Preparing for Departure

Updated March 05, 2021

February 12, 2021: Important announcements from the Government of Canada

The 5-step guide below outlines the steps you must complete prior to departing for Canada. As information and requirements can change quickly, please ensure that you are checking with ALL government websites to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information before you depart.

Step 1: Check Travel Regulations and Restrictions

You must ensure that you are permitted to travel to Canada, and that you keep yourself informed of federal (national) and provincial (local) government travel regulations, restrictions and exemptions.

  • Note that a Border Services Officer will make the final determination on your eligibility to enter Canada at the port of entry. Contact the Border Information Service for more information. 
  • You are responsible for demonstrating to the Border Service Officer that you meet the travel exemptions and are travelling to Canada for essential purposes

International Services for Students has a variety of information in their SFU: Get Ready series on topics such as medical insurance and immigration. Visit the COVID-19 FAQ page for frequently asked questions on immigration, medical insurance, travel information and updates. 

Do not travel to Canada if you do not meet the travel exemptions

As an international student, you must meet the following requirements to travel to Canada:

  1. You must be travelling for non-optional and non-discretionary purposes,
  2. You must be attending a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved before you travel to Canada, AND
  3. One of the following must apply to you:
    • you hold a valid study permit, or
    • you have been approved for a study permit.

Please note that SFU has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place.  If you meet the above requirements, you may be able to come to Canada, regardless of the date of issue of your study permit, the Letter of Introduction issued by IRCC, or the country from which you are travelling.  

A Border Services Officer will make the final decision on whether you are eligible to enter Canada. For details on how non-discretionary travel is assessed at the port of entry, visit the IRCC website. You can also review IRCC's program Delivery Instructions to officers on this topic.

Please do not make plans to travel to Canada until you are sure you meet all requirements for entry, including final approval of your study permit application or a valid study permit, and a valid temporary resident visa or eTA if required based on your citizenship. An approval-in-principle is not sufficient for travel. 

Depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the current travel restrictions may be extended and/or changed. Due to the fluidity of the pandemic, we strongly recommend that you closely monitor these restrictions in preparation for travel to Canada.


All air passengers five years of age or older must present documentation of a negative COVID-19 test result to the airline prior to boarding a flight to Canada. The test must be performed using a COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (or PCR) test, and must be taken within 72 hours prior to your scheduled departure to Canada. Travellers entering by land will also be subject to this requirement as of February 15, 2021.

Please keep in mind that a negative test result does not exempt travellers from the quarantine requirement. You will still be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.

Step 2: Ensure Proper Documentation

Planning your trip

As you plan your travel, read the general information regarding proper documentation found on the IRCC website. Always carry your SFU Letter of Acceptance and/or Confirmation of Enrollment letter for entry to Canada.

All international students must carry supporting documents to demonstrate how they meet the travel exemptions and that their purpose of travel is non-discretionary. The possible supporting documents could include but are not limited to:

  • A valid study permit, or a Letter of Introduction confirming that your study permit has been approved by IRCC ("Approval in Principle/stage 1 approval of study permit" is not sufficient for travel) 
  • Depending on your country of citizenship, a valid temporary resident visa (TRV) or electronic travel authorization (eTA) in addition to your study or work permit to travel to Canada. For more information, visit the IRCC website.

In addition, you must:

To assess if your purpose of travel is non-discretionary, Border Services officers will consider factors such as the reasons for your journey and your ability to complete a 14-day quarantine period.

Carry these documents with you at all times; do not put them in your checked luggage. You may not be allowed into Canada if any of your documents are missing or if any of the information on your application or letters of reference is incorrect.

For more information, please visit Travelling to Canada and our COVID-19 FAQ page.


Travelling with your family members?

Immediate family members (e.g. spouse/common-law partner, dependent children) may be able to come with you to Canada, provided that they have the proper immigration documents and their purposes for travel are non-discretionary. Generally speaking, family members who are seeking to accompany and support you during your studies in Canada will be considered to travel for non-optional purposes.

For more information on how your accompanying family members may travel to Canada, please visit IRCC's website

Depending on the country of citizenship, your family members may also require a valid temporary resident visa (TRV) or electronic travel authorization (eTA) to travel to Canada. 

Non-essential travels to Canada (such as tourism, short-term visitors) are still not permitted until travel restrictions are lifted.

Step 3: Ensure Proper Medical Insurance Coverage

Medical Insurance

As an international student, you must have medical insurance for the entire duration of your studies. If family members are accompanying you, they should also have adequate medical insurance during their stay in Canada. 

  • International students new to SFU are covered automatically by the GuardMe emergency medical insurance plan for their first term.
  • If you are eligible, you may be able to cancel (opt-out of) the plan.
  • Contact an International Student Advisor for any questions regarding medical insurance.

Early Arrivals

  • If you are a new incoming international student, purchase early arrival medical insurance coverage through if you will arrive in Canada before the first day of the term (September 1, January 1, and May 1). 

Interim Coverage

  • If you are a returning student without medical insurance, you can purchase an Interim coverage online while applying and receiving your BC MSP. 

Adding Dependents

  • If you are an international student and have been enrolled in the plan, you can apply for additional coverage for your dependents (e.g., spouse, common-law partner, and/or children) once you have received your policy information.

Useful Websites

Step 4: Arrange flights to Vancouver

Book a direct flight to Vancouver, if possible. Be aware that new government regulations require that all travellers arriving by air must stay in a government approved hotel for up to 3 days upon arrival, at the travellers’ expense (more details on this in next section) while awaiting results of a COVID-19 test. Therefore, if you book a connecting flight to Vancouver that stops in another major Canadian city, you will be required to stay there for up to 3 days before continuing onward to Vancouver to complete your 14-day quarantine. Prices for these hotel stays will vary. Visit the Government of Canada website for a list of approved hotels along with booking information.

Step 5: Arrange Pre-departure COVID-19 Testing

All travellers five years of age or older are required to take a COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours before your scheduled flight departure or entry at a land border. Documentation of a negative test result must be presented in order to board a flight or enter Canada, with limited exceptions. If you are arriving by land, your test must be taken in the United States.

If you have previously tested positive for COVID-19, you may instead provide proof of a positive result for a test conducted between 14 and 90 days prior to your entry to Canada or your scheduled flight.

You can find complete information about testing requirements and available facilities on the Government of Canada website.

Please keep in mind that your test result does not exempt you from the quarantine requirement. You will still be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada. This will apply even if you have been vaccinated for COVID-19.