Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Learn about the VIRS program

About VIRS as a pathway to UBC

Should I come to UBC as a VIRS (Visiting International Research student)?

Review the VIRS Eligibility.

Your program, pathways, and contacts at UBC all depend on a crucial distinction of whether you plan to come to UBC to do salaried research (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. Follow the column of information straight down to understand what each pathway entails.

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)

Preparing to arrive

Immigration documents

What immigration document should I apply for as a VIRS student?

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.

The type of immigration document is dependent on the length of research you are approved for as part of your VIRS application.

If your research is less than six months, you may complete your research under visitor status for which you will need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), depending on your country of citizenship.

If your research period is six months or longer in length, VIRS students must apply for a study permit, as required by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Please see tutorial for how to apply for your study permit.

Note, you cannot begin your research without appropriate immigration documents and legal status.

Questions regarding immigration documents should be directed to International Student Advising at isa@students.ubc.ca. Please identify yourself as a VIRS student, include your UBC student number, your country of citizenship, and the length of time of your VIRS studies.

What is a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)?

A Temporary Resident Visa (Visitor Visa) 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.

You can find out which document you need by visiting Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s website.

If you are applying for a study permit, you do not need to apply separately for a TRV or eTA.

How do I apply for a study permit?

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 our tutorial for detailed steps on how to apply for your 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 Visiting International Research Students (VIRS) program.

What if I am refused for my visa or study permit?

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

Housing

Are VIRS students eligible for campus housing (residence)?

No, VIRS students are not eligible for UBC Housing (on-campus dormitories).

VIRS students are responsible for finding their own accommodations.

Learn more about finding housing here:

Medical Insurance

What kind of medical insurance plan will I have?

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.

What does iMED cover?

iMED Is basic insurance coverage for your time at UBC. It covers doctors visits, most emergencies, some medications and other services. Please review the iMED brochure on the DCIS website.

I received my iMED card but the dates on it are wrong.

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.

I have not received my iMED card.

Students get their cards at different times but should have arrived 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 go.global@ubc.ca. Include your name and UBC student number. We will check your status.

Money, Fees and Working

What are the costs associated with VIRS?

There are two fees: the VIRS Program Fee and IMED Medical Insurance. See our 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.

I received an email saying I have "Overdue Fees" on my UBC tuition account

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.

Can I work while I am a VIRS student?

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 (see UBC definitions 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. Please note that 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.

Please visit the International Student Guide for an overview of working in Canada and obtaining a Social Insurance Number.

If I have been granted a scholarship that exceeds my research period for more than 12 months, can I be admitted for the entire sponsored research period?

We request that you provide a copy of the scholarship document to UBC Go Global 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.

What type of funding is available to VIRS students?

VIRS students are usually self-funded, sponsored by his/her home institution, or receive funding from an external source. Your UBC faculty member may agree to provide a 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.

UBC professors who would like to provide funding to your VIRS student, please contact Go Global to discuss your options.

Records of study and Courses

Will my research activities be shown on a UBC transcript?

Yes, your non-credit and non-tuition bearing course that reflects your academic level at your home institution (i.e.. Undergraduate, Masters, or PhD) will appear on the student’s transcript. You may order official transcripts online or in person.

Can I take courses while at UBC?

No, you cannot formally register for or audit 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.

VIRS students may attend and participate informally in a class with the permission of the instructor. We recommend including a written letter from your host supervisor recommending access to the course. Please note that approval from the instructor is not guaranteed, and the final decision is solely at the discretion of the instructor. VIRS students will not receive a grade, transcript or any other formal recognition for informal participation in a course.

VIRS students may be given guest/auditor access to Canvas course materials. The instructor of the course would contact the appropriate local Canvas Administrator to request access for the student (including the course name/number, the student’s ID number and CWL login ID). 

Student Services at UBC

How do I access UBC's Secure Wireless Network?

All VIRS students should be able to access the Secure Network on their laptops and smart phones 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.

Am I eligible for the U-Pass?

No, you are not eligible as no tuition or AMS fees are assessed upon VIRS registration. The U-Pass offers UBC students unlimited access to public transportation across the Metro Vancouver area.

How do I access the UBC Libraries?

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.

Recreation and Sports

UBC has excellent recreation facilities. Learn more online:

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.

We also recommend using public services through the Vancouver Park Board Community Centres. There are recreation activities in every neighbourhood in Vancouver.

Extending your VIRS Registration

After I've arrived, may I extend my VIRS studies at UBC?

Yes, 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 Go Global. We will ask you to complete an Extension Request Form.

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.

Supervisor FAQs

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

Why does the VIRS pathway exist?

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.

What is expected of a UBC Faculty member hosting a VIRS student?

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/student and the insurance must be purchased through the department administration.

It may be helpful to review the list of Graduate student supervisor responsibilities as outlined on UBC’s Graduate Studies website.

Should I provide a letter of invitation for my VIRS or prospective VIRS?

Please check with Go Global before doing so.

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 go.global@ubc.ca.

Go Global provides admitted VIRS students with a 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.

Can I provide funding to my VIRS student?

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 3 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 dept’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

VIRS Program Advisor

Email enquiries + advising appointments

When emailing us, please include your full name and student number in the subject line.

Go Global Drop-in advising in the Life Building: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 1pm – 3pm

VIRS Program Advisor

Shareen Chin

Go Global

go.global@ubc.ca

Telephone: 604 822 0942

UBC Life Building
1100 - 6138 Student Union Boulevard
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
Canada

Go Global Vancouver Office Hours

Mon
9:30 am - 4:00 pm
Tue
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Wed
9:30 am - 4:00 pm
Thu
9:30 am - 4:00 pm
Fri
9:30 am - 4:00 pm
Sat
Closed
Sun
Closed

Application, fees + study permits