Pathway Programs

What is a pathway program?

If you are seeking an opportunity to study at a post-secondary institution in Canada, you need to receive a letter of acceptance from a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI) in order to apply for a work permit. In some circumstances, you might receive a conditional letter of acceptance that is contingent upon the completion of a prerequisite course. The prerequisite is known as a pathway program, while the main course of study for which you originally applied is called the main study program.


Post-secondary institutions frequently have agreements with language schools and other learning institutions that are designed to facilitate a smooth transfer from the pathway program to the main study program. Although the pathway course is usually taken at a different school to the one offering the main program, this is not always the case.

Why might I need to complete a prerequisite course?

The need for a prerequisite course can arise for several reasons, including the following:

  • You might need to take a language course in order to demonstrate your proficiency in either English or French
  • You might need to take some foundational courses that are related to the content of the main study program
  • You may need to take a high school equivalency course if the secondary education system in your country of origin does not meet Canadian standards

What kinds of pathway program are there?

Pathway programs fall into two general categories, as follows:

  • Standard pathway programs: The student completes the prerequisite course and then takes a test. Admission to the main study program is granted if the student meets the minimum standard for the test.
  • Seamless pathway programs: Completion of the prerequisite course is sufficient to grant the student admission to the main study program, without the need for a test

Do I need a study permit for the pathway program?

Canada does not require people to get study permits for courses that are less than six months in duration, although a Temporary Resident Visa or electronic Travel Authorization might still be needed. If the pathway program is expected to last longer than six months, a study permit must be obtained. When you have successfully completed your prerequisite course and received your final letter of acceptance to the main study program, you will be able to apply for a new work permit.

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