Enrollment Requirements for International Students

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) requires you to actively pursue your studies while at SFU. As a designated learning institution, SFU is required to report on the enrollment status of international students twice a year.

Visit our news and updates section and IRCC website for new regulations that came into effect as of June 1, 2014 that impact your studies. Your enrollment at SFU affects your ability to work, study, and stay in Canada.

To help you understand the immigration requirements that you must meet to comply with the conditions of your study permit, refer to the SFU definitions for immigration purposes below. The definitions apply to international students enrolled at SFU's Burnaby, Surrey and Vancouver campuses and students enrolled in the Masters of Digital Media Program at The Centre for Digital Media.

If you have any questions, contact SFU’s International Student Advisors/Registered Canadian Immigration Consultants.

SFU operates on a trimester system with the calendar year divided into three academic terms. The following is an academic year:

Fall Term: September – December

Spring Term: January – April

Summer Term: May – August

Intersession Term: May – June

Summer Session: July – August

Please note that IRCC regulations reference a "calendar year" (January – December) and not an "academic year".

Effective May 1, 2015, SFU has changed the definitions of some of the terms below to comply with IRCC’s regulations and definitions.

All of the terms outlined below provide details to help you understand how SFU defines your status at the institution for immigration purposes. 

STUDY

Actively Pursue Studies

As an international student holding a study permit, you are required to actively pursue studies. According to IRCC, this means that you must remain enrolled and make reasonable and timely progress towards completing your program.

To be considered enrolled at SFU, you must be enrolled in a minimum of 1 unit for credit in a given term (excluding audit courses). You may be enrolled in a full-time or occasionally a part-time unit/credit load to be considered “actively pursuing studies” as required by IRCC.

However, you must be enrolled full time to legally work on or off campus. 

Full Time Status

Each institution determines the minimal course load required for a student to be considered having full time status.

Full-time enrollment is one of the requirements to work on or off campus (see IRCC website). It is your responsibility to ensure that you meet IRCC’s eligibility requirements to work on or off campus.

Please note full time is determined by your enrollment status in the current term (and not by the average number of units over multiple terms). SFU students are considered by SFU to be “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 per term. 

  • Graduate Students in one of the following scenarios:
    • 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
  • 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
  • Students for whom the Centre for Students With Disabilities has approved full-time equivalency, despite carrying a reduced load

Taking a Term Off

In general, IRCC requires you to enroll, remain enrolled until you complete your program, and actively pursue your studies as this is the primary reason of you being here in Canada. Taking a term (or more) off could 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 if you plan to take time away from studies during your program.

Undergraduate Students

As per IRCC regulations, your study permit requires you to remain enrolled and actively pursue your studies.

As an undergraduate student you may take the Summer term off without any impact on your study permit or work eligibility, as long as you enroll full time for both the Spring and Fall terms.

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

  • You will not be eligible to work on or off campus (this includes the term you are off, and may also include future term/s -- contact an International Student Advisor for details)
  • You may not be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit after completion of your studies. IRCC policy requires you to have continuously studied full time in order to qualify for this work permit.

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.

Graduate Students

As a graduate student, you are required by SFU to maintain continuous enrollment. Refer to the Graduate General Regulations: section 1.4.3 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:

  • You will not be eligible to work on or off campus during your leave.*
  • You may not be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit after completion of your studies. IRCC policy requires you to have continuously studied full time in order to qualify for this work permit.
*Exception: graduate students who are approved for an academic break may be eligible to work. See "Scheduled break" for more details.

Please 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.

Studying Part Time

Although your study permit allows you to study part time, part-time enrollment will impact your ability to work on or off campus. It may also impact your eligibility for a Post-Graduation Work Permit.

Contact an International Student Advisor if you plan to enroll part time during your program.

Undergraduate Students

As an undergraduate student you may study part time in the Summer term without any impact on your study permit or work eligibility, as long as you enroll full time for both the Spring and Fall terms.

If you choose to study part time in the Fall or Spring term:

  • You will not be eligible to work on or off campus (this includes the term you are off, and may also include future term/s -- contact an International Student Advisor for details)
  • You may not be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit after completion of your studies. IRCC policy requires you to have continuously studied full time in order to qualify for this work permit.

Graduate Students

If you are a graduate student and wish to study part time, please note:

  • You will not be eligible to work on or off campus during your term of part-time studies.
  • You may not be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit after completion of your studies. IRCC policy requires you to have continuously studied full time in order to qualify for this work permit.

Note: You may be a part-time student in your final term of studies without any negative impact on your ability to work or Post-Graduation Work Permit eligibility. See Working On Campus and Working Off Campus (right) for details.

Academic Suspension

SFU considers you to be on “academic suspension for immigration purposes” in a given term if you are: 

  • Required to Withdraw (“RTW”), or
  • Extended Withdrawal (“EW”), or 
  • Suspended (due to discipline) (“Suspended”), or 
  • Ineligible to enroll as result of not having met SFU’s policy on proficiency requirements for FAL X-99 and FAN X-99
Please meet with an International Student Advisor if you fall in any of the above scenarios. 

WORK

Working On or Off Campus

In order to work on or off campus you must meet two requirements:

  1. SFU’s definition of full time* (see "Full Time Status") in the term you wish to work on campus 
  2. IRCC’s work eligibility requirements for working on or off campus

For off-campus work, you may check your eligibility using IRCC's self-assessment tool.

*Please note: IRCC recognizes students enrolled for any number of units in their final term of study to be eligible to work (more information on eligibility). If you are not full time (see definition under "Full Time Status"), it is your responsibility to check with your departmental advisor to confirm that the term you would like to work is indeed your final term.  

The definitions, permitted hours, and eligibility requirements differ between working on or off campus. You may be eligible to work only on campus, off campus, or both. Review our detailed handout for more information.

Scheduled Break (on and off campus work)

Based on Regulation 186(v)(iii) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, eligible students can work full time during a scheduled break.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, a scheduled break is no more than 4 months consecutively in a calendar year, and eligible students must hold full-time enrollment before and after the scheduled break.

The reading week, breaks between terms and the summer term (for undergraduate students only) are considered scheduled breaks for immigration purposes at SFU. 

Undergraduate Students

You may work off campus up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during the Fall and Spring terms (provided you meet SFU’s definition of full-time and IRCC’s work eligibility requirements).

In order to work on and/or off campus full time during a scheduled break in the Summer term if you are enrolled part time (less than 9 units) or not enrolled, you must meet two requirements:

  1. SFU’s definition of full time (see "Full Time Status") in the Spring term and intend to be full time in the Fall term (within a calendar year)
  2. IRCC’s work eligibility requirements for working on or off campus

Note: Undergraduate students enrolled full time in the Summer are restricted to working up to 20 hours off campus per a week as per IRCC’s rules.

Graduate Students

Graduate students are normally considered to have an ongoing, full-time relationship with the University and therefore may work off campus to a maximum of 20 hours per week throughout the year (provided they meet SFU’s definition of full-time and IRCC’s work eligibility requirements).

(Effective January 1, 2016)

An academic break (or scheduled break) can be taken when no courses are offered for a graduate student’s program within a particular term, or there is a scheduled break within a program (e.g. summer term). The maximum number of terms that are permitted for an academic break is one term per year with no consecutive academic breaks. Students in a thesis program are not eligible for an academic break. For more information about the Graduate Leave of Absence Policy, please see the Office of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows website.

Eligible graduate students may work full time during an academic break, reading week, and breaks between terms.  

Definitions, permitted or restricted hours, and eligibility requirements differ between working on and off campus. Some students may be eligible to work only on campus, off campus, or both. Review our detailed handout for more information.

Please note the information placed on this page is subject to change as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada continues to provide updates on the International Student Program and the compliance report institutions are required to complete.

Last updated: February 18, 2016