If you’re looking to pursue world-class education in a multicultural setting, Canada is your destination of choice. Canada’s welcoming immigration policies have also been a key factor in attracting international students.
In this article, we’ll get into the details of the Student Direct Program – a fast-track process to apply for a Canadian student visa, if you live in select countries. We’ll outline the eligibility criteria and also walk you through the application process.
What is the Student Direct Stream (SDS)?
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), SDS is a process that enables faster processing of student permit applications (or student visas) for those intending to pursue their education in Canada. Residents of select countries can apply through the Student Direct Stream and have their study permit applications processed within 20 calendar days.
To ensure faster processing, you must:
- Provide your biometrics as soon as possible and
- Meet all the eligibility requirements.
Note that your study permit is not a visa. It doesn’t let you enter Canada. You may also need a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) to enter Canada. Once your study permit is approved, the Government will issue a study permit approval letter and, if required, an entry visa in your passport, authorizing your travel to Canada.
Tip: To learn more about study permits, their length of validity, and get step-by-step instructions on applying for one, see Study Permit: Moving to Canada as an international student.
Student Direct Stream (SDS) program eligibility criteria
To apply through the Student Direct Stream, you must:
- Be a legal resident living in one of the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, or Vietnam.
- Have an acceptance letter from a post-secondary Designated Learning Institution (DLI). A DLI is a school approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students. All primary and secondary schools in Canada are DLIs. If you plan to attend a post-secondary school, make sure it is on this list.
- Be living outside of Canada when you apply.
- Have proof of payment for your first-year tuition. Acceptable proofs include:
- A receipt from your DLI;
- An official letter from the DLI confirming payment of tuition fees;
- A receipt from your bank showing that tuition fees have been paid to the DLI; or
- Proof that the tuition fee amount has been transferred into a repository account at the DLI to be applied to the tuition bill at a later date.
- Have a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of $10,000 CAD;
- Have a certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) if you intend to study in Quebec. Your school can give you all the details on how to apply for the CAQ.
- Get a medical exam (if you need one). This is to make sure you’re not inadmissible for medical reasons. You may need to get a medical exam if:
- You’ve lived or travelled in certain countries or territories for six or more months in the year before you come to Canada; or
- You plan on studying or working in healthcare, primary/secondary education, or child or elder care;
- Get a police certificate (if you need one). This is to check if you have a criminal record and ensure you’re not inadmissible to Canada.
- Have your most recent secondary or post-secondary school transcript(s).
- Have a language test result that shows:
- A score of 6.0 or higher in each skill (reading, writing, speaking and listening) on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS); or
- A Test d’évaluation de français (TEF) score that is equal to a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score of at least 7 in each skill (reading, writing, speaking and listening).
Depending on where you’re applying from, you may also need to provide other documents. Make sure you include all the documents required by your local visa office.
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Application process for Student Direct Stream (SDS)
You must apply online to get faster processing for your study permit. Note that there’s no paper application for the Student Direct Stream.
Here’s an overview of the process:
Step 1: Fill out the application, including all the required documents, pay the biometric fee, and submit the application online.
Step 2: While your application is being processed, in most cases, you will need to provide biometrics (fingerprints and photo). After you pay the biometrics fee and submit your application, you will receive a biometrics request letter outlining the details. You will have 30 days to give your biometrics in person. Processing on your application will not begin until this data is provided.
Step 3: Following the biometrics submission, you may also be asked for medical exams and/or police certificates. To avoid delays, you may wish to consider providing these documents upfront when submitting your application.
Step 4: Once you provide biometrics, your study permit application is processed (usually within 20 days, if you meet eligibility). If your application doesn’t meet the eligibility for SDS, it is processed as a regular study permit, in which case, you won’t be eligible for faster processing.
Step 5: If your application is approved, you’ll receive:
- A letter of introduction. This isn’t your study permit. You need to show this letter to the officer at the airport when you arrive in Canada to obtain your study permit.
- An electronic travel authorization (eTA) or a temporary resident visa to enter Canada, as required.
Carry these items and all other valuable papers, cash and traveller’s cheques with you at all times. Do not put them in your checked luggage. You may not be allowed into Canada if any of your documents are missing, or if any of the information on your application or letters of reference is incorrect. You must tell the border officer if you arrive in Canada with more than $10,000 CAD. If you do not disclose this, you may be fined and have your funds seized.
When you arrive at the port of entry, an officer will make sure you meet the requirements to enter Canada. If there are no problems, the officer will then print your study permit and give it to you.
Once issued, you should check your study permit’s details while still at the airport to ensure the permit was issued correctly. Any errors should be brought to the Border Services Officer’s attention so that they can be corrected on the spot. Make sure you understand all conditions listed on your study permit so you can ensure compliance with your student status.
With its diverse, welcoming culture and internationally acclaimed universities, Canada not only offers an excellent opportunity for potential students to pursue education but also opens up pathways for them to make Canada home.