities and colleges offer student housing for registered students with families. You can also explore off-campus accommodation options that suit your family’s needs. If you have young children, for example, you may want to find a neighbourhood with a good public school and access to parks and playgrounds.
Ensure your family members have health coverage
As an international student, you must have health insurance through a private provider or through your university or college for the duration of your study period. However, the same rules don’t apply to accompanying family members. Healthcare costs in Canada can be quite high if you’re uninsured, so make sure your family has sufficient private insurance to avoid unforeseen medical bills. If your spouse intends to work in Canada, they may be able to get additional health coverage benefits for your family through their employer.
Accompanying family members should start their job search early
If your spouse or partner plans to work in Canada, they should start their job search before arriving in Canada. Spouses or common-law partners of international students don’t require a job offer to qualify for an open work permit, but it can take time to find suitable employment in Canada, especially if they don’t have Canadian work experience. Ideally, they should research the Canadian job market, review job postings in their industry, craft a Canadian-style resume, and start networking well before moving to Canada.
Once your spouse/partner lands a job, their income can supplement your family savings, allowing you to cut down your part-time work hours and devote more time to studies. Plus, their Canadian work experience will also improve your family’s chances of qualifying for permanent residence if you decide to settle in Canada.
Enrol your children in school
If your child is of school-going age in your province, you’re legally required to enrol them in school. Minor children are entitled to public education without a study permit, provided they are accompanied by a parent who is authorised to study or work in Canada. However, you should apply for a study permit for teenage children so they can enrol in secondary school co-op programs, get summer jobs, and access social services. If your child will come to Canada after you’ve started your studies, they might need a study permit to enter Canada. You should also explore childcare options if your children are too young for school or if your spouse/partner will be working.
If your child is over the age of majority in your province (but still qualifies as a dependent), they may need a study permit to attend a university or college in Canada. This application can be submitted from outside or within Canada, provided they have been admitted into a Canadian DLI and are enrolled in a study program that’s over six months long.