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UBC is a hub for outstanding researchers from around the world and welcomes Visiting International Research Students (VIRS) to participate in our community of inquiry.
A Visiting International Research Student is an international student conducting research full-time at UBC, under the supervision of a UBC faculty member.
The student is either enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate, or graduate-equivalent program at another university or is a participant in a UBC-recognized (through Go Global) “bridging” program*.
A VIRS is enrolled as a “full time” student at UBC for immigration purposes. VIRS students may not enroll in academic courses for credit, nor formally audit courses.
The VIRS admission process is rolling and there are no deadlines. We strongly encourage students to submit their applications at least 12 weeks before the intended date of arrival.
The immigration information on this page has been reviewed and endorsed by Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) or Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIAs) in compliance with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations.
Students must meet all of the following requirements for admission:
There is no specific English-language proficiency requirement, or an academic grade point average requirement, for admission through VIRS. It is the responsibility of the UBC host professor and department to determine VIRS applicants’ qualifications to undertake the research. Go Global will review students’ applications for basic eligibility, and admit eligible students to the university.
Your program, pathways, and contacts at UBC all depend on whether you plan to come to UBC to do research and collect salary (as an employee) or whether the research is part of your educational program requirement (as a student).
Use the first two levels of the chart to determine the right path to follow, then follow the information to understand what each pathway includes.
We need to receive your completed application at least twelve weeks prior to the planned start date for the research. Take into account that the study permit and/or entry visa application processing times may vary and your VIRS application should be received well in advance for you to receive the Letter of Acceptance to apply for a study permit and/or entry visa.
A VIRS pays a program fee of $415.00 for any period from one month up to one year. The fee must be renewed after one year, should the VIRS wish to extend their research period.
As any new international student, VIRS will automatically be enrolled in the iMED Health Insurance program. Learn more about iMED costs, coverage length, and opt-out eligibility.
Some additional information specific to VIRS:
Depending on the student’s academic level at his/her home institution, a VIRS will be registered in VURS 499 (Undergraduate) or VGRS 599 (Graduate), a non-credit, non-tuition bearing course code which denotes full-time engagement in academic research.
A VIRS will have access to the UBC Library, email services, Go Global services, and, on an urgent need basis, health/counseling services. Use of other services and facilities include but are not limited to areas such as athletics. Transcripts can be accessed on a fee paying basis, as available.
First, please download the VIRS Pre-arrival Checklist for 2019-20 (pdf).
It can also be helpful to check out these resources (note that much of the information below is for our Vancouver campus, but the information is transferrable):
The Visiting International Research Student (VIRS) Program is considered full-time studies for which accepted students will be engaged in research under the supervision of a UBC faculty member. Furthermore, the research a student will engage in forms a student-institution relationship and not an employment relationship with UBC.
Any VIRS students must apply for a study permit, as required by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
You cannot begin your research without appropriate immigration documents and legal status.
If you have questions about immigration documents, please contact VIRS Advising. Make sure to identify yourself as a VIRS student, and include your UBC student number, your country of citizenship, and the length of time of your VIRS studies.
A Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is required to enter Canada as a visitor. Depending on your country of citizenship/nationality, you will either need a TRV or eTA but not both.
Find out which document you need by completing this online questionnaire.
If you are applying for a study permit, you do not need to apply separately for a TRV or eTA.
Once you are accepted as a VIRS student, you can apply for a study permit. An initial study permit application must be made outside of Canada to the visa office responsible for your country of citizenship or the country in which you are currently residing.
Please see the complete tutorial for how to apply for a study permit.
If your study permit application is approved, you will be issued a Letter of Introduction which you will present to the border officer when entering Canada so that they can issue you your study permit.
You must have a valid study permit before you can begin your research at UBC under the VIRS program.
VIRS students are not eligible for UBC Housing (on-campus dormitories). The exception to this is if your research starts and commences between May and August.
VIRS students are responsible for finding their own accommodations.
Learn more about finding housing here:
You are automatically enrolled in the mandatory iMed temporary health insurance plan. You will be charged for the first three months upon VIRS registration (if your research period is six months or longer) or for the duration of your study period (if your research is less than six months). This fee is separate from and additional to your VIRS program fee. If you need additional coverage, you are responsible for extending coverage.
If your research period is longer than six months, you must apply for the BC Medical Insurance Plan (MSP). You may apply for this plan as soon as you arrive in BC.
The iMED program Is basic insurance coverage for your time at UBC. It covers doctors visits, most emergencies, some medications and other services.
This is normal, but you will need to apply for a “Date Change” with the insurance company DCIS. Complete and submit the iMED Date Change Form after arriving in Canada.
The automatic iMED coverage dates coincide with a standard academic term at UBC as follows:
Most students’ research dates are not aligned with UBC’s academic terms, therefore most students will need to request to have their coverage dates updated.
Students get their cards at different times but it should arrive by email before you arrive at UBC. If you have paid your iMED fee and you have not received your card before you arrive in Canada, please
There are two fees: the VIRS Program Fee and IMED Medical Insurance. See the VIRS Fee page for more information.
VIRS students are not charged UBC tuition.
It is your responsibility to make sure that you have enough money to support yourself during your stay in Vancouver. When applying for a visa or study permit, you may be required to verify your funding to Canadian immigration. The cost of living is high in Vancouver. We recommend budgeting at least $2000 per month for housing, food and local transportation.
See more about planning your budget.
These fees are most likely your iMED medical insurance fees which you are required to pay by the stated deadline.
VIRS students do not pay tuition, but the iMED fees are charged on the tuition account.
VIRS students may not have an employment relationship with UBC related to their research activity.
As a VIRS student, you are considered full-time for immigration purposes.
You are eligible to work on-campus in jobs not related to your research if you are full-time (see above) and have a valid study permit. You are only eligible to work during the dates you are a VIRS student.
You are not eligible to work off-campus as you are not enrolled in a program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate at UBC.
We request that you provide a copy of the scholarship document to VIRS along with your VIRS application form. If accepted, your Letter of Acceptance will reflect the actual length of your visit to support your study permit application. However, each VIRS registration is effective for a maximum of one year, therefore you must apply for a renewal of the VIRS registration and pay the renewal fee by the end of the first year of your visit.
VIRS students are usually self-funded, sponsored by their home institution, or receive funding from an external source. Your UBC faculty member may agree to provide reimbursement or an award for some of your expenses from UBC, however, this decision is at the discretion of your UBC faculty member who has agreed to act as your host supervisor, as well as the department with which your host supervisor is affiliated.
If you are a UBC professor who would like to provide funding to your VIRS student, please contact VIRS to discuss your options.
Yes, your non-credit and non-tuition bearing course that reflects your academic level at your home institution (e.g., Undergraduate, Masters, or PhD) will appear on the student’s transcript. You may order official transcripts online.
No, you cannot register for or audit UBC courses. If you wish to audit or take courses, you must apply to become a Visiting Undergraduate or Graduate student. Upon admission into the visiting undergraduate or graduate student pathway, you will lose your VIRS status, but can still continue with your research activities if agreed upon by your UBC supervisor.
All VIRS students should be able to access the Secure Network on their laptops and smartphones while on campus.
You will have to set this up using the AutoConnect application online. See the steps on the UBC IT website. You will use your UBC Campus-Wide Login (CWL) and password to access the network.
No, you are not eligible for the U-Pass transit pass, as you are not assessed tuition or SUO of UBC fees upon VIRS registration.
Yes, students can extend up to a maximum of 24 months only if your host professor agrees to continue supervision during the extension period, and if you remain enrolled at your home university, you may request an extension by contacting VIRS. We will ask you to complete an VIRS Extension Request Form (pdf). You should request your extension at least 2 weeks before your end date but we recommend you submit your extension as soon as you make that decision.
If your extension is approved, we will provide you with a Letter of Extension which you may use to extend your Canadian study permit or visa, if necessary.
VIRS students are charged the $415 program fee once per 12-month period.
If your extension increases the total length of your stay at UBC to more than 12 months, you will be charged the fee for the extension.
VIRS is the senate-approved pathway for all international students that are visiting UBC for research purposes (unless formally appointed as staff through Human Resources and will be obtaining a work permit). The pathway was created to offer a consistent status and set of support resources for faculty and their visiting research students, and to avoid risks associated with being on campus without formal affiliation.
VIRS students are admitted to the university with full-time student status for the period of the research studies. They obtain a university student number, online login and UBC student Card. The Login ID and the UBC Card are used to access our Libraries and related systems, online research tools, and may be used to access certain physical locations on campus (labs, computer labs, departmental lounges, etc).
VIRS students are also invited to an orientation meeting and some social events where they meet other VIRS students that are on campus.
The role of the supervisor varies depending on the nature of the research and the arrangement between the student and the professor.
The basic expectations can be described as:
Go Global provides admitted VIRS students with an official Letter of Acceptance which is normally sufficient for students to apply for immigration documents (study permit, visa). Including additional letters carries the risk that visa officers may misinterpret the student’s status at UBC and refuse required immigration documents.
Occasionally, students require a letter of invitation to apply for an award/scholarship. In such cases, we are happy to provide a template to use for this. Please contact the Go Global advisor for VIRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VIRS students may not have an employment relationship with the University in any capacity related to their research during their VIRS visit. Some VIRS students with valid study permits may work on campus in an area unrelated to their main research (e.g. café, store, restaurant, research unrelated to the main purpose of their visit).
There are three ways for you to provide money to a VIRS student:
When emailing us, include the following information in the email:
If inquiring about study permits, please be sure to include:
VIRS contact email: email@example.com
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UBC’s Okanagan campus is situated on the territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation