Becoming an International/US Postdoctoral Fellow

This page will help you navigate through the various requirements for getting started as an international postdoctoral fellow at SFU. If you have questions about the visa process, please email

Employers hiring postdoctoral fellows will be required to submit an Offer of Employment to a Foreign National Exempt from a Labour Market Impact Assessment and pay an online employer compliance fee of $230 to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. This must be done before the work permit application is submitted (see the IRCC website for details). This will impact both new work permits and renewals.

If you are have an appointment as an international postdoctoral fellow and are at the stage of applying for a work permit (or need to renew your work permit), please refer to your SFU department to obtain the offer of employment number.

Learn more about SFU Immigration Services.

Applying for a Work Permit

  • Apply early as the process can take months (see average times), or longer if you are informed by your visa office to do a medical examination and/or obtain police certificates
  • Find the visa office responsible for the country or region where you live (see list of offices). US citizens and permanent residents of the US may apply for work permits at their port of entry into Canada (land border crossing or airport).
  • Determine what you will need to apply online or through the Visa Application Centre (VAC) for your work permit. Typical documents required include (but are not limited to):
    • a valid passport (ideally valid for the duration of your stay)
    • a detailed letter of invitation from SFU which states the amount of remuneration, location, nature and expected duration of the term of employment
    • proof of funds (if your research funding is from a foreign source, proof of that needs to be submitted as part of the application)
    • official proof that you have successfully completed (or will shortly complete) the requirements for your doctoral degree in a related field.
    • postdoc work permits do not require a positive labour market impact assessment (LMIA). If applying by paper, simply write exemption code C44 on the document checklist where it asks for the file number /positive labour market impact assessment from Employment and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). (see academic exemptions)
  • Consult the website of the Canadian visa office serving the country or region where you live to determine if you are required to provide additional forms or documents and find out about their estimated processing times

Bringing Family

  • If you wish to bring your family, they will need to apply individually for the correct status (Temporary Resident Visa, study permit or work permit). However, if applying by paper, you may send all family member application forms in the same envelope with only one payment receipt for the total amount.
  • Spouses and common-law partners of postdoctoral fellows (with employment contracts that are longer than six months) are eligible to apply for open work permits without the need for pre-arranged employment. (see the IRCC website for further details)
  • It is recommended that any school-age children (ages 5- 18) obtain study permits (see Minor Children Studying in Canada). (Tip: In order to qualify for provincially-funded education at either the elementary or secondary level, most school boards require that the parent has a work permit for at least 12 months in duration, or international fees may apply. Check with the appropriate school board in the district where you will be living in advance.)

Social Insurance Number

  • A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9-digit number required for employment in Canada. When you receive your work permit, you can apply for your SIN in person from a local Service Canada office. Download  instructions (pdf).

Medical Insurance Plans

  • You (and any accompanying family members) must have adequate medical insurance for the duration of your stay.
  • Apply for the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) upon arrival in Canada. Please be aware that there is a 3 month waiting period before coverage will begin (2 full months, plus the remainder of the month of arrival).
  • During the waiting period for MSP, you are required to carry your own medical insurance. International post-docs are eligible to purchase a group-rate directly from Guard Me, the university's vendor for international student medical insurance. Contact for the Access Code.
  • Note that Internal PDFs are eligible for employment benefits through the university and should apply to the BC MSP through SFU Human Resources. You will still require private coverage during the 3-month waiting period for MSP.
  • For more information, please visit the SFU Medical Insurance site.

Moving to BC

Extending Your Work Permit

  • If you need to renew your work permit while in Canada, you may do so online. We advise that you start the process 3 months in advance, if possible. If you need additional assistance, please email
  • Update: Starting February 21, 2015, employers hiring foreign nationals who are exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process will be required to submit information about their business or organization, the Offer of Employment form, and pay an online fee of $230 to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) before the work permit application is submitted. (see the IRCC website for details). If you are have an appointment as an international postdoctoral fellow and need to renew your work permit, please refer to your SFU department.

Travel Tips: Applying for a new Temporary Resident Visa

  • If you are a citizen of a country which requires a temporary resident visa (TRV or entry visa) in addition to a work permit, ensure it is valid for re-entry into Canada. (See list of countries)
  • If you plan to travel outside of Canada or the US, you can apply for a new single or multiple-entry TRV at the visa office responsible for your home country, or by mailing your passport and application to the Case Processing Pilot in Ottawa. If possible, apply at least 2 months in advance of your trip. See the IRCC website for instructions. A handout is also available on the International Services for Students' website. If you have questions, please email