What is a DLI School in Canada?

Canada offers exciting opportunities for students who wish to study in its reputable institutions. However, to study at the college level in Canada, you need to ensure that your school for your program of study is on the list of Canadian DLIs. Even if you wish to remain in the country after graduation, you need to ensure you choose a DLI which permits you to be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit. In this article, we would be enlightening you on DLI schools in Canada among other relevant information.

What is a DLI School in Canada?

A Designated Learning Institution also known as DLI, is a school that admits foreign students. Noteworthy, every primary school and secondary school in Canada are automatically designated learning institutions. However, colleges must obtain permission from the provincial government to be able to admit international students. Before you can get your study permit, you must first present a letter of acceptance from a DLI. It is pertinent to note that if you are studying at the post-secondary level, you can change your school, program, field of study, or level of study without having to apply for a new study permit. As soon as you have been accepted into the program you wish to transfer into, you would have to inform the IRCC that you have changed your school and this can be done online through your MyCIC account.

Also, if you choose a school that is not designated by its provincial or territorial authority as a DLI, then you cannot get a Canadian study permit. This is because such a school is not eligible to host international students. However, peradventure a school loses its DLI status then you can still keep studying in the school until your study permit expires. Another option is for you to transfer to another DLI. Noteworthy, every DLI has a unique number.

Designated Learning Institution Number

As highlighted above, every post-secondary institution that accepts international students has a unique DLI number, which should be included in the application form for a study permit. This number begins with the letter “O”. If you are studying in a Canadian primary or secondary school, you don’t need to include this number. Before you start making plans to study in Canada as an international student, it is essential to verify if your chosen educational institution is included in the list of Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs). Keep in mind that schools with multiple campuses or smaller colleges might have unique DLI numbers assigned to each respective location.

Steps on How to Check if Your Institution is a DLI

Step 1: Visit the official website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Step 2: Select the province or territory where your university or college is located.

Step 3: Enter the name of your university/college, city, and any relevant information in the search box.

Step 4: Note down the DLI number in the section “Details of Intention to Study in Canada” on your study permit application.

About Changing Your Level of Study

It may be required to acquire a new study permit or even inform IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) about any changes, depending on your level of study. The following are the common changes that occur between different levels of study:

  • From primary education to secondary education:

A new study permit is not necessary in this case. However, if the student is transferring from one institution to another during this transition, they should contact IRCC to update their institution of study.

Note: If a minor child is accompanying a parent or guardian who holds a valid work or study permit, the child does not need a study permit for primary and secondary school levels.

  • From secondary education to post-secondary education:

It is necessary to obtain a new study permit from IRCC when changing from secondary to post-secondary education.

  • From one post-secondary level to another post-secondary level:

Acquiring a new study permit is not required when switching between different post-secondary levels of education (e.g., from a Bachelor’s Degree to a Master’s Degree). However, if the student is changing schools or if the program change affects the duration of study or conditions listed on the permit, the student should take appropriate action which would later be discussed.

About Changing Programs

In the event that an international student decides to switch programs within the same designated learning institution (DLI), it is generally not necessary to change their study permit or notify IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) about the changes. However, there are a few exceptions to this:

  • If the study permit of the foreign national includes specific conditions, and if these conditions will be affected by the program change, it is important for them to contact IRCC and provide an update regarding the changes.
  • If the foreign national switches to a program that has a longer duration than the validity period of their current study permit, they will need to apply for a study permit extension before the original expiration date.

About Changing Schools

When it comes to changing schools, if an international student decides to switch institutions while remaining at the same level of study, acquiring a new study permit is not mandatory. However, it is necessary for the student to contact IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) and inform them about the transition to the new institution. It is important to ensure that the new institution is a designated learning institution (DLI), as non-DLI schools are not authorized to enrol international students as seen above.

In the case of a foreign national wanting to transfer from an institution located outside the province of Quebec to one within the province of Quebec, they will be required to obtain a certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) before the transfer. This requirement is due to the unique regulations and criteria set by the province of Quebec for international students. This is also an additional requirement for obtaining a study permit when pursuing studies in Quebec.

Noteworthy, for foreign nationals desiring to switch between Quebec institutions, obtaining a new CAQ for studies may be necessary if they fall under any of the following categories:

1. Changing their level of study.

2. If the duration of a foreign national’s studies exceeds the expiry date specified on the CAQ.

3. Transferring between institutions or programs could affect the conditions listed on the CAQ, necessitating contact with the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) and possibly requiring a new CAQ.

How do you Change Your Designated Learning Institution Number

You can change your Designated Learning Institution (DLI) number while still meeting the conditions of your study permit. In order to do so, you will need the following:

  • If you applied for your study permit by mail, you’ll need to create an online account and link your application.
  • Your study permit number which can be found at the top right of your study permit and starts with the letter ‘S’.
  • The DLI number of your new school is also required. If you’re unsure, you can find it on the list of Canadian DLI numbers.
  • Your new student ID number which can be found on your acceptance letter from the new school.
  • Your start date at the new school.

Once you have all the required documents, follow these steps to change your DLI:

  • Sign in to your account.
  • Look out for the section for Designated Learning Institution Student Transfer and choose “Transfer from DLI number.”
  • Enter your study permit application number and click “Search for my application.”
  • Provide additional details about your original study permit application.
  • Enter your new DLI number, new Student ID number, and start date at the new school. Then, click “Submit transfer.”
  • Review the transfer details. If you are sure that all the information is correct, then click “Confirm Transfer.”
  • You will receive a notification confirming the completion of your transfer. This indicates that you have notified the Canadian government of your intent to change DLIs.


Schools in Canada are renowned for offering advanced knowledge and research opportunities. The two categories of educational institutions in Canada are designated learning institutions and non-designated learning institutions. If you want to study as an international student, then you must be accepted into a DLI. This article has shown you all you need to know about a DLI in Canada and how you can change programs, and schools among others.


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