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, 2020 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.

There is no requirement to be vaccinated to travel to Canada. You can get vaccinated in British Columbia free of charge. 

As part of the Phase 1 of easing border measures for travellers entering Canada, as of July 5, 2021, fully vaccinated travellers who have received vaccines approved in Canada are exempt from the 3-night stay in a government approved hotel, 14-day quarantine, and day-8 COVID-19 take home test, if meeting all eligibility requirements, but must still prepare a 14 day quarantine plan—see step 3 for more information.

As of August 9, 2021, travellers coming to Canada by air will no longer require a 3-night stay in a government approved hotel, but those who are not fully vaccinated must still quarantine for 14 days. Fully vaccinated travellers will be exempt from post-arrival testing but may be randomly selected for testing. Furthermore, the government plans to allow fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents currently residing in the US enter Canada for non essential travel. 

Starting September 7, 2021, if the epidemiological situation remains favorable, fully vaccinated travellers from any country can travel for non-essential travel. 

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 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):
 
IF YOU ARE A US CITIZEN OR PERMANENT RESIDENT, OR A RESIDENT OF GREENLAND OR ST. PIERRE AND MIQUELON 

As of September 25, 2020, 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 are a US citizen travelling from a country other than the US, contact CBSA for advice on whether you can travel without an approved study permit  (see 'get advice on whether you should travel' below). Starting August 9, 2021, Canada plans to allow US citizens and permanent residents currently residing in the US to enter Canada for non-essential travel.

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 have a valid study permit or study permit approval letter and 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 check all your documents 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 unless you are fully vaccinated 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. You must still meet the criteria to be exempt from the travel restrictions (such as being a current international student), regardless of your vaccination status.

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. You do not require a letter indicating you must travel to Canada for in-person studies. If you receive such a request please forward the document to isa@students.ubc.ca

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 in Winter Term 1 2021 (September - December 2021), you do not need to come to Canada and your online courses will 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, even if your courses are available online, 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 an exchange, VIRS, unclassified, or visiting student studying less than 6 months, see the FAQ for details.  
  • If you are in Canada and would like to travel abroad, the government strongly advises you 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 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. If your circumstances are unusual, you may contact CBSA for advice on travels after finishing your studies. If you are fully vaccinated and will have a valid Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), provided Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable, you may be able to travel for non-essential reasons starting August 9, 2021, if you are a US citizen or permanent resident currently residing in the US, or September 7, 2021, for all other countries.
  • 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. 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. Provided Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable, if your family is fully vaccinated they may be able to accompany or visit you starting August 9, 2021, if they are a US citizen or permanent resident currently residing in the US, or September 7, 2021, for all other countries.
  • If you want a parent to accompany you, only one parent can accompany you at this time. If you are under 18 years old, or 18 years old or older and have a physical or mental health condition for which you require support, you should be considered a minor for the purposes of having your parent join you. If you are 18-22 years old, please contact CBSA for advice. Please see t if immediate family members want to be with you in Canada for details. 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, as well as be traveling for a non-discretionary purpose, such as to help you get settled in Canada. Provided Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable, if your family is fully vaccinated they may be able to accompany or visit you starting August 9, 2021, if they are a US citizen or permanent resident currently residing in the US, or September 7, 2021, for all other countries. 

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 up to 4 weeks before you begin studies would be considered reasonable. If you must travel earlier, prepare a detailed explanation for the airline and border officer if asked. The CBSA officer you meet at the airport/border crossing will make the final decision on whether or not to admit you to Canada. 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 more than 4 weeks before you resume studies. It is not clear how officers will view your travel.

If you are enrolled in classes in Summer Session 2021, 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 August 9, 2021, all international flights must land in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, or Vancouver. As of August 9, 2021, international flights will also be able to land in Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Edmonton.  

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 if travelling before August 9 and are not exempt from the hotel requirement, and will not be able to travel to your final destination until after you have a received a negative test result from your on arrival COVID-19 test, after which you can complete the remainder of your 14 day quarantine.

If you need connecting flights in Canada and are fully vaccinated or are travelling on or after August 9 when the 3-night stay in a government approved hotel stay is no longer required, contact CBSA for advice on where to quarantine and travelling to your final destination. We anticipate this will be clarified in the coming weeks and will update the guide when more information becomes available.  

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. Check provincial and territorial requirements for further travel restrictions.

If you are travelling from India while the current suspension of direct flights is in place until August 21, 2021, and will travel through an indirect route, you must schedule flights to allow time to get a COVID-19 test in a third country and make sure to follow local entry and travel restrictions. See the alert on the suspension of flights for more information. 

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

Also see the Public Health Agency of Canada’s COVID-19 Travel Toolkit.

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.