Check if you’re eligible to travel

There are a number of steps to take if you’re planning to travel to Canada for your studies.

Travel restrictions

On October 2, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced amended travel restrictions for international students effective October 20, 2020.

Country specific travel restrictions may be announced. If you are travelling from the United Kingdom, be sure to check the latest updates.

The British Columbia (BC) government has approved UBC’s COVID-19 readiness plan and UBC is included in the list of Designated Learning Institutions able to reopen to international students outside Canada. As a result, as of October 20, 2020 most UBC students can travel to Canada if you meet the below requirements and have a self-quarantine plan. 

To travel to Canada, you must meet two requirements:
  1. You must have valid documents to travel, and
  2. You must be travelling for an essential purpose to study in Canada

1. Have valid documents

First, you must have one of the following documents:

If you are a US citizen or permanent resident, or a resident of Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon, you can now apply for a study permit on arrival in Canada – see below.

A study permit approval-in-principle is not acceptable for travel. Do not travel to Canada until you have received your Letter of Introduction.

Second, you must have either of the following (US citizens are exempt):

As of September 25, you can  apply for a study permit in person at the airport or border crossing on arrival in Canada. If you will travel, make sure you carry all original documents for a study permit application with you to be prepared to apply on arrival. 

If you have already submitted an online study permit application which is still being processed, you will probably need to submit and pay for a new application on arrival in Canada. After you have entered Canada, send a webform to request that your online application is cancelled as well as request a refund. If processing has already begun on your application, such as you have received your study permit approval-in-principle, you likely will not be eligible for a refund. 

2. Travelling for an essential purpose

What is considered an essential purpose?

As of October 20, 2020, your travel will be considered ‘essential’ so long as you are a current, enrolled UBC international student, even if all your courses have moved online. When you arrive in Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer will use their judgment to determine whether or not you can be admitted to Canada.

You can not travel for purposes other than studies, such as tourism, dealing with housing arrangements, or to gather your belongings, even if you have a valid study permit. In this case, your travel will be considered ‘non-essential’. 

You must either have time to self-isolate for 14 days before your in-person component begins or be able to study online during your self-isolation period.

You can find the documents you need to prepare for your travel in the next step.

Get advice on whether you should travel

Unfortunately, it is not possible to get pre-approval on whether or not your travel is considered essential. However, based on the amended travel restrictions, all current, enrolled UBC international students are considered to meet the requirement of traveling for an essential purpose if traveling for studies. 

To receive advice, you may email or call the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). If you are calling, please ask for and take note of the agent’s badge number, the date and time you speak with the agent, and record notes of your conversation in case you need to refer to this in the future.

You may also consider contacting your airline to confirm what documentation they will request to board your flight.

The CBSA officer you meet with when you arrive in Canada will make the final decision on whether you can enter Canada.

How amended travel restrictions may impact you

  • If you applied for a study permit from outside of Canada, you must wait until you have received your Letter of Introduction (study permit approval) before traveling to Canada. A study permit approval-in-principle is not sufficient to travel and you should not travel as a visitor. You will need to continue waiting for your final study permit approval before traveling. 
  • If you are studying online outside of Canada, you do not need to come to Canada at this time and can continue studying online outside of Canada and have your courses count towards the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) until April 30, 2021, if eligible. However, if you are studying in a program longer than 12 months, you must complete 50% of your program in Canada. If you are in a program 8-12 months in length which you will complete before April 30, 2021, you do not need to come to Canada for your courses to be counted towards the PGWP. See our FAQ for new students or current students for details. 
  • If you are in Canada with a valid study permit, no action is necessary. Courses which have moved online due to COVID-19 will continue to count towards the PGWP until April 30, 2021 if you have a study permit or are on implied status.
  • If you are in Canada and would like to travel, you may leave and return to Canada so long as you are a current enrolled student with a valid study permit and TRV or eTA.  Given the current provincial and federal guidance surrounding travel and high degree of uncertainties; we cannot predict how voluntary travel outside of Canada may be viewed by the officer on your return. You may wish to contact CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) directly for advice. Be aware that travel restrictions could change for Canada and your country of travel and that flights may be cancelled. Make sure you are eligible to travel to your destination country, have adequate health insurance covering COVID-19 testing and treatment, and make quarantine plans for your return to Canada.
  • If you are inside Canada and do not have a valid study permit, you still must have a study permit for studies longer than 6 months. For example, you might be in Canada as a visitor or worker, or waiting for your study permit to be restored. See our FAQ for details. 
  • If you are abroad currently, but you applied for a study permit extension inside of Canada before you left and your current study permit has expired, you cannot travel to Canada until you obtain your study permit (and TRV/eTA if needed). Wait for your application to be processed, arrange to have your original study permit mailed to you, then apply for a TRV or eTA if you need one - see our study permit FAQ for details. You could also consider applying for a new study permit from outside of Canada. Contact International Student Advising for support on this option. 
  • If you have completed your program, having a valid study permit alone is not sufficient for travel to Canada since you are no longer a current student. Consider contacting CBSA for advice. If you are applying for the Post-Graduation Work Permit, be sure to check travel restrictions for work permit holders
  • If you are not currently enrolled or are travelling for non-essential reasons, you cannot travel to Canada for purposes other than studies, such as tourism, dealing with housing arrangements or to gather your personal belongings. Even if you have a valid study permit, your travel will be considered ‘non-essential’. 
  • If you have accompanying dependents (spouses/common-law partners or children), they can travel with you without written authorization if they have the right documents, such as a TRV or eTA, a Letter of Introduction for a study or work permit (if applicable), and are traveling for a non-discretionary purpose, such as to live with you  - see travel restrictions for details. They must also quarantine. If you are in Canada and your family will be joining you from abroad, they will need written authorization if travelling from a country other than the United States. 
  • If you want your parents to accompany you, you must be a dependent child under 22 years old to be considered an ‘immediate family member’ however the CBSA officer will make the final decision upon arrival. Furthermore, they must have the right travel documents (a TRV or eTA, if required), quarantine for 14 days, and be traveling for a non-discretionary purpose. They should apply for written authorization to travel.  See uniting with an immediate family member for details.

See IRCC’s travelling to Canada tool for guidance on travel restrictions.

When you can travel

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

Do not travel or purchase non-refundable flight tickets or make non-refundable accommodation deposits until you have received your Letter of Introduction (study permit approval). 

This information is accurate as of January 7, 2021, and is subject to change. Follow the latest updates on travel restrictions due to COVID-19. See also CBSA's updates on travel for non-Canadians.