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You may already have a checklist a mile long as you prepare to study in Canada. From packing to documents, there’s a lot for international students in Canada and those arriving soon to remember. Here is a list of steps you should remember as you prepare for the adventure of student life in Canada.

Arrival in Canada as a student: Documents

In order to study in Canada, you’ll need a study permit. Depending on your country of citizenship, you may also need an entry document or authorization for Canada: a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). If you apply for a study permit from outside Canada, a TRV or eTA is issued at the same time as your study permit, so you’re ready to go.

If you’re flying to Canada, make sure to pack all your key documents in a secure place in your cabin baggage. Keep your passport, Letter of Introduction (from the visa office), proof of funds, and Letter of Acceptance (from your university or college ) to hand, ready for arrival in Canada. It’s a good idea to keep any other documents – which could include accommodation information, key phone numbers, health insurance documentation, transcripts, and a list of all items you’re bringing with you, and their value – in the same safe place. Remember to check the conditions of any health insurance plan you have for Canada and get extra travel insurance if you’re not covered before you officially enroll.

As for your plane ticket, it is recommended you get a return or open return ticket in order to fly to Canada. At the port of entry (i.e. airport), the officer may ask to see either a return ticket, or proof that you have enough money to purchase one.

Packing

Fitting your entire life into a suitcase may seem a daunting task, but it’s also a chance to start fresh. Try to pack simply for the immediate future, as you’ll be able to find most things you need in Canada. If you’re moving into campus accommodation, check if it’s furnished (it usually is) and see what’s included. If you’re moving in with roommates, get in touch with them beforehand and see what they already have or what they’re bringing, as applicable. Bulky items like bedding, towels, and small appliances can be found at a reasonable price once you arrive. Bear in mind that many small appliances from abroad may not work in Canada, as the voltage system may be different from that of your home country.

One key element to consider is the Canadian winter. It gets seriously cold in most locations, and many international students in Canada arrive without adequate clothing (perhaps because different people have different interpretations of what ‘seriously cold’ actually means). It’s best to plan to buy a proper coat and boots once you arrive, as depending where you’re coming from, Canadian shops may sell more appropriate items than what may be available in your home country (the best time to buy coats and boots is during the “Black Friday” sales that occur around the end of November). In addition, many universities and colleges offer assistance to international students to help get key items at a lower price, or for free. However, if you have sweaters and warm socks, bring as many as you can fit.

If you’re planning to bring a taste of home with you, make sure to check Canadian customs regulations and airline restrictions on food, as these can be strict. As a thoroughly multicultural nation, Canada also has supermarkets and local groceries packed with food from all over the world, so as tempting as it might seem to pack your favourite foods, it’s probably not worth the hassle.

International students in Canada: on arrival

When international students arrive in Canada , they pass through Immigration. An officer will ask for passport or travel documents, and will ask some further questions. Tell the officer you’re coming to Canada to study. You’ll need to show some further documents:

  •  the Letter of Introduction that you received from the visa office when your study permit application was approved;
  •  a copy of your Letter of Acceptance from your college or university;
  •  proof of funds to support yourself (and accompanying family members) while you’re in Canada;
  •  your eTA or Temporary Residence (visitor) Visa; and
  •  any other documents the visa office told you to bring (if applicable).

The officer will stamp your passport and tell you how long you’re allowed to remain in Canada. If there are no issues, the officer will issue your study permit, a key document for all international students in Canada studying for more than six months. Read this document carefully while you’re still at the kiosk – it will state whether you’re allowed to work, and when the study permit expires. Check that your personal information is all correct. It’s better to take the time now to make sure everything is correct, as it’s easier to fix any issues while you’re still at the airport. Don’t hesitate to ask if you’re unclear about the conditions of your study permit, and ask for an interpreter if you need one.

American citizens arriving from the US by land can apply for a study permit at the Point of Entry (POE – i.e., the border). In this case, make sure to bring your travel document, Letter of Acceptance, proof of funds, and any other required documents.

This is not an exhaustive documentation list, and you should always check your university or college’s website and the government of Canada’s advice before you travel. International students in Canada face different situations, and it’s better to be over-prepared than arrive at the border missing a key document. However, don’t let the requirements stress you out – thousands of international students arrive in Canada every year, and the process is intended to be smooth and welcoming.

About the author

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Hugo O'Doherty

He/Him
Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
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