International Student Survival Guide in Canada
The new school year has begun! Between choosing your class schedule and planning your orientation event schedule, there are some important things to consider as an international student arriving in Canada for the first time. Canadian immigration law requires international students to arrive in Canada with valid and complete documentation. For this purpose, Canada Study News has prepared this short guide to help you navigate your arrival to Canada.
- Offer of admission
All study permit applicants coming to study in Canada from abroad must have an offer of admission or what is also known as a letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada. An offer of admission is often sent by both email and mail to a student who has applied to study in a post-secondary institution in Canada. It is important to keep a copy of the offer because a customs officer may ask to see it upon your arrival
- Valid passport
It is important to ensure you are carrying a passport that is valid for six months or longer. Make sure you have copies of the identification page on your passport in case your passport is lost or stolen.
- Proof of financial capacity
Keep in mind you will need to prove your ability to support yourself financially. You must show that you have the financial capacity to cover your tuition and living expenses for at least one year. Here is a list of ways to prove your financial capacity:
If you have transferred money to Canada, show proof of a Canadian bank account in your name;
- Proof of a student loan from a bank;
- Show your bank statements for the past six months;
- A bank draft that can be converted to Canadian dollars;
- Proof you paid tuition and housing fees; and/or
- If you have a scholarship or Canadian-funded program to show proof of funding paid from within Canada.
Some students may want to bring their spouse, common-law partner or children with them to Canada during their studies. Canada’s immigration policy allows certain family members of international students to come to Canada to work and/or study.
- Certificate of Acceptance (Quebec only)
If you are planning to study in Quebec, in a program that lasts longer than six months, you will need to obtain a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) from Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration.
- Letter of Introduction
The Letter of Introduction, or what is officially called the Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction, is not your study permit, but you must have it when entering the country. You will need this letter, especially if you are planning to pursue a study program that lasts longer than six months. You will be issued this Letter of Introduction from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and it is expected that you show this letter to the port of entry officers when you arrive in Canada. Once your letter is verified, you may be issued a study permit.
- Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) and Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA)
International students, who are also citizens of certain countries, are required to obtain a TRV prior to boarding the plane and heading to Canada. If you from a country whose citizens are required to have a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) in order to enter Canada, the TRV will be issued automatically when the study permit application is approved — there is no separate application or fee required.
Students who come to Canada from visa-exempt countries are not expected to obtain a TRV prior to entering Canada. The government of Canada introduced the eTA system to handle processing of visa-exempt individuals. If you are from a visa-exempt country, an ETA will be issued automatically when the study permit application is approved — there is no separate application or fee required. The ETA is valid for five years, or until the expiry of the passport, whichever comes earlier.
Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) checkpoint
Students who come to Canada for the first time are required to pass through a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) checkpoint. Passengers on aircraft arriving in Canada are handed a Declaration Card to declare their address, purpose of stay, and any goods they are bringing with them. You will be expected to have this card completed prior to meeting with a CBSA agent.
If you are bringing more than $10,000 in cash, traveler’s cheques, or bank drafts, it must also be declared on the card.
When you inform the CBSA agent that you are arriving in Canada to study, you may be required to present the following documents:
- eTA or TRV;
- POE (Letter of Introduction);
- Letter of Acceptance from the Designated Learning Institution (DLI) you will be attending;
- CAQ (if you are studying in Quebec); and
- Proof of funds.
Once all documents are validated, the CBSA agent may issue a study permit and inform you how long you may stay in Canada. It is important to inspect your study permit carefully to ensure all information on it, such as personal information, expiry date and expected graduation date, is accurate. The study permit will also indicate whether or not you are eligible to work in Canada during your studies.