Each year, hundreds of thousands of international students choose to apply for study permits in Canada, ready to take the exciting step of pursuing further education at colleges and universities across the country.
For many, waiting for a study permit to be approved can take months, but for legal residents of certain countries, a fast-track application exists that can expedite the processing of their study permit, if they meet certain criteria.
What is the Student Direct Stream in Canada?
For international students with plans to pursue post-secondary education in Canada, the Student Direct Stream (SDS) is an online application that allows legal residents of certain countries to apply to receive their study permits faster than they would by applying through the regular study permit application process.
Through the SDS, prospective international students from 14 designated countries can apply through an expedited study permit process by providing a number of documents to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) up front.
Eligible SDS Countries
At the moment, legal residents of the following countries are eligible to apply for the SDS:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
How to apply for SDS?
SDS eligibility criteria and requirements
SDS eligibility starts with being a legal resident of one of the countries listed above. Students also need to live outside of Canada when they apply. Other documents required to qualify include:
- An acceptance letter from a post-secondary designated learning institution (a school approved by the government to host international students).
- Confirmation that you have paid your tuition for your first year of study (in the form of a receipt from your school, an official letter or a bank receipt.) Note that students enrolled in certain diploma or non-degree studies courses cannot apply through the Student Direct Stream.
- A Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of C$10,000.
- A medical exam before you apply (if you have lived or travelled in certain countries in the six months before coming to Canada).
- A police certificate before you apply (depending on your program).
- Your most recent secondary or post-secondary school transcript(s).
- The results of an in-person language test that shows you have achieved a minimum required score — the test results have to be less than two years old when you submit the application.
- An attestation of issuance of your Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) from the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (if you are planning to study in Québec).
What is a GIC?
To be eligible for the SDS, students need to purchase a $10,000 GIC with a Canadian financial institution and provide confirmation of this investment to IRCC with their application. A GIC is a type of investment that offers a guaranteed rate of return for a certain period of time.
Many Canadian financial institutions offer GIC programs specifically for international students applying under the SDS. When international students purchase a GIC for the SDS, they will be required to open a personal deposit account when they arrive in Canada. The bank will deposit an initial payment of $2,000 in the bank account. The principal, or remaining $8,000, invested in the GIC will be paid into the international student’s bank account in equal monthly payments over one year, plus accrued interest.
Steps in the SDS process
After determining your eligibility, applying for the SDS starts with meeting the requirements above — purchase the GIC, complete the language test and medical exam, and gather the documents, along with the letter of acceptance from your school, your transcripts and the proof of payment of tuition for one year.
In addition, your application must also include:
- A completed application form as well as any other relevant forms, such as the ‘statutory declaration of common-law union’ ‘family information’ or ‘use of a representative.’
- A photocopy of the information and biographical data page of your passport
- the application processing fee of $150 and an $85 biometric processing fee (if applicable).
- Translations of any documents not in English or French.
- Any additional documents set out by your local visa office.
SDS applications can only be filed online by creating an IRCC secure account— once you have everything you need to apply, you can submit your application through your account, scan and upload electronic copies of your documents and pay fees online with a valid credit or debit card.
Most applicants also are required to submit biometrics — fingerprints and a photo — before the government will process their application. To start the process, applicants need to submit the $85 biometric fee with their application. The government will then send a ‘biometric instruction letter’ telling you where to give your biometric information in person within 30 days.
If IRCC approves your SDS application, you’ll receive a port of entry letter of introduction — which isn’t the study permit itself, but a letter you need to show the border officer when you arrive in Canada.
SDS processing time
IRCC aims to process most SDS applications within 20 calendar days after they receive biometrics, as long as applicants meet eligibility requirements. For students who also need a visitor visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA) to enter Canada, the government will issue these with the study permit.
Frequently asked questions about the Student Direct Stream
No. The SDS can speed up and streamline the study permit process for some international students, but you still have to ensure you meet all of the eligibility criteria to receive a permit.
If your application through the Student Direct Stream is refused, you’ll need to contact the financial institution that issued your GIC to request a refund of the funds you originally wired. In most cases, you will be required to provide a reason and proof of rejection or enrolment cancellation. The financial institution will refund the money to the account the funds were originally received from, but a handling fee or an international wire transfer fee may apply.
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