Before you leave

Overview of Canadian visa procedures

You must apply for a study permit if your main reason for coming to Canada is to study for more than six months. Before you can apply for a study permit, you must have been accepted at a school, university or college in Canada. You can apply for a study permit online, or by submitting your application form to the Canadian visa office that serves the country or region in which you live.

If you are from the United States, Saint Pierre and Miquelon or Greenland, you can apply at the point of entry when you arrive in Canada.

You must also have a passport that is valid for the entire duration of your studies in Canada. If the validity is shorter, you must request a study permit extension.

The Study section of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website will provide you with information on:

Preparing to study

what is needed before applying for a study permit in Canada

Determining eligibility

who can apply and what exceptions exist

Applying for a study permit

how to apply and what documents
to provide with an application
downloading the application package
paying application fees and submitting an application

Checking processing times

information that is updated weekly and indicates the time (in calendar days) it takes to process an application after a complete application package is received

After applying

what to do after applying for a study permit

Preparing for arrival

what documents may be required when entering Canada

ESSENTIAL: Apply as soon as you receive your Letter of acceptance.

If attending an educational institution for six months or more in the Province of Quebec, you must also obtain a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ).

Applying for a CAQ

Submit an application to the Quebec regional office responsible for the territory in which your educational institution is located.

Quebec Immigration Services require the following to process your CAQ:

A completed CAQ application form
A photocopy of your letter of acceptance; keep the original for Canadian immigration
Proof of your financial capability
A processing fee

Upon receipt by Quebec immigration, your application will be processed and confirmation will be sent by mail to you and the Canadian embassy in your region.

More information on the CAQ

Please visit the Immigration Quebec website, under the Foreign Student section for further details.

Travelling to Canada

Talk to a travel agent to discover options or investigate the many online offers available. The following travel arrangements are important to consider:

Be sure of your travel dates. Consider a flexible ticket that allows you to change your return flight.
Travel insurance is strongly recommended. The medical insurance you will have at your Canadian educational institution may only cover your study period. Travel time before and after your studies you may not be covered.
Make sure you know what time you need to be at the airport. International flights usually require check-in at least two hours prior to the scheduled departure.
Canadian authorities do not require a return ticket, but if you do not have one in your possession when you arrive in Canada, the officer at the port of entry must be satisfied that you will have to means to purchase one when the time comes. Some airlines may require a return ticket.
Have a valid passport. Make sure it is valid for at least six months after your return date.
Know where you will stay when you arrive in Canada and how you will get there from the airport.
Carry some local currency for any transit destinations. Some countries require you to pay airline taxes in transit, which may not have been included in your ticket cost. Local currency is also useful to purchase a snack or magazine along the way.
Have enough Canadian currency–cash or traveller’s cheques.
Know the airline’s baggage limitations. Check how much baggage you are allowed to take with you and be mindful of weight restrictions.
Never agree to carry another person’s bags or their items in your luggage. It may be something that is illegal, and you would be held responsible for it.
Find out which items are restricted or prohibited for travel to Canada. There are restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, firearms, food, animal and plant products, drugs and prescription drugs that are not approved in Canada. Stiff penalties are imposed for infractions. Also, some seemingly harmless goods can be dangerous on board an aircraft and should not be packed in either checked or carry-on baggage. During your flight, you will be given a card to declare what youare bringing into Canada.
Pack basic toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag in case of travel delays. Liquids must be in containers less than 100 ml and should be kept in a separate plastic bag, which will be verified during security screening.
Remember to clearly tag all of your baggage, noting your name and the complete address of your destination in Canada. Also, pack a card inside your luggage with your Canadian contact details.
At airport check-in, ask whether your baggage will be checked through to your final destination in Canada, or whether you must claim and transfer at any stage. Find out if boarding passes for all connecting flights can be issued at once, or if you will need to check in at each airport en route.
Remember to keep all important documents, medications and high-value items such as cameras, jewellery, laptops, phones, credit cards and cash with you–do not pack these items in your checked baggage.
Make photocopies of important documents and pack them in your baggage, leaving additional copies at home with someone you trust. These documents can include:

airline tickets
travel insurance certificate
letter of Acceptance from your Canadian institution
key addresses and phone numbers
a bank statement showing proof of funds
letter of Introduction from Canadian immigration, if applicable
prescriptions or a letter from your doctor for any medication you are carrying
medical and immunization records, which may be useful if you need medical care while abroad
traveller’s cheques
academic history and university transcripts, which may be needed for credit transfers, evidence of prerequisites for exchange students, or to obtain work
the Pre-Departure Checklist

Pre-Departure Checklist

Accept your offer for study in Canada.
Apply for a passport, or check that your current passport will be valid for at least six months beyond your return date.
Apply for immigration documents, if required .
Book airline tickets.
Buy travel and health insurance.
Arrange accommodation in Canada. 
Arrange transportation to/from the airport at home and in Canada.
Arrange your banking—consider buying traveller’s cheques for large denominations, as well as carrying a smaller amount of cash.
Check baggage and customs limitations.
Clear all paperwork with your home educational institution.
Ensure all of your documents are in order and make photocopies to pack in your baggage, to leave at home, and to send to your email address. These documents include:

Airline tickets
Travel insurance certificate
Letter of acceptance for your Canadian educational institution
Key addresses and phone numbers
A bank statement showing proof of funds
Letter of introduction from Canadian immigration, if applicable
Prescriptions for any medication you are carrying
Traveller’s cheques, if applicable
Medical and immunization records
Academic history and university transcripts

Find out about Canada and the town or city where you will be living and studying.
Contact your Canadian educational institution with any questions you may have.

Culture shock

It is one thing to travel as a tourist, but quite another to immerse yourself in a new culture as a full-time resident. As you adjust to your new surroundings you will experience a variety of emotions, ranging from excitement to frustration. This is completely normal and to be expected. This section will help to prepare you.

“Culture shock” is a term used to describe the anxiety that you experience as you integrate into a new society. Often characterized by physical and emotional discomfort, culture shock occurs as a result of the absence of familiar signs and symbols of social interaction.

There are five predictable stages of cultural adaptation. Although the length and intensity of each stage varies from person to person, everyone experiences culture shock at some point in their international experience. Moreover, as you progress along the stages, there may be times when you regress to previous stages. In time you will overcome difficulties and move forward again.

The five stages of cultural adaptation

The “honeymoon” stage

You feel optimistic, fascinated, excited and adventurous.
You are detached from the unfamiliar because you are still in your identity from home.

The “hostility” stage

You feel hostile, inadequate, disappointed, and alienated.
As the novelty wears off, you experience withdrawal, loneliness and depression.
Your new identity begins to emerge and the differences between your home and host culture are more noticeable.
You feel a sense of failure and try to avoid the cultural differences.

The “adjustment” stage

You feel self-assured, independent and in control.
Although you have a tendency to stereotype and make generalizations about the host culture, you can also laugh at the differences and you nolonger let them get you down.

The “interdependence” stage

You feel comfortable and accepted.
Differences no longer dominate your identity and you trust your new environment and those around you.
You understand the meaning of actions in your surrounding cultural context.
Your ultimate goal is to achieve a bicultural or multicultural identity. Note that very few people actually achieve this stage and you should not consider yourself a failure if you do not develop a bicultural or multicultural identity. The journey is what’s important.

The “re-entry” stage

Upon returning to your home country you will experience re-entry shock, also known as reverse culture shock.
You are excited about your experiences and frustrated when no one understands.
You will realize that you have changed.
You will glamourize your time abroad.

Tips for managing culture shock

Learn about Canadian culture prior to leaving home.
Pack some mementos from home that will comfort you when you’re missing your family and friends.
Ask questions if you are unsure of something.
Get involved and participate in group events.
Be open to new experiences and ideas.
Talk to other international students about their experiences in Canada.
Use the professional support services available to you at your institution.
Try to relax and not take everything too seriously or worry unnecessarily.

Social Insurance Number

A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is required to work in Canada or to receive government benefits. Obtain a SIN application form at the airport as soon as you arrive or afterward at any Canada Post outlet or Service Canada office.

More information

Service Canada


A variety of programs and funding is available to non-Canadians wanting to study in Canada. The first place to look for information is the International Scholarships website.

Postgraduate financial assistance and scholarships

The majority of Canadian universities offer some form of financial assistance for international students studying at the graduate level. Assistance may include:

teaching/department assistantships
research funds
university graduate scholarships
external scholarships

The value of these awards will vary significantly by department as well as by institution. For more information, contact the institution you plan to attend.

International students may also qualify for Canadian government financial assistance or external scholarships.

Some specific examples:

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships: Doctoral scholarships for exceptional students, valued at $50,000 per year for three years. This prestigious scholarship is on par with Rhodes and Fulbright Scholarships.
Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholarships: This is a highly competitive program offering doctoral scholarships for studies in social sciences and humanities, including a limited number available to foreign students. Candidates must be nominated by their university and in their first or second year of doctoral studies.

Tourism in Canada

From coast to coast and everything in between, Canada offers many incredible sights: from the rugged shores of Vancouver Island to the Rocky Mountains in the West, the lakes and plains of the Prairies to breathtaking Niagara Falls in Ontario, the quaint fishing villages of the Maritimes to the frozen wonders of the North–each region is unique and well worth exploring.

Useful travel links

Top things to do in Canada

Watch the water rush over Niagara Falls, go whitewater rafting in the Northwest Territories or go sailing on the Great Lakes.
Ski the Western Rockies, or Mont Tremblant and Mont Sainte-Anne in the East.
Experience Carnaval, the City of Québec’s vibrant winter festival or have a peek at the world famous Ice Hotel.
Watch “Ridin’, Ropin’ and Ranglin” at the Calgary Stampede, or visit the indoor beach at the West Edmonton Mall.
Experience the colour of autumn leaves in a national park; go camping, canoeing, hiking or surfing in summer, snowshoeing, cross-country or alpine skiing in winter.
Explore the prairies on horseback; go fly fishing in Manitoba or vacation on a Saskatchewan farm.
Skate on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, the world’s longest skating rink, or climb the CN Tower in Toronto’s downtown core.
See the northern lights in Canada’s Arctic, go dog-sledding in the Yukon or take in iceberg alley off Newfoundland’s coast.
Have a legendary lobster dinner in the Maritimes or watch the whales play in New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy.
Walk the red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island and tong for oysters on its shores.

Domestic airlines

Flying is the fastest way to travel across North America. Canada’s two largest air carriers, Air Canada and WestJet, serve most Canadian cities. Regional carriers include Porter Airlines, which flies out of the Toronto Island Airport to Ottawa, Montréal, Halifax and a number of U.S. cities. All Canadian carriers provide online booking services and most offer a range of prices for one-way flights.

Air Canada
West Jet

Rail travel in Canada

VIA Rail provides passenger rail service in Canada. This includes twice-weekly service between Montréal and Halifax and transport between Montréal and Toronto to Vancouver.

VIA Rail
Rocky Mountaineer Vacations

Bus travel in Canada

Bus travel in Canada includes either local transit or long-distance vehicles. Besides city-run local transit, Canadian bus-line companies offer an extensive network of reliable bus service throughout the country, which includes frequent downtown-to-downtown services between major cities.

Banff Airporter – Calgary-Banff
Brewster Transportation & Tours – Rockies
Coach Canada – Toronto/Montreal
DRL Coach Lines – Newfoundland
Gray Line
Greyhound – Canada and USA
Orléans Express – Quebec
Pacific Coach Lines – BC
Quick Shuttle – Vancouver-Seattle

Canadian currency and banking

Canada’s currency is the Canadian dollar. There are one hundred cents to one dollar.

The Canadian dollar is available in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes.

Canadian coins come in denominations of five cents (nickel), 10 cents (dime), 25 cents (quarter), $1 (loonie) and $2 (toonie). You will rarely see a 50-cent piece, although these are minted for special occasions.

For further information visit

Bank of Canada
Royal Canadian Mint


Canadian banks are quite similar to their American or European counterparts in many respects. Most charge a fee for customer service and offer a variety of packages. A basic bank account will cost approximately CAD 5 per month. Opening a Canadian bank account is optional, however, Canada’s major banks offer great student accounts and services that may save you international transaction charges and make managing your money easier.

Ask about student account options at any Canadian bank or inquire whether your current bank has established partnerships in Canada.

Most stores accept multiple payment methods, including cash, credit card and debit cards. Cheques are used frequently for large amounts, such as rent and bill payments. Your bank will issue personalized cheques when you open an account. Internet banking is common and is a widely accepted method to pay bills and complete other transactions. Many universities offer online banking options for tuition and account payments.

Credit cards

Visa and MasterCard are the two main credit cards accepted by most major businesses. American Express is accepted, although not as widely. Your existing Visa or MasterCard may be accepted in Canada, but be sure to check with your bank beforehand and be aware of exchange rates and any foreign transaction fees.


In Canada, automatic banking machines (ABMs) are numerous and easy to find. They are located in most shopping centres, tourist attractions and banks, as well as in some convenience stores and gas stations. Most ABMs are operated by a major bank. You can withdraw cash from ABMs not operated by your own bank, but a fee between CAD 1 to CAD 2.50 will be charged for withdrawal from a local account, more from a foreign bank. Inquire about international withdrawal fees from your home bank before attempting to use your ABM card in Canada.

All ABMs can be used for cash withdrawals. To access other banking functions like deposits, paying bills, printing account statements and transfers between accounts, you must use an ABM associated with your own banks.

Check with your bank whether your card will be accepted at Canadian ABMs, and whether the networks used by both banks–such as Cirrus, Plus, Interac–are compatible. Your bank can inform you about networks and international withdrawal fees. Some banks have agreements with Canadian bank.

You can also make cash advances from your credit card at Canadian ABMs, but fees and interest rates can be high. Inquire about fees directly at your credit card company before you depart and advise them of your overseas plans. Failure to inform them may flag your card as stolen once used in Canada, and may result in a frozen account.

Bank hours of business

Most banks are open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. Some branches close later, at 7 p.m. one day a week, and some are open for reduced hours on Saturday. Most banks are closed on Sunday.

Money transfers to Canada

Traveller’s cheques are an easy way to transfer money to Canada. They can be purchased at most banks and come in a variety of denominations. They are secure and can be immediately cashed at any Canadian bank or currency converter. Do not forget to make photocopies of your traveller’s cheques in case they get lost or stolen.

You can also transfer money using a bank draft from another country, but it can take up to eight weeks for clearance at the Canadian bank and a service fee is likely.

Some banks can transfer money electronically into your Canadian account. Fees vary by institution, but costs average around CAD 30.

Canada’s major banks include:

Bank of Montreal
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
HSBC Canada
President’s Choice Financial
Royal Bank of Canada
TD Canada Trust

Health and travel insurance

Canada’s universal health-care system is well developed due to joint federal and provincial government efforts.

Each province/territory manages health care for its region, covering all citizens for hospital and physician care. Virtually all Canadian post-secondary institutions have medical-insurance plans available to international students. Contact the Canadian educational institution you plan to attend for information about health insurance coverage for you.

Whether or not you plan to purchase coverage from a Canadian institution, it is highly recommended that you purchase travel health insurance. Contact your travel agent for more information.


In Canada, it is customary to tip service providers such as bartenders, waiters, hairdressers, concierges and cab drivers. A tip is a sign of appreciation for service provided and is not automatically included on the bill. Ask peers what tip is customary for various services in your area.

Make the most of your experience!

This section is designed to get you thinking about how to make the most of your time in Canada. Understanding your Canadian university’s administrative processes will help you better organize your time abroad.

Also, setting goals and creating a checklist of things to keep in mind before, during and after your studies will help make your Canadian experience the most valuable investment possible.

Whether you are in Canada for six months on exchange or a full-time student starting a degree program, your time abroad is an excellent opportunity to advance your career and make valuable contacts. The information below is intended to help make your Canadian experience one of personal development and self-discovery.

Quick tips

Inform your educational institution if your address or contact information changes. You are responsible for receiving correspondence and important information, even when you are overseas.
If you intend to do partial studies in Canada, find out what you must do to facilitate your credit transfer upon your return. Inquire about transferring your credit well before departure as this can take considerable time. Always obtain written approval for the subjects you tend to take in Canada—do not assume you will receive automatic credit.
Order your own academic transcript from your Canadian educational institution when your studies are complete. One may also be sent to your home educational institution, but this can take time and may be too late if you are expecting to meet graduation or class registration requirements.
If you are expecting to graduate upon return to a home educational institution, find out when the last day is to resolve accreditation issues.
Do not assume that either educational institution is concentrating on your particular academic situation. It is your responsibility to fulfill any accreditation requirements.

Before you go

Think about your future: where do you want to be in a year? What steps can you take in Canada to get closer to this goal?
Establish goals: come up with some concrete personal and professional goals to accomplish while studying in Canada.
Check on scholarship opportunities with your home educational institution and other community-based organizations. You may be eligible for funding to assist with the costs of travel and living abroad.
Make practical preparations, such as ensuring that your passport and visa will not expire while you are in Canada.
Obtain any necessary medical/dental check-ups before you leave for Canada. If applicable, arrange for enough medication for your period abroad or take a letter from your doctor.
Keep a hard copy or electronic copy of any travel/medical insurance policies.
Devise a realistic budget, and plan to bring sufficient local currency on arrival in Canada for initial expenses.
Obtain an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). This is a universally recognized student status card and will entitle you to travel discounts.
Register with your country’s embassy when you arrive in Canada.

While in Canada

Arrive a few days before your student orientation so that you can familiarize yourself with your institution, accommodation and community.
Make contact with the international students’ office at your Canadian educational institution upon arrival. They will assist you with enrollment and orientation, and will provide a referral service for other essential needs.
Take part in your institution’s orientation program. This will be an invaluable experience for getting to know your destination and making new friends.
Familiarize yourself with your institution’s policies that relate to the submission of assessment work and exams. You may need to know about this sooner than you think. 
Keep a diary. Writing about your experiences and emotions can ease homesickness, help you to track progress on your goals, and remind you of your time abroad.
Network. Take part in social and academic opportunities that come your way.
Volunteer. Find an organization or cause that grabs your attention, and get involved. Your efforts will be appreciated and the experience will look great on your résumé.
Playing a sport or joining a team is a great way to meet new people and become part of the community. Also, ask your institution about its various clubs.
Adopt the right mindset
Arrive with an open mind.
Be willing to try new things, new foods and customs.
Remind yourself that differences are not bad.
Try to find similarities, not just differences, between your culture and the new one.

When you return

Visit your exchange international students’ office to resolve credit transfers and report on your experiences.
Become a buddy for other exchange students or volunteer at your institution’s international centre.
Incorporate your international experiences into your everyday and academic life.
Choose topics for class presentations, discussions and projects that draw on experiences and knowledge from your study abroad.
Join/start a returned exchange students’ association.
Keep in touch with your Canadian friends abroad!

Student life