Visiting + Incoming Exchange

Graduate Visiting Research Student 

Graduate Visiting Research Students (VRS) are admitted to SFU in order to foster the exchange of ideas, receive specialized training and participate in research collaboration. Students are admitted to conduct research under an SFU faculty member typically for one term (4 months), however, the agreement length may vary.


Due to the continued impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic and Canadian travel advisories, the University has made the decision to suspend admission for Visiting Research Students (VRS) for Fall 2020 until further notice. If you are affected by this, please contact your SFU supervisor to discuss your options.


To apply you must be registered full-time in a Master’s or Doctoral program at your home institution, in good academic standing, and proficient in the English language.

How to Apply

Establish a research agreement

  Submit a research agreement directly with the SFU faculty member you wish to conduct research.
Complete the VRS form
  Send required forms and documents at least three months prior to your research start date with:
  • an unofficial transcript from your home institution, 
  • confirmation of your student status at your home institution, 
  • a copy of your passport, 
  • proof of self-funding 
  • and an invitation letter from your SFU faculty supervisor.
These documents should be sent together to the graduate program that the faculty member belongs to. The graduate program will follow up internally to SFU for the necessary review and approvals.

Apply for work permits (if necessary)

  Depending on the details of your visit, you may be required to apply for a visa, e.g. study permit and/or Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Apply for the appropriate immigration documents using page 2 of the Letter of Acceptance. 
Learn more →

NOTE: Depending on the length of your stay and your nationality you may be provided an additional letter for your work visa application.  Please contact an International Student Advisor at ISS for advice and support in terms of immigration matters.
Any changes to the start and/or end dates of your visit (e.g. extension, deferral, cancellation and date changes) must be reported to GPS in order to ensure your information is accurate. If you need to extend your stay, please discuss with your faculty supervisor and ask them to inform us by email at so we can confirm the updated dates of your visit.

After admission, register in GRAD 800

  Once admitted, please contact Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to request registration in GRAD 800 (which provides access to the SFU library and the U-Pass BC for Metro Vancouver's transit system). You can receive your library/ID card 24 hours after you have been enrolled in the course. You will need to present a valid photo ID (e.g.  government issued ID or driver’s license) in order to pick up your library/ID card at one of the three campuses.


Visiting Research Students are admitted to the university with full-time student status for the period of their research studies. Upon enrolment at SFU, students are responsible for paying fees to cover the student activity fee and the U-Pass BC transit pass fee for each term they are enrolled, regardless of the actual length of their stay. Fees are payable for the entire four-month term, even if the period of the visit is only one month.

NOTE: Visiting graduate research students are expected to pay for their own living expenses during their stay at SFU.

Immigration Application

Conducting research for 120 days or less

Visiting research students may come to Canada under visitor status for which a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) will be required, depending on the country of citizenship.

However, we encourage visiting research students to apply for a study permit or work permit if there is a possibility of extending their stay in Canada — having a valid study or work permit can make the extension process easier.

Conducting research for more than 120 days

Depending on the details of your visit, you may require either a study permit or a work permit.

A work permit is required if you are:

  • Receiving remuneration or a research award specific to this visit (either from SFU or elsewhere), or
  • Performing work for your SFU supervisor, even if unpaid (for example: joining their lab, doing collaborative research, or directly contributing to research projects at SFU).

If you require a work permit, please contact to assess your eligibility and for assistance with the application process.

A study permit may be appropriate if you are:

  • Self-funded (i.e. you are not receiving any award or funding for your visit), and
  • Working solely on your own project (e.g. thesis or dissertation) under the supervision of an SFU faculty member

Visiting duration of six months or less

If your visit will be six months or less in duration, you may study without a study permit. However, we do advise that you apply for a study permit if there is a possibility you will want to extend your stay. A valid study permit along with full-time enrollment in GRAD 800 will also allow you to legally work on campus at SFU during your visit. For details on the study permit application process, visit the International Services for Students (ISS) website.

If you are not sure which permit would be appropriate, please contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist at for guidance.