2021-11-10T09:08:35-05:00June 17th, 2021|

How to Apply for the Student Direct Stream (SDS) in Canada

You’ve been accepted to a Canadian learning institution: congratulations! The next step to start your studies in Canada is to obtain your study permit.

In this article:

What’s a study permit? 

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), a study permit is a document that allows foreign nationals to study at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada. 

Note that your study permit isn’t a visa: on its own, it doesn’t let you enter Canada. You may also need a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) in order to be able to enter Canada. Once your study permit is approved, the Canadian Government will issue a study permit approval letter and if required, an entry visa in your passport, authorizing your travel to Canada. 

What happens after you get accepted to a Canadian university or designated learning institutions (DLI)? 

DLIs are educational institutions, including universities and colleges, that have received approval welcome international students to Canada. Among other things, they must have demonstrated to their provincial or territorial government that they have solid COVID-19 readiness plans. You can find a list of approved DLIs here.

Note Icon  Note
Learn more about the best universities in Canada in our article on the 10 best ranked universities in Canada. The application process usually starts a year in advance so be sure to plan ahead!

A letter of acceptance from a DLI is essential to getting a Canadian study permit. Once you have a letter of acceptance from a DLI, along with proof of financial support and supporting documentation that varies by country of origin, you can apply for a study permit. You can learn more about the documentation required to apply for a study permit on the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.

Applying through the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program

Overview of the SDS program

Depending on where you live, you may be able to obtain a study permit more quickly through the SDS program. If you require a visitor visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA) to enter Canada, it’ll be issued with your study permit. Most SDS applications are processed within 20 calendar days, however you’ll want to give your application ample time to work its way through the system in order to avoid unnecessary stress. 

To qualify for the SDS stream, you must be a resident of one of the following countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • India
  • Morocco
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Senegal
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Vietnam

How to prepare essential documents for your study permit

To apply through the SDS program, you must have a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of $10,000 CAN. A GIC is a Canadian investment that has a guaranteed rate of return for a fixed amount of time. Most major banks, including RBC, offer GICs. After purchasing a GIC from a bank, they must give you either a letter of attestation, a GIC certificate, an Investment Directions Confirmation, or an Investment Balance Confirmation as evidence of your purchase. The GIC will be held by the issuing bank in an investment account or student account that you can’t access until you enter Canada. Once you arrive, the bank will confirm your identity and either release the funds to you as a lump sum or in monthly or bi-monthly installments over 10 to 12 months. 

How does an RBC GIC work for international students?

RBC’s International Student Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) Program is specifically designed to help eligible newcomers from China or India who have been accepted to a DLI. A GIC purchased through RBC’s program makes it easier to prepare the financial documents required to apply for your Canadian study permit, allows access to the expedited SDS study permit application process, and gives you a guaranteed source of money once you arrive in Canada. For peace of mind, your funds will be protected by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC)

Students from China and India who have their letter of acceptance from their University or College can book an appointment to speak with an RBC Advisor about opening their International Student GIC

How to submit an SDS application

Once you have your acceptance letter and GIC in hand, along with other supporting documentation, you can apply to the SDS program online. Note: there is no paper application for SDS. Before applying online, consult this instruction guide for filling out your forms and make sure you have a valid credit or debit card to pay your biometric fee (if required, based on your country of origin). After you apply, if biometrics such as fingerprints and a photo are required, you will receive a letter telling you where and how to complete this step. 

Preparing for arrival

With paperwork completed and your SDS application submitted, you can enjoy planning your arrival. Ensure your passport is up to date: if your passport expires, so will your permit. If this happens, you’ll need to apply to extend your study permit when you get a new passport. Better to avoid the headache altogether!

Canada is one of the world’s top study destinations to enhance your skills, experience, and knowledge. Arriving in Canada should be a fun and exciting experience, which is why it’s important to conduct timely research and preparation to avoid unnecessary issues or delays.


To get to know more about Canadian culture, the Arrive mobile app is a good starting point. The Arrive app can ease your transition and help you adapt faster to life in Canada. It is specially designed to provide newcomers, like yourself, with information that matters, at a time when you need it the most. The best part: you’ll always have all resources in one place – in an app on your phone – and you can access it wherever you are, without having to provide any confirmation from the Canadian government. Whether you’re a year away from your move or recently landed, if you’re a PR, international student or temporary foreign worker, the Arrive app will provide timely and relevant content, tools and guidance to ensure you’re fully prepared for your move and your life in Canada. 

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About Arrive

Arrive is powered by RBC Ventures Inc, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada. In collaboration with RBC, Arrive is dedicated to helping newcomers achieve their life, career, and financial goals in Canada. An important part of establishing your financial life in Canada is finding the right partner to invest in your financial success. RBC is the largest bank in Canada* and here to be your partner in all of your financial needs. RBC supports Arrive, and with a 150-year commitment to newcomer success in Canada, RBC goes the extra mile in support and funding to ensure that the Arrive newcomer platform is FREE to all. Working with RBC, Arrive can help you get your financial life in Canada started – right now. Learn about your banking options in Canada and be prepared. Click here to book an appointment with an advisor.

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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.