Check if you’re eligible to travel

There are a number of steps to take if you’re planning to travel to Canada for your studies.

Travelling to Canada: step by step

Step 1: Check if you’re eligible
Not all students can travel to Canada due to current travel restrictions.

Step 2: Before you travel

Step 3: Prepare your self-isolation plan

Step 4: While travelling

Step 5: After you arrive

Back to the overview

Travel restrictions

Not all students can travel to Canada due to current travel restrictions. If your program components are all available online, you are encouraged to remain in your home country until travel restrictions change.

TO TRAVEL TO CANADA, YOU MUST MEET TWO REQUIREMENTS:

  1. You must have valid documents to travel, and
  2. You must be travelling for an essential purpose to study in Canada

1. Have valid documents

FIRST, YOU MUST HAVE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTS:

  • An original, valid study permit issued on any date
  • If you’re travelling from the US, a Letter of Introduction, or initial study permit approval, issued on any date
  • If you’re travelling from any country other than the US, a Letter of Introduction, or initial study permit approval, issued on or before March 18, 2020

SECOND, YOU MUST HAVE EITHER OF THE FOLLOWING (US CITIZENS ARE EXEMPT):

INFORMATION FOR CURRENT STUDENTS

If you applied for a study permit extension inside of Canada and then left, you will need a trusted friend to mail your new study permit to you so that you can travel with it.

If you are a current student who applied for a study permit from outside of Canada, and your study permit approval, or Letter of Introduction, was issued after March 18, 2020, you cannot travel to Canada at this time. 

2. Travelling for an essential purpose

WHAT IS CONSIDERED AN ESSENTIAL PURPOSE?

When you arrive in Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer will use their judgment to determine whether or not your travel is considered “essential”, depending on your individual circumstances and the supporting documents you provide.

You must either have time to self-isolate before your in-person component begins or be able to study online during your self-isolation period.

You can find the documents you need to prepare for your travel in the next step.

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE IN-PERSON COMPONENTS

If your program components are all available online, we recommend that you do not travel to Canada until travel restrictions change. On arrival in Canada, the CBSA officer will determine if you documented reasons to travel to Canada are “essential”. If you will travel, you must demonstrate documentation to the airline agent and CBSA officer why you must be in Canada to study.

The following are examples of documented reasons which might make you eligible to travel to Canada; however, these examples do not guarantee that you will be eligible to travel to Canada since the final decision rests with the CBSA officer.

  • Internet restrictions or bandwidth limitations
    Your home country has internet restrictions or bandwidth limitations.
  • Established resident in Canada
    You are returning “home” as an established resident of Canada.
  • Different time zones
    Your online course has synchronous components, meaning that there are mandatory meeting times for class, and you have a challenging time difference.

IF YOU HAVE IN-PERSON COMPONENTS

Your travel can be considered essential if your program has an in-person component in Winter Term 1, such as:

  • In-person classes, laboratories, or workshops
  • On-campus research
  • Mandatory work experience (co-op, internships, or practicums)
  • Teaching assistantships where you must be in Canada to receive funding

OTHER REASONS TO TRAVEL

There may be other reasons travelling to Canada is important to you but which have not been identified as potential reasons for essential travel. The CBSA officer on arrival would make the final decision on if the documented reason is sufficient for your travel to be considered essential on a case-by-case basis.

  • Work opportunities unrelated to your program
    If you have a job opportunity which is not required as part of your degree requirements, such as internships you have found independently, the CBSA officer will decide if this is considered essential travel.
  • New housing arrangements
    Having secured a new lease or housing contract on-campus or off-campus in Canada is likely not sufficient proof that your travel is “essential”.

Get advice on whether you should travel

Unfortunately, it is not possible to get pre-approval on whether or not your travel is considered essential. International Programs & Services cannot confirm which reasons or documents will allow you to gain entry to Canada.

To receive advice, you may email or call the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). If you are calling, please ask for and take note of the agent’s badge number, the date and time you speak with the agent, and record notes of your conversation in case you need to refer to this in the future.

You may also consider contacting your airline to confirm what documentation they will request to board your flight.

The CBSA officer you meet with when you arrive in Canada will make the final decision on whether you can enter Canada.

Back to top

When you can travel

There is no specific earliest date you can travel; however, an officer may have concerns if you are travelling several months before you begin your studies. Arriving the month before you begin studies would not be a concern.

Do not travel or purchase non-refundable flight tickets or make non-refundable accommodation deposits until you meet both eligibility requirements to be eligible to travel.

Back to top

Consider alternate plans

If you are hoping to travel to Canada, you should consider preparing a plan “B” in case you cannot travel or are refused entry. UBC will not be able to overturn the officer’s decision.

FOR EXAMPLE:

  • Is your flight refundable or can it be changed to a later date?
  • If you choose to board a flight to Canada, can you return to the country you are departing from and would you be impacted by any self-isolation requirements upon return?
  • If you have on-campus housing or have applied for a self-isolation package, what deadlines apply and what refunds are available?
  • If you have off-campus housing in Canada, what refunds are available and what could you do with any belongings that are already in Canada?
  • What housing arrangements would be needed to live outside of Canada?
  • If your courses will be synchronous, and you have a challenging time difference, contact your professor to see what accommodations might be available. See UBC’s online learning tips.
  • What health insurance would you need outside of Canada?
  • If you have dependents, what are their childcare, school or employment needs

Back to top

This information is accurate as of August 27, 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.