McMaster University

McMaster University

The immigration information on this page has been reviewed and endorsed by Baker & Mackenzie, in compliance with the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and related Regulations, Policies and Procedures. For more information, call Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's Help Centre: 1-888-242 2100. Students with a hearing impairment may access a TTY service at 1-888-576 8502. To speak with an agent, call between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (local time).

Initial Study Permit

In most cases, international students must apply for an initial study permit outside of Canada, online or by paper, before traveling to Canada to attend McMaster University.  Only students from the United States, Greenland, or Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon may apply at a Canadian port of entry.

You can begin the process of applying for an initial study permit only after receiving an acceptance letter from McMaster University.  You can then apply for your study permit either online, through the IRCC website, by mailing your paper application to a Canadian visa office, or by submitting your application at a “VAC” (Visa Application Centre).It is important to verify the available modes of submission since these may vary depending on your current country of residence.  A list of visa offices can be found on the IRCC website, which will provide specifics for any available VAC's. 

Instructions for submitting an initial study permit are not general. Rather, very specific, varying by country. We urge students to carefully review the IRCC website and relevant checklists and online application guides before submitting a study permit application. 

International students coming to Canada to study for a study term of 6 months (or less) do not need a study permit.  This rule applies to people who take non-credit language or other general interest courses, when the total duration of no more than six months.  However, most programs offered by McMaster,and certainly any degree courses, require a study permit.

Students must be accepted by McMaster University before being able to apply for a study permit.  Students accepted by McMaster University can apply to study in Canada using IRCC’s online interface.  Students may also obtain guidance from the nearest VAC.  For a complete list of Canadian Visa Application Centres throughout the world, please visit the government of Canada visa application centres website

Citizens from many countries will need both a Temporary Resident Visa (also known as “TRV”) and a Study Permit to enter, and then study in Canada.  A TRV allows a person to enter Canada, subject to any admissibility concerns that are detected at the port of entry. Find out if your country is exempt from a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV).

As of March 15, 2016, individuals travelling to Canada by air that are visa-exempt, will need a valid Electronic Travel Authorization ("eTA") to enter Canada. The only exception is American Citizens, but Green Card holders must obtain an eTA. Visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling by land, sea and rail modes will not need an eTA to enter Canada. An eTA allows Canada to pre-screen foreign travellers to ensure that they are admissible to Canada.

Individuals can apply for an eTA online as of August 1, 2015. There is a $7.00 processing fee and approval is relatively instantaneous, unless admissibility issues are detected. eTA's are valid for 5 years at a time, or until the passport expiry date if this is sooner. IRCC recently announced that from March 15, 2016 until September 29, 2016, travellers who do not have an eTA can board their flight, as long as they have appropriate travel documents, such as a valid passport. However, we strongly encourage you to obtain an eTA before travelling, as the September 29, 2016 is fast approaching and you will be unable to enter Canada without an eTA after this time. 

How long does the processing of renewing a Study Permit take? Citizenship and Immigration Canada publishes current processing times for temporary residency documents (this includes study permits).  It is crucial to apply early, particularly at certain visa offices, because processing of a TRV and/or study permit can take 6 to 10 months (whereas some offices issue these documents in a matter of weeks). If medicals, biometrics, or police clearances are required, processing times may take even longer.

“Immigration status” is a term used in Canada to denote a person’s legal situation under Canadian immigration law.

In Canada, international students, as temporary residents, are responsible to keep their immigration documents up-to-date.  Neither IRCC nor McMaster University are responsible for ensuring your study permit or TRV are valid. You are responsible for making sure you have the appropriate legal status for any activities you perform during your time in Canada.

We recommend that international students always verify the expiry date of their Study Permits, write it down on a calendar and renew it at least three months before it expires, provided that the student’s passport is still valid and the student is still enrolled in full-time studies.  If a passport has expired or will soon expire, you should renew your passport well in advance of applying for a study permit. You must have a valid passport at the time of applying and your new study permit cannot be issued beyond the passport validity date.  You will only be able to apply for renewal of an immigration document with a valid passport (read the Passport section of the ISS website) and only up to the expiry date of your passport.  Be proactive.  Failing to ensure you have plenty of time left on your passport will mean that the time you are given for entry and/or studies in Canada is limited.


Laws in Canada, including immigration regulations, as in most countries of the world, are enforced, regardless of whether the individual knows about them or not. It is your responsibility, not that of McMaster University, to maintain your immigration status and to obey immigration regulations while studying in Canada. Check your immigration documents (Study Permit, Work Permit and/or Temporary Resident Visa) to ensure that they are accurate and that they have not expired. It is your responsibility to take action to renew your documents before they expire. If you have questions about any of your immigration documents, if you need help understanding them or if you have questions about any other immigration issues, please visit the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).