Curious about the Canadian student visa requirements for international students, and how to ace your entry interview? You’re not alone! Knowing what to say can be challenging, so in this article, we’ve shared some strategies for making an excellent first impression.
Notes on Student Visas and Study Permits
Before applying for your student visa, you’ll need to be accepted by a Designated Learning Institution, or DLI. Once you get your offer of admission and pay your tuition deposit, you can apply for a study permit!
Students may apply for their Canadian study permit and student visa (also known as an electronic travel authorization, or eTA) at the same time. A student visa, which allows you to enter Canada, will automatically be issued once you’re approved for a study permit. Applications may be submitted online, but paper applications for a standard study permit are also available. Paper applications may be submitted at the Canadian Consulate’s Office or Visa Application Centres in your home country.
As of May 2022, the estimated processing time for standard student visas is 11 weeks. Visa processing times for students who apply through the Student Direct Stream (SDS) are faster, taking 20 calendar days on average. The SDS is available to students from select countries who meet the government’s list of conditions.
In either case, ensure you start your application early enough before classes begin. Check the latest processing time estimates on the Government of Canada’s website.
Once you land in Canada, you must participate in a short interview with a Canadian immigration officer at the airport. You’ll need to answer questions about your study plans before you can pick up your luggage. The officer will also review supporting documents which you submitted as part of your initial study permit application, so keep those in your carry-on luggage.
Here are some strategies to help you make a great first impression.
Before you arrive in Canada, do your research so you can answer questions about your academic institution and program. Knowing details about where you’re going to study, what classes are like, and how you plan to support yourself will help you answer thoughtfully. If you don’t know an answer, be honest; don’t try to make something up.
Conquer Your Nerves With Practice Interviews
Do practice interviews with a family member or friend. Can’t find someone to help? Practice with your pets or plants (we won’t judge)! If you think about your answers beforehand, and say them out loud, it might help you feel less nervous during the actual interview.
Consider Your Self
Are you fidgeting as you listen? Looking away from the other person as you speak? Interviewers will notice this, and may be less likely to trust your answers. On the positive side, speaking slowly and clearly can help you sound more confident.
Make the Most of Each Question
Every interview for a Canadian student visa will be different, but each one will touch on similar topics. Below, we’ll look at common interview questions, and suggest ideas to help you stand out.
Why did you choose this program?
- Talk about the classes you’ve registered for and ones you’re looking forward to, the potential for research in this program, or available work-integrated learning opportunities.
- Explain how this program helps you meet your study goals. Is there a professor you’re looking forward to studying with? Are the co-op programs renowned? Do classes integrate theoretical and practical learning, preparing you to succeed in your field?
- Look up your institution’s ranking with Times Higher Education or Forbes. If you’re entering a business program at a top business school, sharing that can help prove your study intent.
Why did you choose to study in Canada, instead of studying or working in your home country?
- Share how your studies will help you get a great job in your home country after graduation.
- Talk about why you chose your college or university, and speak to its strengths. Strengths can range from small class sizes to learning in first-class research environments.
- Share examples of job opportunities and salaries in your field that you could get after studying abroad. Compare those to roles you’re currently eligible for.
What are your test scores (i.e.: TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, or SAT), your GPA, and what are you like as a student?
- If possible, bring copies of your test results and transcripts to the interview, for reference.
- While test results are important, they aren’t the whole picture. You can speak about your community service or athletic achievements as well.
How are you funding your tuition and living expenses?
- It’s likely you’ll have to share your exact tuition cost.
- If family members are supporting you, know their yearly salary, as well as their employer and full job title.
- Have an idea of what your monthly rent, food, and insurance will cost. Many universities list cost-of-living averages on their website. Use those numbers to shape your budget!
Are you planning to return to your home country after graduating?
- This question assesses your intentions. Because student visas are non-immigrant visas, it’s important to share that you plan to leave Canada after your studies end.
- Strengthen your response by sharing some companies back home you plan to apply to post-graduation, or how you’d like to make an impact in your future field of work.
With a bit of preparation, you’ll be ready for your visa interview. The night before you travel to Canada, try your best to get a good night’s sleep, so you’ll be alert. Remember to stay hydrated and eat a little (even if you’re nervous). You’ve got this!
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