Taking time away from studies

Find out what to do if you need to take time away from your studies as an international student. For ease, time away from studies will be referred to as ‘gaps’ in the sections to follow.

About gaps in studies

You may need time away from studies, whether it be for health reasons, a family emergency, or because you are in-between programs.

As an international student, you have special things to think about when taking a gap. In order to:

  • Remain in Canada as a student,
  • Work during studies, and
  • Maintain eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit

You must ‘actively pursue studies’.

Good news: In some situations, you can take a gap in studies and still be considered ‘actively pursuing studies’.

After your gap, you can resume studies on your current study permit if it is still valid.

Types of gaps

The length and the reason for your gap in studies will have an impact on whether or not you are considered to be actively pursuing studies during your gap.

Gaps considered actively pursuing studies if 150 days or less:

  • Strike or school closure.
  • Deferring program start date after arrival in Canada.
  • Switching programs at UBC (whether you completed a program or not).
  • Changing institutions (whether you completed a program or not).
  • UBC-approved leaves of absences (e.g. most graduate students, the Diploma in Accounting or Law).
  • Undergraduate students on a scheduled break in the summer session.

Gaps which are not considered actively pursuing studies:

  • Gaps beyond 150 days due to a strike or school closure.
  • Gaps beyond 150 days when deferring program start date after arrival in Canada.
  • Gaps beyond 150 days when switching programs at UBC (whether you completed a program or not).
  • Gaps beyond 150 days when changing institutions (whether you completed a program or not).
  • Gaps beyond 150 days for a UBC-approved leaves of absences (e.g. most graduate students, the Diploma in Accounting or Law).
  • Any other gap not on the approved list above.

Next steps

If you have taken a gap in the past

No immediate action is necessary.

If you are currently on a gap which is considered actively pursuing studies

No immediate action is necessary.

If you are currently on a gap which is not considered actively pursuing studies

You need to take immediate action to have appropriate status if you are in Canada during your gap or may need to leave Canada.

You must do one of the following:

Important: Contact International Student Advising to discuss your options.

If you take a gap in the future

Undergraduate students

  1. Talk to an Academic Advisor in your program or faculty to discuss your options for taking a gap and returning to studies later.
  2. Talk to an International Student Advisor to discuss your eligibility to stay in or return to Canada during and after a gap. Tell the advisor about your study permit and visa expiry dates and anticipated travel plans.
  3. Check with Student Services to see if taking a gap will affect your financial assistance or awards.

Graduate students and students in the Diploma in Accounting program and Law

  1. Review UBC’s Graduate Student Leaves of Absence policy.
  2. Talk to your Program Advisor to discuss your options for taking a gap and returning to studies later.
  3. Talk to an International Student Advisor to discuss your eligibility to stay in or return to Canada during and after a gap. Tell the advisor about your study permit and visa expiry dates and anticipated travel plans.

Documents to prepare

Whether you have had a gap in studies in the past, are currently on a gap, or plan to take a gap in studies in the future, you are not required to notify IRCC right away.

However, no matter the reason or length of your gap, you must keep documentation in case you are asked to show why you took the leave and/or include them in your next application with IRCC. Prepare the below documents and connect with an International Student Advisor before submitting.

Step one: Download the UBC Letter of Acknowledgement

This letter affirms UBC’s policy towards time taken away from studies.

UBC Acknowledgment Letter (PDF)

Step two: Create a timeline

Create a timeline in chronological order of all decisions, events, and action steps leading up to your gap in studies. Include key dates which would be helpful for the officer to understand your circumstances; for example, the date that you withdrew from courses, received approval for a deferral, left Canada, received medical care, had a family emergency occur, etc. Keep this timeline for your records as they will become handy if you are asked for information from IRCC or need to write a letter of explanation for a future immigration application.

Step three: Gather supporting documents

Gather as many documents as possible which can attest to your gap in studies and keep scanned and original paper copies (if applicable) in an accessible, safe place.

Examples include a doctor’s recommendation for treatment, hospital documents, flight tickets, letters issued by your program or faculty, documents relating to a family emergency, etc.

Letter of support

If possible, contact an appropriate person to request a letter of support with the below guidelines:

  • The person should be aware of the reasons you took a gap, for example a doctor, counselor, or advisor.
  • The letter should contain factual information to attest to the reason for your gap in studies.
  • Individuals cannot attest to things they have not observed or witnessed themselves.

Potential impacts of taking a gap

Traveling on a gap

Ensure your study permit and entry document (Temporary Resident Visa or Electronic Travel Authorization) are valid to return to Canada, if necessary.

You should also bring your Letter of Enrollment from the Student Service Centre (SSC) (under ‘grades and records’) if registered, your unofficial transcript from the SSC, and proof of finances (such as a bank statement showing funds available).

If you have not registered for courses before returning to Canada, request a letter from your academic advisor or graduate staff before re-entering Canada. This letter should state that you are eligible to return to your program of studies at the end of your gap. Upon return to Canada, if you are asked by an officer, present this letter along with any documentation of your break (e.g. leave approval from G+PS if applicable, copies of plane tickets proving when you left Canada, etc.)

Study permit extension during a gap

If your study permit will expire during your gap, contact an International Student Advisor well in advance (three to four months) before the expiry date. You may need to provide additional documents to explain how you plan to resume your studies.

Eligibility to work

If you take a gap in studies, you are not eligible to work on- or off-campus using your study permit during the gap.

You also cannot use a co-op work permit, if you have one.

Note: students on a scheduled break are eligible to work if meeting eligibility requirements.

To work legally during a gap in studies, you would need a work permit, for which students are normally not eligible. International Student Advisors cannot provide case-specific advice on work permits unrelated to studies.

Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)

Taking a gap may impact your eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after studies, particularly for gaps 150 days or longer.

Taking a gap which is considered to be actively pursuing studies might not impact your eligibility for the PGWP.

Reporting to IRCC

UBC is required to report to IRCC on your enrolment status twice a year based on UBC’s definitions for immigration purposes.

UBC definitions for immigration purposes

Students who are on a gap in studies will be reported as being ‘no longer registered/enrolled’ or on ‘authorized leave’ (for graduate programs with leaves of absences policies only).

Medical Services Plan (MSP)

It is very important to maintain valid health insurance at all times. Your MSP coverage is usually valid for the same length as your study permit.

If you will leave Canada for an extended time or your study permit will expire during your gap, see our MSP page for information on next steps.

AMS/GSS/UBCSUO Health and Dental

Check if you maintain eligibility for the Alma Mater Society (AMS), Graduate Student Society (GSS), or UBC Students’ Union Okanagan (UBCSUO)Health & Dental Plan. Coverage ends on August 31 each year and relies on your basic health insurance, such as MSP.

Dependents’ status

If your common-law partner or spouse has a work permit as a result of your study permit, it remains valid until the expiry date indicated on the work permit.

If you have children, they may continue to study without a study permit while your study permit is valid, even if you have applied for visitor status.

However, if you are on visitor status due to taking a gap of 150 days or more and your study permit and your spouse’s open study or work permit has expired, your children must obtain their own study permit. For more information see documentation for your family.

Scholarships/awards

If you are currently receiving funding, such as a fellowship, scholarship or award, check with your funding agency if taking a gap will impact your eligibility.

Eligibility for on-campus housing

Confirm your eligibility to remain in on-campus housing with Student Housing & Hospitality Services.

The information on this page may change


The immigration information on this page has been reviewed and endorsed by Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) or Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIAs) in compliance with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations. However, this is not a legal document and information may change without notice. Always refer to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for the most up-to-date information.