Coming from abroad to UBC

If you’re an exchange or international student, there are several essential things to prep before starting your school year.

Before travelling to Canada

Travel restrictions

Not all students can travel to Canada at this time. If you will travel, you will need to take extra steps.

Read the FAQ

Prepare your documents

Once you have accepted your offer, there are three steps you’ll need to take immediately to ensure you have the proper documents to study in Canada for 6 months or more:

Pre-arrival online course

Once you have a UBC student account, or Campus-Wide Login account, after accepting your offer, complete the online course to learn everything about applying for your initial study permit, getting health insurance, maintaining documents, and more. 

Travel plans

Do not travel or purchase non-refundable flight tickets until you have received your Letter of Introduction, or study permit approval. For non degree-seeking students who do not need a study permit, wait until you have received your TRV or eTA.

There is no specific earliest date you can travel; however, an officer may have concerns if you are traveling several months before you begin your studies. Arriving the month before you begin studies would not be a concern.

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. 

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

Medication

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.

Helpful documents to carry on the plane

  • Marriage certificate and notarized copies
  • Driver’s license
  • Medical or immunization records
  • Copy of your birth certificate
  • Copy of your national identity document from your country, if you have one

When travelling to Canada

Documentation to bring

Be sure to have the following in your carry-on luggage: 

  • Passport
    Keep your passport with you when travelling. ​​​​Ensure you have a valid Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) (US citizens are exempt).
  • Letter of Introduction
    This is also known as your study permit approval. Some visa offices may instead issue a note instead of a Letter of Introduction stating “The visa in your passport is all you need to travel to Canada. Migration officials in Canada are able to access the information in our system to issue your study or work permit upon arrival.”
  • UBC Letter of Acceptance
    This is also known as your offer letter. You can download this in your Student Service Centre (SSC) under "Admissions".
  • Proof of funds
    This could be the documents provided in your application. Bring more recently issued documents, if possible.
  • UBC Proof of Enrolment Letter
    You can download this in your SSC under "Grades & Records", if you are already registered in courses.
  • Documents relating to travel restrictions
    See the COVID-19 FAQ for the latest updates.

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or a resident of St. Pierre and Miquelon, and will apply for your study permit at the airport or border crossing, print your application form and bring supporting documents with you. 

Due to COVID-19, it is not possible to apply in-person—all applications must be submitted in advance online. See the latest updates on the FAQ for international students.

If you are a one-term exchange student and you did not apply for a study permit, you will not have a Letter of Introduction. 

What to expect at the Canadian border

You’ll need to get your study permit when you first enter Canada. 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 have packed 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. 
    If you are a one-term exchange student and you did not apply for a study permit, you may leave the airport at this point. All other students must continue with the steps below.
  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. 

    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”

Working in Canada: Degree-seeking students and exchange students are eligible to work on- and off-campus—see conditions. Non-degree seeking students such as visiting students and VIRS are eligible to work on-campus only. 

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.

After arriving in Canada

Getting to UBC from the airport

By taxi

There are taxis available 24 hours a day. The flat-rate zone fare to UBC is CAD $37, including tax (subject to change). Gratuities are not included.

By public transport

The Canada Line SkyTrain runs frequently from the airport to downtown Vancouver from 5:07am to 12:56am (subject to change). You can get a bus to UBC from any Canada Line station in Vancouver. For the most serviced route, get off at Broadway City Hall then take the 99 bus to UBC. Check the trip planner for options. 

Depending on the day of the week and time you are leaving the airport, the fare cost ranges from $7.40 to $9.25 (subject to change). 

After-arrival checklist

  1. Apply for the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP)
  2. Apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  3. Add your document expiry dates to UBC’s Reminder System
  4. Sign up to receive the International Community Update newsletter
  5. To avoid carrying your passport for identification, get a BCID

Get a temporary mailing address

You can use International Student Advising as your temporary mailing address when you first get to Canada:

International Student Advising
UBC Life Building
1200 - 6138 Student Union Blvd.
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1

Mail will be publicly accessible in our office, so we cannot ensure your mail will be secure. We do not accept packages on behalf of students because there is no secure storage space. You can also rent a Post Office Box from Canada Post.

After you’re moved into your place of residence, remember to change all of your mailing addresses.

Learn about life in Canada

International Student Guide

Find everything you need to know about life as an international student at UBC's Vancouver campus.

View the guide

Visit the New to UBC Guide

Find resources and tips to help you get started, stay connected, and navigate online academics during your first year at UBC.

Go to the guide