Visiting International Research Student at UBC Okanagan

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.

*Examples of a “bridging” program: DAAD Rise Worldwide and Mitacs Globalinks. Contact us with respect to other programs.

Apply for a study permit (VIRS)

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.

How to apply

Eligibility

Students must meet all of the following requirements for admission:

  • Not have Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status.
  • Actively pursuing a degree at a post-secondary institution in Canada or abroad (undergraduate, graduate, or graduate-equivalent program) OR be part of a recognized bridging program.
    • Examples of bridging programs: The Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) and Mitacs Globalink. Please contact us with respect to other programs
  • Will maintain enrollment at their home university for the duration of their stay at UBC
  • Have a plan to conduct research for one month or longer
    • The maximum length of proposed research period that a VIRS can be approved for is one year (12 months). At the end of the approved visit period, the student may request an extension for up to one year.
  • Have no intention to enter into an employment relationship with the university related to the research – please see study permit info for more details
  • Obtain approval for research activities at UBC by obtaining signatures from:
    • Supervisor from the student’s institution.
    • The student’s Home university or sponsoring program.
    • The host supervisor at UBC.
    • The UBC Department Head for the unit or laboratory with which the visiting research student will be affiliated.

English language and academic qualifications

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.

Is VIRS the right pathway?

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.

flow chart of different ways a student can come to UBC for research

HELPFUL ACRONYMS
  • LMIA: Labour Market Impact Assessment
  • IRCC: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (formerly known as Citizenship and Immigration Canada)
RELATED LINKS (NON-VIRS)
  • Visiting Students (VISI)
    For bachelor (undergraduate) students who want to research and take courses at UBC as a student
  • Visiting Graduate Students
    The College of Graduate Studies at UBC’s Okanagan campus will be able to guide you through this option

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Getting a UBC supervisor as a VIRS student

It is the responsibility of an individual applicant to identify, contact, and obtain approval from a UBC faculty member who will be their VIRS supervisor. Identify a potential supervisor who best matches your research interests and academic background.UBC’s College of Graduate Studies website hosts a database of UBC professors and their research interests.Search through faculties offered at UBC to help identify your potential supervisor.

Application

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.

Initial Application

  1. Download and save the VIRS Approval Form (PDF) onto your computer. Complete the form and obtain all required signatures. Save the form in .pdf or .jpeg format.
  2. Complete the VIRS Initial Application Online survey and upload the Approval Form where indicated.
  3. Proceed to the next step and apply for a UBC Student ID Number (you will receive the link to complete this step after successfully submitting the VIRS Initial Application).

Formal Application

  1. Complete and submit the online application using the link you will receive from Go Global.
  2. Create your Campus Wide Login (CWL) account using the student number you will receive after submitting the online application. A Campus Wide Login (CWL) lets you to access the Student Service Centre (SSC), where you will be able to make fee payments.
  3. Pay the VIRS program fee ($415.00) which will be charged to your account on SSC about one week after you obtain your UBC Student ID Number. Eligible students will receive their UBC Letter of Acceptance by email within 10 business days of fee payment.
  4. Apply for the appropriate immigration documents [Study Permit, Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), and/or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), as applicable] using the Letter of Acceptance you will receive. Check out processing times for various immigration document applications on the Government of Canada website. Please be aware that:
    • Students engaged in research lasting six months or longer require a study permit.
    • Students engaged in research lasting less than six months are advised to apply for a study permit, but may complete their research under visitor status.

How to Apply for a Study Permit

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Fees

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.

  • No tuition fees will be assessed.
  • The VIRS program fee will be reviewed on an annual basis and are subject to change without notice.

Mandatory Medical Insurance (iMED and BC MSP)

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:

  • If the duration of your research is one to six months, your fees will be:
    • $75 per month + $10.14 direct billing fee. For example, students studying for 5 months will pay $385.14
  • If the duration of your research is longer than six months, your fees will be:
    • $225 for the first three months + $10.14 direct billing fee. Students should apply for BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) immediately upon your arrival
  • 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. This is normal. Complete and submit the iMED Date Change Form after arriving in Canada.

Withdrawal or Extension:

  • Refund of the VIRS program fee can be given if a VIRS applicant’s withdrawal is due to either rejection of legitimate immigration document application or rejection of research funding application (i.e. government/institution grants/scholarships/awards).
  • If you would like to extend your VIRS registration, please contact Go Global. The fee must be renewed after one year, should the VIRS student wish to extend their research period. If your extension increases the total length of your stay at UBC to more than 12 months, you will be charged the fee.

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Student status

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.

  • A VIRS will be registered at UBC for all UBC academic terms that overlap with the length of their planned visit.
  • A VIRS may not enroll in any UBC courses, but may apply during their stay to be admitted as a Visiting Undergraduate or Visiting Graduate Student, should they wish to enroll in courses while conducting research.
  • The maximum length of proposed research period that a VIRS can be approved for is one year (12 months). At the end of the approved visit period, the student may request an extension for up to one year.

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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):

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Immigration Documents

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.

If you are refused by Canadian immigration, please contact VIRS immediately and we will work with immigration advisors to review your case and inform you of your options.

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Housing

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:

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Medical Insurance

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:

  • August 1 for Winter Session Term 1 (September – December)
  • December 1 for Winter Session Term 2 (January – April)
  • April 1 for Summer Session Term 1 (May – June)
  • June 1 for Summer Session Term 2 (July – August)

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

  1. Search “DCIS” in your email
  2. Check your SPAM/Junk Folder
  3. Contact imed@david-cummings.com and virs.okanagan@ubc.ca. Include your name and UBC student number. We will check your status.

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Money, fees and working

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.

Make sure you meet the requirements to work in Canada and be sure to apply for a Social Insurance Number before working.

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.

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Records of study and Courses

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.

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Student Services at UBC

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.

VIRS students can access library resources online by logging in with your Campus-Wide Login (CWL).

Your UBC Card will act as your library card to borrow materials.

UBC has excellent recreation facilities:

VIRS students pay the public or staff rates for these facilities. Unfortunately, VIRS students do not qualify for the student rates.

The most accessible activities will be drop-in sports and fitness classes.

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Withdrawing or extending your 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.

If for whatever reason you need to withdraw your application before your arrival in Canada or you need to return home before your planned end date, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Inform your host supervisor and/or department
  • Inform VIRS

Supervisor FAQs

There are several common questions asked by UBC Professors about the VIRS Program.

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:

  1. Student selection
    It is the responsibility of the UBC host professor and/or department to determine the qualifications of prospective VIRS students to undertake research at UBC. Go Global reviews applications for basic eligibility, but we do not assess students’ academic history or English language ability.
  2. Provide a workspace and appropriate access to departmental facilities
    VIRS students should have a reasonable space to undertake their research. Upon arrival, the student will be able to obtain a UBC Card if needed to access facilities.
  3. Mentorship and accessibility
    Accessible to the student for consultation and discussion of the student’s academic progress and research. The frequency of meetings will vary according to the discipline, stage of work, nature of the project, independence of the student, full- or part-time status, etc.
  4. Discuss mutual expectations, deadlines and forms of communication
    It’s recommended that the host supervisor discusses mutual expectations with the student and defines a research plan.
  5. Departmental and safety orientation
    Ensure your VIRS student is introduced to relevant students, staff and faculty in your lab, or department and provide the student with relevant safety training.
  6. Report accidents and consider accident insurance
    Should any accidents occur involving the student, please report it on UBC’s Centralized Accident / Incident Reporting System (CAIRS). You may obtain optional student accident insurance on the student’s behalf through UBC Risk Management. The cost is $7/year per student and the insurance must be purchased through the department administration.

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 virs.okanagan@ubc.ca.

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:

  1. Cover the VIRS Program Fee
    Indicate on the VIRS approval form that you will cover the fee, or contact Go Global. We will arrange a JV for the payment.
  2. Reimbursement for expenses
    This would be done through your departmental admin and subject to the department’s financial policies and procedures. VIRS students are sometimes reimbursed for travel and living expenses, as well as the medical insurance that they are enrolled in at UBC (IMED).
  3. VIRS Grant (Award 5139) through enrolment services
    This would involve recommending your student for an award and transferring funds to Enrolment Services. The only restriction is that the source of funding cannot be from a Canadian tri-agency grant. Please contact Go Global for the steps and more information.

CONTACT US

When emailing us, include the following information in the email:

  • Your student number in the subject line
  • Your name

If inquiring about study permits, please be sure to include:

  • Your citizenship(s)
  • All permit and visa expiration dates (if applicable)
  • Currently in Canada (YES or NO)
  • If you request specific assistance, provide detailed information including applicable documents, such as a rejection letter

VIRS Advisors
VIRS contact email: virs.okanagan@ubc.ca​
Global Engagement Office
UNC 227 – 3272 University Way
Kelowna, BC Canada V1V 1V7

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