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Published May 29, 2024
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Student Direct Stream: Fast-Track Your Study Permit in Canada

Here’s how prospective international students can fast-track their applications to study in Canada.

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of international students applying for a study permit in Canada, you may be eligible to expedite your application by using Student Direct Stream. 

What is the Student Direct Stream?

Student Direct Stream (SDS) allows the legal residents of certain countries to apply for their international study permits online. Applicants will potentially receive a response in 20 calendar days, contrary to the regular 15-week study permit application processing time.

Other prominent features of SDS and non-SDS applications include:

Student Direct StreamRegular Study Permit
Processing time
Usually takes 20 calendar days.15 weeks, excluding the time taken for the biometric process.
Ways to apply
Must apply online. You must also live outside of Canada when you apply. There’s no paper application for the SDS.May apply online. You may be outside of Canada or already in the country.

Paper applications are accepted if applicants have a disability preventing them from applying online, or hold non-national residents, refugees or stateless persons’ identity/ travel documents.
Who can apply
Eligible international students from 14 SDS countries.Most foreign nationals.
From $150.$150.

SDS Countries

Through the SDS in Canada, prospective international students from 14 designated countries can apply through an expedited study permit process to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). SDS-eligible countries include:

  1. Antigua and Barbuda.
  2. Brazil.
  3. China.
  4. Colombia.
  5. Costa Rica.
  6. India.
  7. Morocco.
  8. Pakistan.
  9. Peru.
  10. Philippines.
  11. Senegal.
  12. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
  13. Trinidad and Tobago.
  14. Vietnam.

Aside from being a legal resident of one of the SDS countries, you’ll also need to live outside of Canada when you apply.

What are the SDS requirements?

SDS eligibility starts with being a legal resident of one of the SDS countries listed above. Post-secondary students must also meet IRCC’s other eligibility criteria and document requirements to pursue their dream of studying at a college or university in Canada. These documents include:

  • Provincial attestation letter (PAL) from the province or territory where they plan to study.
  • An acceptance letter from a post-secondary designated learning institution that is (DLI) approved by the government to host international students.
  • Confirmation that you have paid your tuition for your first year of study.  
  • A medical exam, if necessary.
  • A police certificate, if necessary.
  • Your most recent secondary or post-secondary school transcript(s).
  • The results of an in-person language test, with a minimum required score, taken less than two years before your SDS application was received.
  • If you are planning to study in Québec, an attestation of issuance of your Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) from the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration.
  • A Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of C$20,635 (or as specified by the province or territory).

Why you need a GIC for the study permit

To be eligible for the SDS, you’ll need to purchase a $20,635 GIC (excluding any fees) with a Canadian financial institution and provide confirmation of this investment to IRCC with your application. It also shows you have funds to cover your expenses throughout the year. 

A GIC is a type of investment that offers a guaranteed rate of return over a certain period of time. Many Canadian financial institutions offer international student GIC programs to help students applying under the SDS. 

Once you buy a GIC online and arrive in Canada, you’ll need to open a personal account with the bank. You will receive an initial payment of several thousand dollars in your bank account. The amount will vary by bank. The principal, or remaining GIC amount, and the accrued interest will be paid into your account in equal monthly payments over one year.

How to apply for SDS in Canada

After determining your eligibility, applying for the SDS starts with meeting the requirements above, purchasing the GIC and gathering the necessary documents, including proof of payment of tuition for one year.

In addition, your application must also include:

  • A completed application and 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.

Create an IRCC secure account

SDS applications can only be filed online by creating an IRCC secure account. Once you choose the account sign-up option for a study permit application, you may need to do the following: 

  • Scan and upload electronic copies of your documents.
  • Pay the applicable fees online with a valid credit or debit card, including the $85 biometric fees.
  • Submit biometrics — fingerprints and a photo. The government will send a ‘biometric instruction letter’ telling you where to give your biometric information in person within 30 days.

If the 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, provided applicants meet eligibility requirements. 

Finally, the government will issue a visitor visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA), with the study permit, for students who need it to enter Canada.

Frequently asked questions about the Student Direct Stream

If I apply through the Student Direct Stream, am I guaranteed a study permit?

No. The SDS can speed up 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.

What happens to my GIC if my study permit application is refused?

If your application through the Student Direct Stream is refused, you’ll need to contact the issuing financial institution to request a refund of your GIC funds. You may need to provide a reason and proof of rejection or enrolment cancellation letter. The bank will refund the money to the account the funds were originally received from, minus a handling fee or an international wire transfer fee.

Who is eligible for SDS in Canada?

International students from 14 SDS countries who want to pursue post-secondary education in Canada. You must be able to fulfill all the eligibility requirements, and you can apply through the fast-tracked Student Direct Stream online application process.


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