International Students Need to Familiarize Themselves with Canada Tax Laws

Foreign students

Many international students that come to Canada to study don’t realize that they need to have some knowledge about the Canada tax system and its regulations.   In fact, they may be required to file a Canadian tax return.

It starts with you figuring out and knowing what your residency status is while you are here.


This includes students who study here but only live in Canada part of the year.   How you are determined as a resident is based on your residential ties.   It could be you have a home in Canada.   You may have a spouse or someone you deem as your common law partner who has come to Canada to live with you, and this includes dependents.   Or you may have social ties to Canada.   You may have some documentation that also supports your residential ties.   These could be a Canadian driver’s licence. You may have a Canadian bank account or credit cards.   Or you may have health insurance coverage issued in one of the provinces or territories.

You will most likely not be deemed as a resident if you return to your home country on a fairly continuous basis, or if you go and spend a significant amount of time there.   Also you will not be considered a resident if you were to move to another country, when you were not actually in school at a University in Canada.   There are some international students who are involved in carrying out or studying research in Canada, and do end up being able to establish residential ties in Canada that are considered significant.

Once it has been established that you are deemed as a resident in Canada then you are considered this for tax purposes.

Non Resident:

If you have not established residential ties that are considered significant by the CRA, and you don’t stay in Canada for any longer that 183 days of the year then you will be considered as a non-resident of Canada.

Deemed Resident:

Even if you have not established residential ties with Canada you could still end up being classed as a deemed resident.   This can happen if you stay here for more than 183 days during the calendar year, plus you are not classed as resident of your home country as it applies to the terms of the tax treaty between your country and Canada.

Deemed non resident:

Perhaps you have established residential ties with Canada, and you are also a resident of another country.   If that country has a tax treaty with Canada then you might be considered as a deemed non resident.

All of the above is in reference for tax purposes.

The Canadian tax laws and regulations can be highly confusing for Canadians who have had to adhere to it all their lives.   So one can only imagine how overwhelming it can get for international students.   To be safe it would be wise to check out your tax implications with a quality and experienced accountant.


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Sam Seidman, CPA, CA, LPA
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