Get Admission to a Canadian Designated Learning Institution

Last updated: 23 January 2024

DLI programs

After selecting an educational institution and study program in Canada, prospective international students will need to receive admission to their school of choice. This CanadaVisa page walks you through the process.

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Preparing an application to a Canadian study program is a crucial step in the journey to becoming an international student in Canada. While the exact admission requirements and procedures vary from school to school, the following factors should all be taken into consideration when preparing an application. It is important to note that prospective students wishing to study in Canada must first apply to a study program at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). 

Language Requirements

Canada's two official languages are English and French. To qualify for an academic program, most English-speaking schools may ask students for whom English is not a first language to either pass an English examination test, such as Teaching of English as a Foreign Language test (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Canadian Academic English Language test (CAEL), or enroll in their own language program, or at an ESL partner school. French-speaking institutions may ask for a recognized French test, or the institution may have its own language assessment methods.

Entrance Requirements

There is no Canada-wide entrance test for post-secondary study programs. Each institution sets its own admission standards and assesses the qualifications of each applicant individually. It is important that an applicant verifies that he or she meets the admission requirements of an intended study program before submitting an application. Candidates may contact individual institutions for further information, or consult the relevant website.

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary from school to school, with some schools accepting applications only at certain points during the year. After an application is submitted, it may take four to six months to receive a decision from a school. It is important to apply to a program well ahead of the intended start date, in order to ensure the applicant has enough time to obtain a Study Permit and travel to Canada before the study program begins. This process can take between eight and 15 weeks. It is a good idea to begin gathering the necessary documents and information approximately one year in advance.

Academic Year

The academic year usually runs from September to May. Some schools are on a semester or trimester system, with all courses available even in the summer. Other institutions may offer a more limited course selection and timetable during summer months, and it is often optional to enroll in summer courses. Some programs also have a January intake.

Studying English or French as a Second Language

Prospective international students studying either French or English as a second language at a private institution in Canada can verify that the program is of good quality on the Languages Canada website. This organization provides a quality assessment of the language schools across Canada and offers lists of approved programs and members.

Institution/Program Recognition

In Canada the provincial and territorial governments are in charge of education. Through provincial legislation, colleges are regulated and designated, and universities are given the right to grant degrees. International students are required to pursue studies at a DLI; this status is regulated by the province in which the institution is located. Before applying to an institution, prospective international students should verify that the desired institution is a DLI. For a full list of all DLIs by province, please refer to the Designated Learning Institution List.

While there is no governmental ranking of Canadian universities and colleges, many education publications and popular media sources rank Canadian institutions highly on lists of higher education institutions worldwide.

Individuals who need help to finance their Canadian studies may, as a first step, contact the government of their country of citizenship. There may be scholarships, low-interest loans, or other awards you qualify for. In addition, the financial aid office of the university or college you wish to attend may be in a position to offer assistance. Certain institutions may have financing options available to international students. 

In order to determine if credits can be transferred from another post-secondary institution, it is important that a student contact the Canadian university or college he intends to transfer to, as each institution has its own policy regarding transfer credits. A student's current educational institution may have an agreement with certain institutions in Canada to allow for credit recognition. 

Learn more about financial aid for international students in Canada.


Once a prospective student has selected a Canadian university or college, he or she may refer to that institution's website or contact the office of admissions for information on how to apply.

Many institutions receive applications electronically online. In general, an applicant may receive a decision on an application within four to six months after the application deadline. Successful applicants will receive a Letter of Acceptance, which may be used in the application for a Canada Study Permit.

New allocations of study permits 

Starting in January 2024, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has implemented an allocation limit on study permits, capping the total number of approved permits for the year at 360,000. 

Following this change, DLIs are now subject to new limits on the number of international students that they can take in annually—as set by the provinces and territories that they operate in. Prospective students should be aware that this may impact their application to a DLI.

Contact the Cohen Immigration Law Firm for Assistance

Do you need assistance studying in Canada? The Cohen Immigration Law Firm can help. Cohen Immigration Law offers over 45 years of Canadian immigration expertise.

Please contact us to schedule a free telephone consultation with one of our lawyers.

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