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You may need time away from studies, whether it be for health reasons, a family emergency, you are in-between programs, or for other reasons.
All reasons for taking time away from studies will be referred to as “gaps” in the sections to follow.
As an international student, you have special things to think about when taking a gap.
Taking a gap could negatively impact:
Good news: Depending on the type of gap, you might be able to keep your current student status and future eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit. Keep reading to see how.
If you are thinking of part-time studies or withdrawing from courses, see immigration impacts of withdrawing from courses.
You must “actively pursue studies” in order to maintain your student status in Canada and your eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit. The length and the type of gap impact whether or not you are considered to be actively pursuing studies during your gap.
Your 150-day period begins during the following times depending on your situation:
Gaps that are not considered actively pursuing studies:
No immediate action is necessary until you make your next immigration application, such as for a post-graduation work permit.
Collect as many documents as you can be related to the reason for your gap in studies. See “documents to prepare” below for more information.
There was a temporary IRCC policy for these terms due to the onset of COVID-19. See our FAQs for details on Winter Term 2 or Summer Session.
Authorized leave for undergraduate students was not available at the time and you would not have been considered actively pursuing studies. Include our acknowledgment letter (pdf) in your application.
Under the International Undergraduate Leave Procedure, students in good academic standing could request a leave letter to show they were on leave for one or both winter terms. If you took one or both terms off, request a letter from your academic advising office as soon as possible. If you have a leave letter, keep it until you need to show it to IRCC.
You are considered to be maintaining your student status and can stay in Canada for up to 150 days. No immediate action is necessary if you will be on a gap for less than 150 days or before your study permit expires—whichever comes first.
If you will be on a gap for more than 150 days, you must take action before the 150-day period is over. This applies even if you have an authorized leave of absence that is longer than 150 days, for example, an authorized leave for one year.
Before your 150-day period is over, you must do one of the following:
Exception: UBC undergraduate students on authorized leave beginning in Winter Term 2 need not take further action on your status in the summer scheduled break, because UBC considers undergraduate summer to be a scheduled break for immigration purposes.
As soon as you are no longer enrolled in full-time studies, you are not eligible to work in Canada during an academic term, and also not eligible to work during scheduled breaks before and after the term in which you are taking a gap. If you have a co-op work permit, you cannot use it for work unrelated to studies. To be eligible to work, you must have a work permit that is unrelated to studies, which in general can be difficult to obtain.
Exceptions: Undergraduate students may be eligible to work full-time during the summer scheduled break, or if you finished a program and will start a new program. Check the links to see if you are eligible.
In general, your eligibility for the PGWP should not be impacted if you are on a gap that is considered actively pursuing studies for less than 150 days, however, the officer who reviews your application will make the final decision. You should collect as many documents as you can be related to the reason for your gap in studies. See “documents to prepare” below for more information.
When you apply for the PGWP, write a letter of explanation about the reason for your gap in studies and provide as many supporting documents as possible. Contact International Student Advising for assistance.
You are not considered to be meeting your requirements as a student and cannot remain in Canada during the gap without taking further action.
You must do one of the following before your gap begins or as soon as possible during the gap:
Contact International Student Advising to discuss your options.
As soon as you are no longer enrolled in full-time studies, you are not eligible to work in Canada during the academic term and are also not eligible to work during scheduled breaks before and after the term in which you are taking a gap. If you have a co-op work permit, you cannot use it for work unrelated to studies. To be eligible to work you must have a work permit that is unrelated to studies, which in general can be difficult to obtain.
Taking gaps that are not considered actively pursuing studies can impact your PGWP eligibility. You should collect as many documents as you can be related to the reason for your gap in studies. See “documents to prepare” below for more information.
When you apply for the PGWP, write a letter of explanation about the reason for your gap in studies and provide as many supporting documents as possible. You can still submit a PGWP application; however, unfortunately, there is no guarantee the application will be approved. The officer who reviews your application will decide whether or not to approve the application on a case-by-case basis based on your individual circumstances and will make the final decision.
For the 2021/22 Winter Session, UBC offered a new authorized leave procedure for international undergraduate students. As of July 2022, this option is available on an ongoing basis. The undergraduate leave procedure allows you to take time away from studies and still be considered to be actively pursuing studies, maintaining the conditions of your study permit and maintaining eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit program for leaves up to 150 days.
For more information, visit UBC Okanagan’s Academic Leave Policy.
If it is your first term in your program
If Winter Term 1 is your first term in your program and you drop all courses before the last day to drop courses without a W, and you are registered in Term 2, you would be considered to have deferred enrolment for immigration purposes. You would not need and would not be eligible for an authorized leave in Term 1.
If in your first term in your program you withdraw from all courses after the Course change dates with a W, you might qualify for the Academic Leave Policy. The leave would start on the day you withdraw.
If it is not your first term in your program
If you withdraw after the deadline to drop a course with a W, you will not be eligible for an authorized leave for that term.
If you withdraw after the deadline to drop a course with a W, you will not be eligible for an authorized leave for that term.
You can request a leave letter as soon as registration opens for the term(s) for which you are requesting a leave letter. If you drop or withdraw from courses on time, you can request a leave letter until August 31 following the last term for which a leave letter was requested. We recommend you request a leave letter by mid-October for leaves starting Term 1, or mid-February for leaves starting Term 2, so your leave will be recorded accurately in the Immigration Report IRCC receives from UBC each winter term.
What you need to be eligible for a leave letter
How to request a leave letter
Your authorized leave letter will say when your leave began. You can remain in Canada for 150 days after that date.
Leaves longer than 150 days affect your Post-Graduation Work Permit eligibility and status in Canada.
If your leave of absence is approved, you could remain in Canada for 150 days after:
If you plan to take a gap:
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 future Post-Graduation Work Permit application. Prepare the below documents and connect with an International Student Advisor before submitting the application.
This letter affirms UBC’s policy towards time taken away from studies.
Create a list in chronological order of all decisions, events, and action steps leading up to your gap in your 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 and returned to Canada, received medical care, had a family emergency occur, etc. Keep this timeline for your records in case you are asked for information from IRCC or need to write a letter of explanation for a future immigration application.
Gather as many documents as possible related to your reason for 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 showing when you left and returned to Canada, letters issued by your program or faculty, documents relating to a family emergency, confirmation of your internship or military service, etc. Any documents which are not in English or French will need an official translation if you submit them to IRCC.
If possible, request a letter of support with the below guidelines:
Ensure your study permit and entry document (Temporary Resident Visa or Electronic Travel Authorization) are valid to return to Canada, if necessary. See our Travelling to Canada guide to learn about what documents to prepare before you travel.
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.)
After your gap, you can resume studies on your current study permit if it is still valid. A gap in studies does not cause your study permit or Temporary Resident Visa to become invalid.
If your study permit will expire during your gap, contact International Student Advising before the expiry date to discuss your options to apply for a study permit from inside or outside Canada. You may need to provide additional documents to explain how you plan to resume your studies.
It is very important to maintain valid health insurance at all times to avoid overwhelming medical bills and help you access the health support you need when you need it. 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.
Check if you maintain eligibility for the Alma Mater Society (AMS), Graduate Student Society (GSS), or UBC Students’ Union Okanagan (UBCSUO) Health & Dental Plan. Health and Dental Plan. Coverage ends on August 31 each year and you must have basic health insurance, such as MSP, to be able to make a claim.
Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) remains valid until the expiry date, however, you can only work in Canada if you are enrolled full-time for immigration purposes, or are eligible to work on a scheduled break. Having a valid SIN is not sufficient to work in Canada.
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 unless there is a condition which says otherwise.
If you have children, they may continue to study with or 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.
If you are currently receiving funding, such as a fellowship, scholarship or award, check with your funding agency to see if taking a gap will impact your eligibility.
If you are an undergraduate student and have financial assistance or awards, check with Student Records & Financial Services to see if taking a gap will affect your funding.
If you are a graduate student and receive funding, check with your graduate program staff to see if taking a gap will affect your funding.
Ask about your eligibility to remain in on-campus housing with Student Housing & Hospitality Services.
Find everything you need to know about life as an international student at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
International Programs & Services is ready to support you on questions related to immigration, health insurance, and life as an international student in Canada.
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.
UBC’s Okanagan campus is situated on the territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation