Authorized Leaves and Gaps in Studies

Gaps in Studies: 

As an international student in Canada, to stay in compliance with study permit conditions you must actively pursue studies and make progress towards completing your program.  

If you do not meet the requirements, you will be non-compliant with the conditions of your status in Canada which can put your study permit, current eligibility to work on and off-campus and your future eligibility for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) at risk.  

The type and length of gaps impact whether you are considered actively pursuing studies during the gap.  

Gaps considered actively pursuing studies (if less than 150 days) 

  • Deferring admission after arrival in Canada  
  • Change of institution or program 
  • 4-month Academic suspension 

Scheduled breaks:   

Summer terms are regular scheduled break for Canadian institutions. However, UTSC academic year operates on a trimester system, with fall, winter and summer terms in each year. To maintain full-time status in a year, you must be enrolled in minimum of 1.5 credits in any two terms out of three e.g.: fall & winter or winter & summer or fall & summer terms and may take a break, or courses part-time, in the third term. 

You must maintain full-time enrollment during the academic terms before and after your scheduled break. You are eligible to work full-time on and off-campus during scheduled breaks. For immigration purposes the reading weeks, breaks between semesters and scheduled breaks should be no longer than 150 days in every academic year.  

You don’t need University’s permission to take a scheduled break. If you take a scheduled break in a fall or winter term instead of summer, be prepared to explain UTSC’s trimester system to IRCC and your FT enrolment status in the other two terms for your PGWP application.  

Authorized Leave (or Leave of Absence from Studies):  

You may take a Authorized Leave of Absence for one term from active studies for specific reasons including illness, pregnancy, military service or family emergencies.  You can choose to remain in Canada or return home during this leave.

Reasons for requesting a Leave and the required documentation for each type are as follows:   

  • Pregnancy or Parental leave: Birth certificate and/or medical note confirming pregnancy and expected due date.  
  • Medical injury or illness: Medical note confirming the health condition and recovery period  
  • Death or serious illness of a family member: Death certificate or medical note and attestation of the familial relationship.  
  • Other Family emergencies: documentation will depend on the nature of the emergency.  Written explanation of circumstances for future applications.   

Please note that the university does not collect these documents, but you should save them to submit to IRCC upon request or for future applications (e.g. Study Permit extension or Post-Grad Work Permit). 

Timing: You should plan to take an Authorized Leave in advance (before the Course Add Deadline for that Fall or Winter semester).

Process: Authorized Leaves will be considered for Fall or Winter semester.

  1. Contact the ISC or go on CLNx to book an "Authorized Leave" appointment.  Collect the documents necessary for the type of Leave you'd like to take (as above) for the Advisor to review. If you'll be staying in Canada during your Leave, you will need to be prepared to pay for a University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) premium using a credit or debit card. 
  2. If your Leave is Authorized, you will receive a letter from the Registrar's Office, documenting your Leave.
  3. Within a week, you will receive a link to pay for your UHIP (if applicable).

Please make sure to retain all of your documents for submission to IRCC, as they may be needed for future immigration applications.  

You will be expected to return to active full-time studies in the next term. 

Extending Authorized Leave: 

For Pregnancy/parental leave and military services, the Authorized Leave may be initially granted for longer than one term. Under unusual circumstances for other reasons requesting the Leave, Authorized Leave may be extended for an additional term (excluding summer).

If you take a Leave longer than 150 days, you will not be considered "actively pursuing studies" and must either change to visitor status or leave Canada before 150 days end and return to resume studies.  Otherwise, you would be considered non-compliant with study permit conditions.   

Please note that an immigration officer processing any immigration application has the discretion to refuse an application if they feel reasonable progress has not been made towards completion of the degree.  This risk increases especially when a leave is longer than 150 days or multiple leaves occur during studies, even with an Authorized Leave letter from the university. 

Factors to consider before requesting a Leave: 

  • You are not eligible to work on- or off-campus while on Leave from studies.

  • An IRCC officer processing any immigration application has the discretion to refuse an application if they feel reasonable progress has not been made towards completion of the degree. Talk to an International Student Advisor about the potential impacts of taking a Leave on your legal status in Canada, future immigration applications including post-graduation work permit as well as extending or obtaining immigration documents during the Authorized Leave and after.   

  • You should maintain your UHIP during the Authorized Leave in Canada. If UHIP doesn’t cover your Authorized Leave, you are fully responsible to acquire your own health insurance if you stay in Canada. 

  • ​Before taking a Leave, it is important to review your academic and degree requirements to confirm you are on track to graduate by your desired date. We recommend connecting with the Academic Advising and Career Centre to ensure you are aware of any impact to your academic progress.  

  • Some courses may only be offered during certain times of the year and could be prerequisites to take future courses required for your program. It may be helpful to review Future Course Offerings as you plan.  

  • Students in the Co-op program should let the Co-op Office know about an absence to determine any impact to their program.  

  • Where possible, ensure all outstanding fees are paid in full before you take a break from studies. Clearing your fees will help you avoid service charges being applied to your fees and added to your invoice.  

  • If you are enrolled in a program that charges Program Fees, these are automatically applied and added to your invoice when you are eligible to study. If you see this on your account while on an Authorized Leave, please get in touch with us.  

  • Taking a break from studies could impact your eligibility for scholarship/awards and grants. Connect with Financial Aid if you need support.  

  • Any absence of three consecutive semesters, summer inclusive, will require you to submit a request for Re-enrolment to return to studies.   

Gaps not considered actively pursuing studies (more than 150 days): 

If you take a gap longer than 150 days, you will not be considered "actively pursuing studies" and must either change to visitor status or leave Canada before 150 days end and return to Canada when you start/resume your studies. Otherwise, you would be considered non-compliant with study permit conditions.