With its world-class universities and alluring postgraduate pathways, there’s no wonder that Canada ranks as one of the best destinations for international students.
In 2020 alone, Canada had more than 500,000 international students studying at its universities. While most foreign students prefer to study in either Ontario or British Columbia, a large minority of students have chosen to settle in French-speaking Quebec.
If you’re thinking of going to university as an international student in Quebec, there are a few immigration rules you need to know. Students have to acquire a mandatory immigration document known as the Certificate of Acceptance of Quebec (CAQ) — or the Certificat d’acceptation du Québec in French — before they can travel to the province to study.
The CAQ application can be a bit confusing at first, but we’ve got you covered. In this article, we explain how you can apply for the CAQ, how long processing times usually take, and what financial documents you’ll need to prepare in addition to the CAQ.
What is the Certificate of Acceptance Quebec (CAQ)?
The CAQ is an immigration document that authorizes foreign students and workers to temporarily stay in the Province of Quebec for the duration of their studies and/or contracts. Most non-Canadian students have to apply for this document to be allowed entry into Quebec.
Temporary Canada immigration for international students
If you’re a foreign national who wishes to study at a post-secondary institution in Quebec for 6 months or longer, you’ll need to apply for a CAQ. You’re usually eligible to submit a study permit application only after you’ve obtained a CAQ.
International students have to complete this extra step for the CAQ because Quebec has slightly different immigration policies and procedures from other Canadian provinces.
Benefits of the CAQ
With a CAQ, international students can enjoy the high quality of life associated with living in Quebec.
The province boasts some of the lowest tuition fees and costs of living in the whole country along with a unique French cultural experience. The CAQ allows students to reside in Quebec for a maximum of 49 months, which covers the duration of almost all study programs in Quebec.
As a student at one of Quebec’s academic institutions, you’ll have the opportunity to choose from a vast range of French and English courses. You’ll also have access to ultramodern facilities such as high-tech labs, Olympic stadiums and sports fields, and auditoriums.
Quebec also has several national parks, a vast system of lakes and rivers, a fjord, and an enormous boreal forest that you can explore during school breaks.
Eligibility requirements for the CAQ
To be eligible for the CAQ, students must be enrolled in a Designated Learning Institute (DLI). McGill University, Concordia University, Laval University, HEC Montreal, and the University of Montreal are some of the DLIs in Quebec that require you to have a CAQ.
When applying for the CAQ, students will usually be required to make studying their principal activity. They also have to maintain valid health and hospitalization insurance for themselves and any dependents throughout the time they hold a CAQ.
The Government of Quebec issues a CAQ for each level of education that you pursue in the province. If you decide to pursue a Master’s degree after completing your undergraduate program, you will need to request a new CAQ for the 2nd cycle. The same rule applies to PhD programs.
The application process for a CAQ as an international student
For international students going to Quebec for their studies, the CAQ application process can seem a bit confusing at first. You have to complete an online application form, pay the required fees, and submit several official academic and financial documents.
In addition to these requirements, some parts of the application form are in French, which can be a challenge if you’re not a French speaker. To help ease you through the CAQ application process, we’ve put together a short guide below with links to key websites.
The application form and required documentation
Starting from January 26, 2021, international students have to apply for their CAQ online via the Arrima portal.
You have to submit your application form along with all of the required documents and proof of payment – failure to do so could result in delays or a refusal of your CAQ.
The documents required to obtain a CAQ are:
- The CAQ application – The CAQ application is the first step of the application process. You have to submit an online application and pay a $117 fee for the Government of Quebec to examine your application. After the system accepts your application, you will be presented with a CAQ personalized document checklist along with instructions on how to submit your supporting documents electronically to the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI).
At the moment, the Arrima system is available in French only but there is an English Instruction Guide that you can follow to complete your application.
- A Letter of Acceptance from your university – This official document proves that you’ve been accepted into a program of study at a DLI in Quebec.
- Country- and application-specific supporting documents – For students from most parts of Asia, Latin America, Europe, and Africa, you’ll need to submit a legible digital copy of your passport containing your personal information and the passport expiry date. Your passport copy must be in French or English; if it is in a language other than these, you must also submit a translation of your passport that is signed and certified by a professional translator.
As an international student, you may be asked for proof of your financial capacity.
This will appear as a checklist item on your CAQ personalized document list, which you’ll be able to mark as completed after confirming that you — or your financial guardians — can cover your tuition fees and living expenses for your first year of studies.
Immigration Quebec requires students aged 18 and older to demonstrate that they have at least $13,134 in a bank account to cover their living expenses as well as the cost of health and hospitalization insurance for one year. This amount will increase if you bring dependents with you to Quebec.
Documents you can submit to confirm your proof of financial capacity include a bank statement for the last three months, recent proof of funds transfer indicating your assets and sources of income, and recent official confirmation of bursaries or award of scholarships, among others.
You are required to pay a $117 fee for the Government of Quebec to review your application. Once your application is in review, the fee is no longer refundable, even if your application is rejected.
You will also have to apply for a study permit in addition to the CAQ, which costs $150. If for any reason you lose your status as an international student, you can restore your status for $350, which includes the status reapplication fee ($200) and the study permit fee ($150). These fees must be paid by credit card in the online application for temporary selection for studies.
Processing time FAQs for CAQ
As with any government process, the sooner you apply for your CAQ, the better. The MIFI typically receives a high volume of CAQ applications before the start of the school year, usually between June and early September. Submitting your CAQ application too close to your term start date could result in delays.
How long will it take to receive a decision on my application?
Most universities inform their students that the average CAQ processing time is approximately 3 to 4 weeks, provided that the MIFI has received your online application and none of your accompanying documentation is missing or incorrect.
If there are problems with your application, you will receive an “intent of refusal” letter and will need to send additional documents or correct certain information on your application form.
How soon after applying will I receive my CAQ?
Once you’ve been admitted to your university, you can start your CAQ application process right away. Immigration Quebec tries to process applications within 20 business days.
How soon can I move to Canada?
You can begin finalizing your plans to move to Canada after you’ve received your CAQ, study permit, and student visa or electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recommends that newly admitted students travel to Canada no earlier than 4 to 5 weeks before the start of their Fall term classes.
If you decide to travel to Canada before this suggested period, you may not be allowed to board your flight by airline personnel, or refused entry into Canada by a border agent.
Returning students may be allowed to enter earlier than 4 to 5 weeks before the start of their Fall term classes but may need to provide a valid reason to the border agent or airline personnel for needing to be in Canada at this earlier date.
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