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 20, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) amended travel restrictions for international students. 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 they meet the below requirements and have a quarantine plan.

Country specific travel restrictions may be announced - be sure to check the latest updates.

You are encouraged to take the most direct route possible to limit transiting through airports.

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, such as studying at UBC

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 quarantine for 14 days before your in-person component begins or be able to study online during your quarantine period.

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

Get advice on whether you should travel

Based on the current travel restrictions, all current, enrolled UBC international students are considered to meet the requirement of traveling for an essential purpose if traveling for studies. 

If the above does not apply to you, to receive advice on whether or not you should travel, 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. Please note the CBSA officer you meet with when you arrive in Canada will make the final decision on whether you can enter Canada.

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

How the 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), and TRV/eTA (if needed) 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 to have your courses count towards the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) until December 31, 2021, if you meet the eligibility criteria. See the FAQ for new students (program start Summer Session 2020 or later) or continuing students (program start Winter Term 2 2019 or earlier) for details. If you are an undergraduate student planning to travel during the summer scheduled break, see the “when you can travel” section below.
  • 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 if you have a study permit or are on "maintained status" (formerly implied status).
  • If you are inside Canada and do not have a valid study permit, you still must have a study permit if your studies are longer than 6 months or go beyond your approved stay. 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 in Canada and would like to travel abroad, the government strongly advises to cancel or postpone any non-essential travel. You may leave and return to Canada if you meet the requirements for travel restrictions. However, given the current provincial and federal guidance surrounding travel and high degree of uncertainty, 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 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  stay up to date on the latest travel restrictions before planning your return to Canada.
  • If you are abroad currently and your current study permit has expired but you applied for a study permit extension inside of Canada before you left, you cannot travel to Canada until you obtain your study permit (and TRV/eTA if needed). Ensure your mail will go to a trusted friend in Canada, wait for your application to be processed, arrange for your friend to send you a scan and mail your original study permit 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 as an international student since you are no longer currently enrolled. See options to apply for the PGWP from inside or outside of Canada. You will need to wait until you meet the requirements to travel as a worker before you can travel to Canada, which could delay your travel plans. If your circumstances are unusual, you may contact CBSA for advice on travels after finishing your studies.
  • 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 dependents (spouses/common-law partners or children), you must submit your online applications together if you will travel together. They must have the right documents, such as a TRV or eTA, and/or a Letter of Introduction for a study or work permit (if applicable). They must also be traveling for a non-discretionary purpose, such as to live with you, and follow the travel restrictions for all travellers, such as getting a COVID-19 test, and quarantine for 14 days. If you are in Canada and they will travel separately, they will need written authorization from IRCC if traveling from a country other than the United States. See additional details for if an immediate family member travels with you to Canada
  • If you want a parent to accompany you, you must be a minor child (under 19 years old in BC), or be 19 or older and have documents to support that you need a family member to get settled for reasons like a physical or mental condition. Furthermore, they must have the right travel documents (a TRV or eTA, if required) and follow the travel restrictions for all travellers, such as getting a COVID-19 test, and quarantine for 14 days, as well as be traveling for a non-discretionary purpose, such as to help you get set up in your new home. We recommend that they apply for written authorization from IRCC, even if it is not required.  See additional details for if an immediate family member travels with you to Canada.

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. If you must travel earlier, prepare a detailed explanation for the airline and border officer if asked. If you have in-person studies or co-op, be sure to arrive at least 14 days beforehand to have enough time to complete your 14 day quarantine.

Do not travel or purchase non-refundable flight tickets or make non-refundable accommodation deposits unless you have received your Letter of Introduction (study permit approval) or have your original study/work permit and TRV/eTA. 

If you are an undergraduate student and are not enrolled during Summer Session 2021 (May to August), consider avoiding travelling during the summer scheduled break. It is not clear how officers will view your travel.

If you are enrolled in classes in the Summer Session, then your travel to Canada in summer would be seen as essential. You should arrive no earlier than four weeks before your studies begin. If you travel earlier, prepare a detailed explanation for the airline and border officer if asked.

Booking your flight(s)

Until further notice, all international flights must land in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, or Vancouver.  

Be aware of local rules when transiting airports. See the International Air Transport Association (IATA) page for guidance on international restrictions and measures. 

You will need to take a COVID-19 molecular test and book your 3-night stay in a government-approved hotel at your first arrival airport and will not be able to travel to your final destination until after you have a negative test result, after which you can complete the remainder of your 14 day quarantine.

If you intend to stay somewhere in Canada that is not in commuting distance to your campus, please note that the current travel restrictions are based on being a current student at UBC and UBC’s COVID-19 readiness plan which was approved by the province of BC. Please contact CBSA to discuss your eligibility to reside in another destination/province in Canada. 

Learn about the process to travel to Canada by air and see the flying to Canada checklist.

Driving across the border

The largest border crossing near UBC is the Douglas (Peach Arch) border crossing, which has onsite COVID-19 testing.

Learn about the process to travel to Canada by land and see the driving to Canada checklist.

Also, see considerations when temporarily importing a vehicle.