On January 22, 2024, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) announced a number of updates and measures to the International Student Program. The complete details can be found on the IRCC website or on our News & Updates page.

In general, IRCC requires you to enroll in classes, remain enrolled until you complete your program, and actively pursue your studies as this is the primary reason for you to be here in Canada.

Taking a term (or more) off may affect your study permit, your ability to work on or off campus, and/or your eligibility to work after graduation.

Contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist well in advance if you plan to take time away from studies during your program.

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students at SFU have the flexibility to enroll in one, two, or three terms in a year. SFU does not have a formal process for undergraduate students to request leave, and you do not need to request the University’s permission to take a term off from your studies. However, taking a term off can impact your immigration status and your legal ability to work in Canada.

From an immigration perspective, as an undergraduate student you may take the Summer term off with no impact on your study permit or your post-graduation work permit eligibility. Similarly, taking the Summer term off will not impact your on- or off-campus work eligibility, as long as you enroll full time for both the Spring and Fall terms in the same calendar year (see Regularly Scheduled Break for more information).

If you choose to take the Fall or Spring term off:

  • You will not be eligible to work on or off campus until you resume full-time enrollment. 
    • Summer can not be considered a scheduled break if you take a term off in the term immediately before or after the Summer term. For more information, see Regularly Scheduled Break    
  • Taking the Fall or Spring off from your studies may impact your ability to obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). IRCC policy requires you to have studied full time in all academic terms throughout your program (with the possible exception of your final term) in order to qualify for a PGWP. 
  • If you will be away from school for more than 150 days in a row, please see "Taking multiple terms off" below.

Refer to SFU’s reactivation/readmission policy if you are not enrolled in three or more consecutive terms and were not required to withdraw in the last term at SFU.

We also recommend that you consult with the relevant department/s at SFU to discuss any potential implications of a term off when it comes to your financial aid eligibility, ability to live in Residence, academic planning, and/or any other considerations unrelated to immigration.

Graduate Students

As a graduate student, you are required by SFU to maintain continuous enrollment. Refer to the Graduate General Regulations: section 1.4.1 Continuity of Enrollment. If you need to take a break from your studies, apply for a leave of absence.  

If you choose to take a leave of absence:

*Exception: graduate students who are approved for an academic break may be eligible to work. See "Regularly Scheduled Break" for details.

Note: some intensive programs may not permit breaks in your studies unless there are extenuating circumstances. It is your responsibility to check with your academic program prior to taking any term(s) off.

Taking multiple terms off (all students)

If you will be away from your studies for more than 150 days consecutively, IRCC policy requires you to either leave Canada or apply to extend your stay under a different status. In most cases, this means you will need to apply for visitor status if you would like to stay in Canada during an extended break or leave from studies.

You must submit an application to change your status within the first 150 days after you stopped studying.

Full Time Status

SFU students are considered full time for immigration purposes in a given term if they are:

Undergraduate Students (including post-baccalaureate programs)

  • enrolled in a minimum of 9 units in the Spring, Summer and Fall term

Graduate Students in one of the following categories

  • Graduate students enrolled in per term fee programs
  • Graduate students enrolled in a thesis, project, capstone course or field exams
  • Graduate students enrolled in 6 or more units per term in per unit fee programs  

OR any one of the following:

  • Undergraduate and Graduate students enrolled in a full time Formal Exchange Program (“FEP”) or Field School (outbound exchange and field school), or
  • Undergraduate and Graduate students enrolled in a full-time co-operative education placement (“Co-op”), approved internship or practicum as per program requirements, or 
  • Undergraduate students enrolled in a total minimum of 9 units as part of the Dual Degree partnerships between SFU and Langara, Douglas and Kwantlen or
  • Graduate students enrolled full time under the Western Deans Agreement in any given term, or 
  • Visiting International Graduate Research Students ( see more information) enrolled in “Grad 800”, or
  • Visiting International Undergraduate Research Students (see more information) enrolled in "UG 400", or
  • Students for whom the Centre for Accessible Learning has approved full-time equivalency, despite their carrying a reduced load