Before you travel to Canada

Before you travel to Canada, you need the right documents and a self-isolation plan for when you arrive.

Travelling to Canada: step by step

Step 1: Check if you’re eligible

Step 2: Before you travel
Before you travel to Canada, make sure you prepare the right documents supporting essential travel and have valid health insurance coverage for when you arrive.

Step 3: Prepare your self-isolation plan

Step 4: While travelling

Step 5: After you arrive

Back to the overview

Gather documents supporting essential travel

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer will determine whether or not your travel is considered “essential”, depending on your individual circumstances and the supporting documents you share when you arrive in Canada.

Check if you’re eligible to travel before preparing documents.

Whenever you travel to Canada, you should bring a proof of enrolment letter. See Step 4: While you travel, for a list of recommended documents to bring when you travel. 

If you have in-person components

If your studies have an in-person component in Winter Term 1, your travel is likely to be considered essential. You will need documents from UBC to support that you must be in Canada to study.

Letter of support from UBC


UBC can provide a travel support letter only if your program has a mandatory in-person component for Winter Term 1, such as in-person lectures or on-campus research. If your program does not have a mandatory in-person component, do not request a Letter of Support as one will not be issued.

UBC programs and faculties cannot validate other reasons why you need to travel, such as Internet bandwidth limitations or returning “home” to Canada. You will need to prepare these supporting documents yourself—see below for more details.


If you’re an undergraduate student, contact Academic Advising to request a support letter.

If you’re a graduate student, please connect with your Graduate Program Advisor.

Proof of co-op, internship, or practicum

If you have mandatory work for your program in the fall, such as a co-op term, practicum or internship, you should also request a letter from your co-op department or graduate program. You cannot obtain a letter for work opportunities you have found independently which are not required to complete your degree requirements.

In addition, bring a copy of your job offer if you have one, as well as your co-op work permit or approval for a co-op work permit.

The following are documents you prepare yourself in support of your individual circumstances. International Student Advising cannot confirm what documents will be considered sufficient as each CBSA officer will consider individual circumstances and decide on a case-by-case basis. Use your best judgement and collect as many supporting documents as you can to show an officer why you must be in Canada to study.

Below are sample documents to prepare if you decide to travel—there are no specific documents which will guarantee that your travel will be considered essential.

Internet restrictions

If your home country has Internet restrictions or bandwidth limitations, print a copy of the UBC Internet and Time Zone Travel Support Letter (pdf), which outlines UBC’s requirement of having a strong Internet connection for online studies. You must also gather additional documentation that substantiates what your Internet restrictions and limitations are where you are located abroad.

Review UBC’s information regarding recommended Internet or bandwidth requirements.

Many courses deliver content in a variety of multimedia formats, including video streaming for lectures, so the higher the speed, the better. Generally, a minimum 5.0 Mbps download and 1.0 Mbps upload speed will handle most UBC learning technologies.

Returning as a resident of Canada

If you are a current student who is returning home to Canada, get your lease or residence contract for your place of residence that you’ve maintained while you were on your trip abroad.

You should also prepare additional documents showing your ties to Canada, such as a BC Services Card, proof of payment for utilities, transcripts, cell phone bills, bank cards or accounts or a copy of your car lease.

Challenging time difference

If you have synchronous components to your online studies which are difficult to complete due to a challenging time difference, you will need to collect documents to prove that your course is synchronous and that you have a significant time difference. The CBSA officer will decide if the time difference and associated challenges are significant enough to warrant needing to study in Canada.

Bring the following documents:

Health insurance coverage

If you’re new to UBC

As a new student, you have temporary health insurance coverage for your first three months through iMED. Once you’ve arrived in Canada, you must apply for the BC Medical Service Plan to cover your remaining time at UBC. Learn more about health insurance.


You will receive an email from David Cummings Insurance Services (DCIS) with information related to your temporary iMED health insurance and instructions on how to confirm your arrival date in Canada. You must confirm your arrival date with DCIS.

We strongly recommend that starting 3 weeks before your travel date, you confirm your arrival date before travelling by providing your scanned flight tickets to DCIS.

You can also confirm your arrival with DCIS up to 3 weeks after you’ve arrived in Canada by providing your scanned flight tickets, boarding pass(es), study permit, passport stamp, or landing documents.


Once you confirm your arrival with DCIS, you will receive your iMED card by email. If you don’t receive your iMED card, please email DCIS at

Confirm the iMED coverage period on your iMED card is correct. iMED coverage should start from the month you arrive in BC plus two months to cover the BC MSP waiting period.


If your travel plans change, request an adjustment of your iMED coverage period. Once you know your new arrival date, submit an iMED date change request online through DCIS website before December 31, 2021. You will then receive a new iMED card with your new coverage period.

Returning students

Make sure to check that you have valid BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage before you travel.


If you have been outside of Canada for less than six months and you did not cancel your MSP, ensure your MSP coverage has not expired. You should be able to be covered under MSP, however consider contacting BC MSP to confirm.


If you have been outside of Canada for more than six months, contact BC MSP to confirm your eligibility for coverage. If you can still be covered under MSP, no further action is required until your MSP expires.


Before you travel to Canada, you will need to get private health insurance, such as the Global Campus Health Plan, to cover the three-month MSP waiting period. Make sure the private health plan you choose has adequate coverage as some private health insurance companies are no longer covering COVID-19 testing and treatment. 

As soon as you re-enter BC, apply for MSP online. See the Medical Service Plan Response to COVID-19 for the latest updates.

This information is accurate as of September 4, 2020, and is subject to change. Follow the latest updates on travel restrictions due to COVID-19. See also CBSA’s updates on travel for non-Canadians.