Under what conditions can international students pay domestic tuition fees?

International student tuition fees in Ontario are about four times more than domestic fees, but certain international students are exempt.

What is an exempt student?

An exempt student is an international student that is eligible to pay domestic tuition fees. All public colleges and universities have a process for determining eligibility, guidelines for which are set by the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities (MTCU).

Who is exempt?

The following list outlines who is exempt from paying international tuition fees and should be determined for consideration: *

  • Canadian citizens
  • Permanent residents
  • Protected persons, convention refugees*
  • Spouses and dependents* of a person with Canadian citizenship or permanent residency status
  • Official visitor such as a diplomat or spouse, dependent, or staff of official visitor*
  • Foreign worker or spouse or dependent of foreign worker with permit valid for 6 months*
  • Foreign clergy worker or spouse or dependent of foreign clergy worker providing services for at least 6 months 
  • Foreign military worker or spouse or dependent of foreign military worker admitted into Canada under the Visiting Forces Act 
  • Institutional exchange student* 

Some international students are not automatically exempt, however their fees may be partially or fully waived by the college or university. 

  • International students with scholarships or awards from international agencies or foundations
  • Students sponsored by specific agencies*

Important considerations

It is important to be familiar with the college or university’s policy regarding exemption. Some institutions might determine eligibility during enrollment while others might have a separate application process.

Regardless of exemption, international students need to ensure they have the correct permit or other status documents in place to continue with their studies. Students also need to be aware of expiration dates such as those on work permits. Should a students’ status change at any time during their studies they might be required to pay for international student fees for future semesters. 

Students should also be aware of important application dates as exempt status cannot be applied to past semesters and exempt status should be confirmed before starting school. 

How to apply?

Each college and university has its own determination process, but there are general guidelines that can help you:

  • Research before applying for school and get support in researching by contacting the registrar in the college or university you want to apply to
  • A lot of colleges and universities also have an international student centre that can provide resources
  • There might be an additional application form that must be completed to determine exempt status, ensure you have the support of someone who can read and help complete the form
  • Students should have originals and/or copies of eligibility documents like work permits or proof of family status