International student? Speed up your study permit with the Student Direct Stream.
The Student Direct Stream (SDS) can fast-track the process for applying for a student permit to study in Canada.
If you’ve decided to study in Canada, or you’re thinking about it, congratulations — it’s a great place to live, work and learn. We’ve got beautiful natural landscapes, bustling multicultural cities and some of the best universities in the world Opens in a new window..
Simplii Financial asked me to assemble a list of tips for international students planning to apply to this program—so I’ve come up with a list of a few things to keep in mind. Here are a few things to know if you’re planning to study internationally in Canada.
What’s the Student Direct Stream?
Basically, the Student Direct Stream (SDS) is a way to fast-track your application for a permit to come to Canada for education. If you’re from one of 14 countries eligible for the SDS and you meet all other requirements, you can cut down the time it takes to apply for a study permit.
If you’ve received an acceptance letter from a Canadian post-secondary designated learning institution, you can apply for a study permit through the SDS. You must be a legal resident living in one of the following countries:
Antigua and Barbuda
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
If your country isn’t listed above, you can still apply, but you’ll need to go through the regular study permit application process.
One of the requirements of the SDS application is a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC). A GIC is an investment product where you deposit a certain amount of money and collect a set interest rate.
To meet this requirement, you’ll need to deposit a minimum of 10,000 CAD to an approved financial institution in Canada. That institution will then provide you with documentation, which you’ll attach to your permit application.
In order to move funds to an approved financial institution in Canada, a simple wire transfer will generally work. You can usually find instructions for that transaction online from whichever Canadian bank you end up working with. There may be certain instances where even easier transfer options are available.
If you’re approved for a study permit and decide to study in Canada, 8,000 CAD will be placed into 8 equal GICs once you arrive in the country. Sums are paid out over 10 to 12 months. The remaining balance will be deposited into a bank account for you to use as soon as you enter the country. If you decide against studying in Canada or you’re not approved for a study permit, you can request the funds back.
Banking fees matter
While you’ll collect a guaranteed amount of interest on your GICs, you’ll want to consider what extra fees you may have to pay. Banking fees can have a meaningful impact on the costs involved of studying in Canada, so it’s important to minimize them wherever possible. For example, if you pay a $10 monthly fee at your bank, across your 4-year program you’ll end up paying at least $480 in fees alone! That’s money you could have put towards your textbooks, your housing, or doing something fun.
When considering which bank to deal with for an SDS application, there are three important things to consider:
Make sure that the financial institution offers an approved GIC for the program.
Choose a financial institution that doesn’t charge much in the way of fees.
Find a bank that operates in a way that works for you.
For example, Simplii Financial offers a no-fee GIC program listed on the Government of Canada’s website Opens in a new window.. You can apply online for the GIC program in about 5 minutes. If you’re approved for a study permit and you decide to study in Canada, Simplii will open a no-fee bank account for you to access the funds. You can use this account to conduct your everyday banking once you arrive in the country.
Banking tips for international students
Now that we’ve covered what the SDS program is and how to apply, let’s discuss some of the ways Canadians bank.
When you first arrive in Canada, you may want to bring some Canadian cash with you from your home country. Any money you have in a GIC program will likely take some time to access. For example, if you placed 15,000 CAD in a GIC program, then 15,000 CAD minus 8,000 CAD will be available to you once you enter the country. However, it may take some time to actually get those funds. For example, you may need to go to your Canadian residence to pick up the debit card your bank has mailed to you, for instance.
There are three main ways to pay for your everyday banking purchases in Canada: cash, debit or credit. Cash can be useful to have on hand for smaller purchases like food or gas, but you’ll probably also want the convenience of debit and credit in some situations.
When you make a purchase using a debit card, funds are immediately withdrawn from your bank account. So, if you spend $10 on lunch and pay using debit, $10 is debited from your bank account as soon as the transaction is approved.
Credit cards work a little differently. All transactions on a credit card are summarized at the end of monthly billing periods, and you’re sent an itemized bill. You don’t have to actually have any money on hand when making a credit card purchase. You can either pay the entire balance off at the end of the month or carry a balance and pay interest. Normally, you need to make a minimum payment each month to cover the interest.
Cheques are another way to pay for larger transactions, and they’re often used for rent. If you rent an apartment, the landlord will usually ask for a deposit — for instance, an amount totalling first and last month’s rent. They may also ask for post-dated cheques to cover the rent for a certain period — often, a year. If you’re trying to figure out how to rent accommodations before arriving in Canada, contact the school you’re attending and ask if they can help you and what options are available.
Choosing where to study is an important decision. If you do decide to apply to study in Canada, be sure to expedite your application with the Student Direct Stream if you qualify. Make sure you deal with a bank offering an approved GIC, and pay attention to the fees. That way you can focus more time on your academics and more time enjoying your experience in Canada.
Rick Sturch is a freelance writer that focuses on financial services and investing. He has worked at a number of major banks and brokerages in Canada and has a keen eye for identifying economic opportunities.