As an international student, studying in Canada can lay a strong foundation for your future career and life. However, even though Canada is known for its welcoming temporary residence policies, not everybody qualifies to study in Canada.
To be eligible for a study permit, you must first secure admission into a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI). The admission process is competitive and receiving a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from a Canadian university or college of your choice is a huge achievement. In this article, we explain what an LOA is and how to get a Letter of Acceptance for your Canadian study permit application.
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What is a Letter of Acceptance?
A Letter of Acceptance (LOA), or an acceptance letter or offer to study, is an official confirmation that you received admission into a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI). Canadian universities and colleges generally have rigorous screening and admission processes, so not everyone who applies to a DLI will receive a Letter of Acceptance. International students can typically only come to Canada to study if they have an LOA (some exceptions apply, see details below). This means applying to and getting accepted into a DLI should be your top priority.
Do you need a Letter of Acceptance to get a Canadian study permit?
A Letter of Acceptance from a Canadian DLI is an essential component of your study permit application and, in most cases, your application will be rejected if you don’t have an LOA.
International students require a study permit to pursue any Canadian study program that is more than six months long. You will also need a valid study permit if you plan to apply for a Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) or work part-time while studying in Canada.
What does a Letter of Acceptance from a Canadian DLI include?
The Government of Canada provides a Letter of Acceptance template that Canadian universities and colleges can use. If you are accepted into a DLI, your school will send you a Letter of Acceptance to attach to your study permit application.
Your Letter of Acceptance will usually include the following information:
- Your full name and date of birth, as it appears on your identity documents.
- Your student ID number.
- If your DLI is based in Quebec, it should include your Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) details.
- Your mailing address in your current country of residence.
- The educational institution’s information, including its full name, DLI number, address, contact information, and whether it’s a public or private institution.
- Details about the program, including whether it is full-time or part-time, hours of instruction per week, your level and program of study, and whether it includes an internship or co-op work requirement.
- Estimated tuition fees (including accommodation if you’ll live on campus) for your first year of study, and whether you’ve paid these in advance.
- Any scholarship, teaching assistantship, or other financial aid the institution will provide to you.
- Conditions of acceptance, if any.
- Program duration.
- Your Letter of Acceptance’s expiry date.
- Other relevant information to help a visa officer make a decision on your study permit.
- Name and signature of the institution’s representative.
How to get a Letter of Acceptance from a Canadian university or college
To get a Letter of Acceptance, you must first apply to and qualify for a study program at a Canadian DLI. Here are the key steps for getting an LOA from a Canadian school:
Apply to a Canadian university or college
Canada has many prestigious universities and colleges to choose from. Based on the study program you’re interested in and the schools’ admission criteria, make a list of DLIs you’re likely to qualify for. Keep track of application deadlines using the schools’ websites and begin putting together your application well in advance.
After you apply, the DLI will assess your application based on your prior academic track record, work history, and extracurricular achievements. Some DLIs may also require you to submit a Statement of Purpose (SOP) to demonstrate why you’re a good fit for the institution and program or appear for an entrance test or interview. You may also need to achieve a good score on an English language test (IELTS or CELPIP) to qualify for admission.
Most DLIs charge a non-refundable application fee between $50 CAD and $500 CAD, so you should only apply to a school if you meet its eligibility criteria. Many Canadian universities and colleges also offer merit-based scholarships for international students. Be sure to check if you qualify for any scholarships at the schools you’re interested in.
Secure admission and get an offer to study from your university or college
Once a DLI accepts you as a student into one of their study programs, they will inform you of their decision. The school will usually give you a few days to accept their offer.
Most Canadian DLIs require international students to pay the first year’s fee, including tuition, accommodation and non-tuition fees, upfront at the time of admission before you get your Letter of Acceptance. However, some DLIs may have different fee payment schedules and may ask for partial or full fee payment after issuing the LOA.
Calculate the cost of studying in Canada, including tuition, accommodation, and other living expenses.
Your LOA will include information on whether you’ve already paid tuition fees for the first year. In some cases, your LOA may be conditional on fee payment and you will need to pay or prove that you have the funds to do so when you apply for a study permit.
Be sure to check your school’s refund policy before paying your fee. If your study permit is rejected, most DLIs will charge an administration fee between $100 and $1,000, then refund the remaining amount.
If you plan to apply for a study permit through the Student Direct Stream (SDS), you must show proof that you paid tuition for your first year of study and have a Guaranteed Investment Certificate. If you’re applying for a study permit through the regular channel, prepayment of fees can be used as proof of financial support.
Download our free International Student’s Financial Guide for tips on funding your education, managing your expenses while you studying, and laying a strong financial foundation for your future.
How long does it take to get an acceptance letter from a Canadian university?
The time it takes to receive your offer to study will depend on the university or college you apply to. After you submit your admissions application, most Canadian schools take at least four to six weeks to assess your application, determine whether you qualify, and issue a Letter of Acceptance. However, for some schools, this process can take as long as two or three months. Check your school’s website for specific timelines and plan your next steps accordingly.
What to do after you get an LOA from a Canadian DLI
Once you receive your LOA, it’s time to start your study permit application and prepare for your journey as an international student in Canada. Your LOA is only valid for a limited time and, if your study permit isn’t processed within that time, you must ask your DLI for an extension and submit additional documents to IRCC. So, be sure to apply for a study permit as soon as possible after you receive your Letter of Acceptance.
If you apply for a study permit online, you can submit a scanned copy of your LOA. For paper-based applications, you must submit the original LOA issued by your university or college.
It can take up to 12 weeks for your study permit application to be processed, not including the time needed to submit your biometrics. Residents of 14 countries, including India, China, and the Philippines, may qualify for faster processing under the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program.
In addition to your LOA, you should also source the below documents early on to avoid delays in your study permit application submission:
- Proof of financial support: In addition to proof of payment for your first year’s tuition, you can show proof of funds in the form of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) (this is mandatory if you apply for a study permit through SDS), funds in a Canadian bank account, or proof of funding or a scholarship, among others.
- Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ): If you’re accepted into a school in Quebec, you will also need to apply for a Québec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) once you receive an LOA.
- Letter of explanation or statement of purpose: This will help a visa officer understand why you wish to study in Canada and convince them that you won’t stay in Canada illegally after your studies.
- Police certificate and medical exam results: To show that you’re not inadmissible to Canada.
What is a conditional Letter of Acceptance?
In some cases, your Letter of Acceptance may be conditional and you may have to complete certain tasks before you can begin your study program. For instance, if you were accepted into a graduate program at a Canadian DLI while awaiting results for an undergraduate program in your home country, your LOA may be conditional on the successful completion of your undergraduate program or maintaining a minimum grade point average (GPA).
Your LOA may also be contingent upon the completion of a prerequisite course, such as an English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) or French course. In such a case, you will initially receive a study permit valid for the duration of the prerequisite course. Once you complete it, you will need to apply for a fresh study permit.
If your Letter of Acceptance is conditional on payment of the first year’s tuition, you will need to make the payment before applying for a study permit.
Who doesn’t need a Letter of Acceptance for a study permit in Canada?
Although most prospective students require a Letter of Acceptance to apply for a Canadian study permit, there are two notable exceptions. If either of these conditions applies, you may not need an LOA to apply for a study permit:
- Your spouse or partner is already approved for a study or work permit in Canada. However, this does not guarantee that your study permit will be approved; your application can still be rejected if you don’t meet other eligibility requirements.
- Your Canadian study program is shorter than six months. In this case, you don’t need a study permit, but you also won’t be eligible to work during your studies or apply for a PGWP after you graduate.
Does having an LOA guarantee you’ll get a study permit?
A Letter of Acceptance is only one of the essential documents required for your study permit application. Merely being accepted into a Canadian DLI does not guarantee a study permit.
The IRCC may still reject your study permit application if:
- You are unable to show sufficient proof of funds to cover your tuition and living expenses in Canada.
- You are unable to convince a visa officer you’ll leave Canada after completing your studies. This could be due to a lack of family ties or employment prospects in your home country, if you’ve previously overstayed illegally in Canada, or don’t have a valid legal status in your current country of residence.
- You fail to complete any conditions listed on your LOA, such as fee payment or completion of a prerequisite course.
- Your chosen study program doesn’t line up with your past academic or work experience and you’re unable to show how it’ll play a role in your future career path.
- You lie or misrepresent information on your study permit application.
- You are ineligible for entry into Canada due to health, security, or criminality reasons.
Do you need an LOA to extend your study permit?
As an international student, you may want to extend your study permit if you require more time to complete your existing study program or want to pursue further studies in Canada. You will typically not need another Letter of Acceptance to extend your study permit in Canada. However, you must apply to extend your study permit at least 30 days before it expires.
If your study permit expires, you need to restore your status or apply for a new study permit to continue studying in Canada. In these cases, you may require an LOA, especially if you are starting a different study program or enrolling in another DLI.
As you start planning for your education in Canada, the first thing you need is a Letter of Acceptance from a Canadian DLI. Securing admission into a Canadian university or college is no easy feat, but once you’ve been accepted, you can apply for a study permit and start preparing for life as an international student in Canada.