While travelling to Canada

Make sure you're prepared before you leave for the airport.

Travelling to Canada: step by step

Step 1: Check if you’re eligible

Step 2: Before you travel

Step 3: Prepare your self-isolation plan

Step 4: While travelling

Make sure you bring the right documents and know what to expect at the airport or border

Step 5: After you arrive

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Documents to bring

There are important documents you should be sure to have in your carry-on luggage as you travel.

All students

Current students

In addition to the above list, all students continuing to study at UBC who already have a study permit must bring with them:

  • Study permit
    You need to have your original, valid study permit with you.
  • Co-op work permit or work permit approval letter (if applicable)
    You should also bring a letter from your co-op office or program and a current, valid job offer, if you have one.
  • Proof of funds 
    In case the officer asks, bring proof of finances to show that you can financially support yourself in Canada. There is no specific minimum amount required. See proof of means of financial support for sample documents.

New students

In addition to the above list, if you are a new student, or a current student who applied for a new study permit from outside of Canada, you’ll also need to bring:

  • A Letter of Introduction
    Your study permit approval, or Letter of Introduction
  • Your UBC Letter of Acceptance (new students only)
    This is also known as your offer letter. You can download this in your Student Service Centre (SSC) under “Admissions”.
  • Proof of funds
    IRCC now requires that you show proof of funds at the border or airport. Bring updated documents to show sufficient funds for tuition (or payment of tuition) and living costs. If you have a Letter of Introduction (study permit approval), bring the proof of funds you included in your study permit application. See proof of means of financial support for sample documents.

Other helpful documents to carry on the plane

  • Driver’s license
  • Medical or immunization records
  • Copy of your birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate and notarized copies
  • Documents for dependents accompanying you: passports, birth certificates, children’s immunization and school records
  • National identity document from your country

What to pack

There are some things you cannot bring to Canada or will need to declare when you arrive, such as cash over CAD $10,000 and food or animal products. 

See the Canada Border Services Agency’s guidelines for travelling to Canada.

Medication and records

Keep your medication in your carry-on bag in its original packaging, along with a prescription from the doctor. If you use traditional medicines or special herbal remedies, confirm they are not restricted.

It’s a good idea to bring a copy of your medical records for you and the family members who travel with you. If you have a chronic medical condition, have your doctor write a short medical history, preferably in English, for your new doctor in Vancouver. Bring records including the dates of any immunizations and medical tests you have done.

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Before boarding the plane

You will also need to show documentation to airline agents prior to being permitted to board your flight, who may not have in-depth knowledge of Canadian immigration laws or the current travel restrictions. If you should be eligible to travel and have issues boarding your flight, firmly request that the airline staff contact CBSA to confirm your eligibility to travel—airlines have a direct phone number for this purpose.

You might need to show airline staff proof that you have completed the ArriveCan app before being allowed to check-in.

Make sure you also know how to get to your place of self-isolation upon arrival. Tips and information are provided in the previous step.

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What to expect at the Canadian Airport or Border

If you need a study permit

When you first enter Canada, you’ll need to get your study permit. For example, if you arrive in Toronto and then take another flight to Vancouver, you must get your study permit in Toronto. If you have connecting flights, try to schedule a layover for a few hours to allow time for immigration.

  1. Answer questions on the electronic Primary Inspection Kiosk.
    You must declare if you brought with you currency equal to or greater than CAD $10,000 and/or any food, plant, or animal products.
  2. Present your kiosk receipt to an officer.
    Let them know you need a study permit, and the officer will direct you to immigration.
  3. Pick up your checked luggage, if you have any.
  4. Proceed to immigration.
    Present your Letter of Introduction to the officer.
  5. Check your study permit before you leave the officer’s desk.
    Confirm all personal information and conditions are correct. If they are not, notify the officer. If you leave the airport with incorrect documents, it can take months to correct them.

If you arrive by car, there are no kiosks. Answer the officer’s questions, let them know you need a study permit, then proceed to secondary examination for your study permit.

Degree-seeking students are eligible to work on- and off-campus. To prevent delays in starting work, ensure your study permit includes at least one of the following conditions:

  • “May accept employment on or off campus if meeting eligibility criteria, per paragraph R186(f), (v) or (w) and must cease working if no longer meeting these criteria”
  • “May work 20 hours per week off campus or full time during regular breaks if meeting criteria outlined in paragraph 186(v) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations”
  • “May accept employment on the campus of the institution at which registered in full-time studies”

If you’re flying directly to Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

How to reduce wait times if you’re flying directly to the Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

In addition to following the listed steps above, you can reduce your wait times by voluntarily providing some information through the new Voluntary Compliance Portal (VC Portal) which is a pilot project UBC requested between CBSA and the YVR Airport Authority. Your study permit will be printed before you arrive, thereby reducing wait times and limiting congestion for enhanced safety through the arrival process.

Eligibility requirements for the VC Portal:

  • You must have a Letter of Introduction indicating that your study permit has been approved, and
  • You must not have had a layover in Canada on this trip, and
  • You submit the online form at least 72 hours before your departure

The VC Portal is only for study permits at this time. If you have also been approved for a co-op work permit, you can still submit your study permit details. You will not be negatively impacted if you do not use the VC Portal, and using it does not guarantee the CBSA officer will allow you to enter Canada. This is a voluntary option for faster processing and your information will be sent only to the CBSA at YVR.

If you have a study permit

Have all your documents ready to present on arrival. Even if you have a valid study permit, you will need to address an officer’s concerns that you have made adequate self-isolation plans.

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This information is accurate as of October 21, 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.