Q. I entered Canada with a visitor’s visa and wish to extend my stay for a two-year study program. I have successfully enrolled in a university and have enough funds to cover tuition, accommodation and any medical needs.
Why is the law such that I need to leave Canada and re-enter as a student? Can’t the study permit simply be processed from within Canada using the forms available online?
A. Explaining how to apply for your study permit is a lot easier than explaining to you why it must be done that way, especially when I don’t believe this procedure makes a lot of sense in most situations.
Unfortunately, many visitors in Canada are too late in learning what you already know. While in Canada as visitors, they try to convert their status to student, which of course they can’t normally do. They waste precious months before being told by the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville that it cannot process the study permit application from within Canada. Often in such situations, it is too late to reapply at a visa post outside Canada in time for the beginning of the school year. In some cases, they even fall out of status while waiting in futility.
Some foreigners may submit an inland application for a study permit -- i.e. holders of a valid work or study permit and their family members, holders of temporary resident permits (TRPs) which are valid for a minimum of six months and their family members, those who have been approved-in-principle for permanent residence as live-in-caregivers, spouses and common law partners, protected persons and humanitarian applicants, and persons who are subject to unenforceable removal orders.
Most others must submit an application outside of Canada and if successful, must be admitted as students at a Canadian port-of-entry.
A study permit may be renewed from within Canada if the application is timely, the applicant has not violated any of the terms and conditions of their prior permit, and is in good standing at the educational institution at which they are studying. If a timely application for renewal has been made, the applicant may continue to study after the expiry of the permit, provided they continue to otherwise comply with the terms of their expired permit.
Confusion may be caused by the fact that the form used to extend visitors status in Canada has a box that you can tick off stating that you are applying for "An initial study permit or extension of a study permit." However, such use of this form is limited to those who are exempted from applying from outside Canada.
I suppose that if immigration officials were pressed to explain the rationale for this overseas requirement, they would cite "program integrity" as the reason, meaning it is easier for officers at our Canadian visa posts abroad to assess these applications since they are closer to the action there. In other words, officers in Canada would be hampered in doing background checks due to their relative unfamiliarity with documents, institutions, and conditions abroad, and also by possible differences in time zones which may make inquiries from here more difficult.
However, this explanation must be tempered by the fact that there are many officers in Canada who, on a daily basis, process temporary as well as permanent resident applications entirely from within Canada and who are, presumably, able to overcome these obstacles.
Whatever the reason might be, we must remember that common sense and consistency don’t always rule the day when it comes to the immigration process. It’s better to be guided by the act, regulations, and policy manual than by logic or intuition.
The results usually turn out much better that way.
– Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.