International Students In Canada: How To Change Schools

Newfoundland & Labrador Says Canada’s Study Permit Cap Ambiguous
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International students in Canada can change their college, university or other program, but they must inform Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

In early July, Canadian immigration officials reminded international students of that obligation and laid out the process for them to inform Ottawa of any such changes.

“Finally, clear messaging that students must be meeting their study permit conditions before changing schools,” responded one Canadian on Twitter.

“Too many people were getting off the plane and changing programs. What was the point of writing a letter of intent if they could change as soon as they arrived?”

International students can, of course, still change their programs or schools – their Designated Learning Institution (DLI) – once they are actively studying in Canada but immigration officials must be informed.

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“You need to contact us if you are a post-secondary student changing schools (or) have a co-op work permit and you’ve changed post-secondary schools to another co-op program or need to change conditions on your study permit,” notes the IRCC on its website.

Making that simple change on their accounts is a free service.

Canada’s immigration department may sometimes ask those with study permits to confirm their student status.

“If you have a study permit, you may receive an email from us. The email address will end in You must follow the instructions in that email, by the date indicated, to confirm you’re enrolled and actively studying in Canada,” notes the IRCC.

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When an international student changes schools, the college or university reports him or her to the IRCC as no longer being registered to study there.

A failure to notify Canadian immigration officials when changing from one school to another is seen by the IRCC as breaking the conditions of the study permit and can lead to deportation and being denied work permits or study permits in the future.

Avoiding those unpleasant consequences is as easy as going online and submitting a new letter of acceptance using the IRCC’s web form and paying all the fees for a new application.

“You don’t need a representative to change your DLI in your online account, even if you used one to apply for your study permit initially. You just need the study permit application details,” notes the IRCC.

That means an international student who wants to notify the IRCC of a change of schools needs:

  • an online account;
  • his or her study permit number, which begins with the letter “S” at the top right of the permit;
  • the new school’s DLI number, which can be found on the list of DLIs;
  • the student’s new student identification number, which is found on the acceptance letter sent by the new school, and;
  • the start date at the new school.

Process To Notify The IRCC Of A Change Of School Can Be Completed Online

Here’s how to notify the IRCC of a change of school.

The student must first sign into his or her online account. Then, the student clicks on “Transfer from DLI number” under the section “Designated Learning Institution Student Transfer.”

Once that is done, the student enters his or her student permit application number and clicks “Search for my application.”

At this point in the process, the international student may be asked to provide further details about his or her original study permit application for identification purposes.

The next step is to enter the new school’s DLI number, the international student’s new student ID number, and the start date at that new school. Then, click “Submit transfer.”

“Review the details of your transfer,” suggests the IRCC. “If all the information is correct, click ‘Confirm Transfer.’”

The system will send the international student a confirmation that the request has been completed.

“This confirms that you’ve notified us that you’ve changed post-secondary schools,” notes the IRCC. “Click ‘Go to main account page’ to return to your account. You can now sign out.”

International students who have valid study permits do not need to change or apply for a new permit if they are only moving between school levels, including:

  • primary to high school;
  • high school to post-secondary;
  • post-secondary to high school, or;
  • any other move between school levels.

But, if a study permit is about to expire, the international student of course needs to apply for an extension.

“If your permit has already expired, you must restore your status as a student at the same time as you apply to extend your study permit,” notes the IRCC.

“You must apply to restore your status within 90 days of losing it. You can’t continue or restart your studies until you have status as a student again and we’ve extended your study permit.”

International students in high schools can only move to other DLI secondary schools,

And those studying in the francophone province of Quebec must get an attestation of issuance of a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ).

“You should contact the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) if you’re already studying in Quebec and want to change your: educational institution; program, (or) level of study,” notes the IRCC.

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.