Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for VIRS students

About the VIRS program

First, please review the eligibility requirements for VIRS.

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)

Student FAQs

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.

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 International Student 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.

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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?

The iMED program Is basic insurance coverage for your time at UBC. It covers doctors visits, most emergencies, some medications and other services.

I received my iMED card but the dates on it are wrong. What should I do?

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. What should I do?

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 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 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.

What happens if I receive 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.

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.

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 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 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 (e.g., Undergraduate, Masters, or PhD) will appear on the student’s transcript. You may order official transcripts online.

Can I take courses while at UBC?

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.

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 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.

Am I eligible for the U-Pass?

No, you are not eligible for the U-Pass transit pass, as you are not assessed tuition or AMS fees upon VIRS registration.

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.

Do I have access to recreation facilities?

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.

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

Withdrawing or extending your VIRS registration

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

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 Go Global. 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.

What if I need to withdraw from the program? 

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 our host supervisor and/or department
  • Inform Go Global by completing this survey

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

It may be helpful to review the list of Graduate student supervisor responsibilities.

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

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 go.global@ubc.ca.

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 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.

Application, fees, and study permits

If you have questions

For more information about the VIRS program, email the VIRS Advisor at go.global@ubc.ca.