What is a DLI? Designated Learning Institutions and Future Immigration Pathways
Find out if your desired school is listed, before you apply.
For foreign students wishing to study in Canada, it is essential to choose a school that is a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). Pursuant to section 211.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, a DLI is a learning institution approved by a Canadian provincial or territorial government to host international students.
To apply for a study permit, a student will need a letter of acceptance from a DLI. Hence, it is crucial to know whether an intended school of study is approved and listed before applying for school admission, paying a school application fee, and applying for a study permit; time and money should not be wasted on a school that is ineligible to host international students.
Students attending primary and secondary schools in Canada do not need to confirm whether their school is authorized since, currently, all institutions at the primary and secondary levels are automatically designated, according to s.211.1(a)(iv) of the IRPR. However, a student planning to attend a post-secondary school in Canada must ensure it is a DLI by consulting this Government of Canada website.
All jurisdictions provide free elementary and secondary schooling to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and some eligible foreign minors. In Canada, education is compulsory until a student reaches the age of 16 or 18, depending on the province or territory. In general, the Canadian education system is divided into three categories: elementary, secondary, and post-secondary. Children in Canada attend elementary or primary school for the first eight grades of school. Secondary school typically consists of grades nine through 12, while post-secondary education comprises universities, colleges, and institutions. To ensure these programs meet the required standards, they must pass the government’s quality control in order to be recognized to grant degrees, diplomas, certificates, and other qualifications.
In general, to obtain a study permit to study at a DLI, a student must obtain an acceptance letter from a DLI, have a valid passport or travel document, and obtain proof that they can support themselves and any family members joining them in Canada. General conditions on temporary residents stipulated in s. 183 apply to students, such as the condition that they must “leave Canada by the end of the authorized stay.” Additionally, persons entering Canada as students must meet certain conditions in addition to those associated with the study permit. According to s.220.1 (1) of the IRPR, the holder of a study permit in Canada is subject to the following general conditions:
(a) they shall enrol, and remain enrolled, at a DLI until they complete their studies; and
(b) they shall actively pursue their course or program of study.
Thus, even if a student changes schools or program, they must actively pursue their studies and obey the conditions of their study permit.
What if a school loses its DLI status while the student is studying there? In this scenario, the student can keep studying in the program until their current permit expires, pursuant to s.220.1(2) of the IRPR. They may not apply for a study permit renewal to extend their attendance at that institution. However, the student can renew their study permit if they transfer to a new DLI.
Many students contemplate their future immigration options while at school, with most intending to go back home to pursue career opportunities closer to their families. That said, students considering working in Canada after graduation should familiarize themselves with the current rules surrounding the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) program.
Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) program
A PGWP enables students who have graduated from a participating Canadian post-secondary institution to gain valuable Canadian work experience. What is great about the program is that often the work gained through the PGWP Program may help support a student’s application to become a permanent resident of Canada.
Students who apply for the PGWP can receive only one post-graduation work permit in their lifetime. For example, if a student successfully graduated from a one-year certificate, applied for and successfully obtained a one-year PGWP, worked for a year, then decided to study again and successfully graduated from a second academic program, they would not be able to obtain another PGWP. Prospective students should consider studying for two or more years if they wish to have a PGWP issued for longer than two years.
It is important to remember that a school’s status as a DLI does not necessarily mean that it offers PGWP-eligible programs. When first investigating a school, it is wise to make sure that it is both a DLI and that its programs are eligible for the PGWP program. Among other criteria, a study program must be at least eight months in length and students must study full-time for all terms, except for the last term.
Part-time status can render a student ineligible for the PGWP; they must maintain full-time status during each academic session of the program. However, if all eligibility requirements are met, except for full-time status during the final academic session, a student is still considered eligible for the PGWP.
Succeeding in school is not easy for Canadian-born students, but it can be even more difficult for international students. Although studies have shown that international students’ academic performance does not vary substantially from that of their Canadian-born peers, the former nevertheless must overcome language barriers and cultural differences in addition to academic challenges.
When these challenges are combined with homesickness and/or a poor diet, a student might consider dropping courses in order to cope or maintain a high Grade Point Average (GPA); some rigorous academic programs will remove a student if they fail to meet a minimum GPA requirement.
Dropping courses, however, can result in a status change from full-time to part-time, regardless of whether the study permit conditions are being met, and the student would be ineligible for the PGWP program to boot. Succeeding as an international student depends on striking the right balance between work and school and meeting all the conditions associated with this status.