International Graduate

This step-by-step guide is for new international graduate students. This is your go-to place for all the resources and to-do items before and after you start at SFU.

This page is regularly reviewed and updated and was last updated on February 24, 2021.


Step 1. Prepare your study permit and other documents. Confirm your enrollment requirements.

Before you begin your studies at SFU, you must apply for your Canadian immigration documents which includes your study permit.  Apply early to ensure your application is processed in time. 

Apply for a Study Permit

A study permit is required if you are pursuing a program of study at SFU that is longer than 6 months in duration. If you will be starting your program of study remotely outside of Canada due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you must still apply for a study permit. You should apply for your study permit once you receive your SFU letter of acceptance. You will require a valid study permit for all in-Canada components of your study program.

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Enrollment Requirements

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) requires you to actively pursue your studies while at SFU. SFU is required to report on the enrollment status of international students twice a year. Your enrollment at SFU affects your ability to work, study, and stay in Canada.

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Step 2. Know your resources to support your time at SFU

Understanding student support services will get you a head start in your academic journey at SFU.

International Services for Students

International Services for Students provides a variety of support and programming for all SFU students.  Access non-academic advising on topics such as Canadian immigration documents (e.g. study permits, visas) and medical insurance, exchange and study abroad, and stay engaged by participating in ISS programs and events.

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Instruction Guides and Resources

Access over 40 instruction guides, information sheets, and video resources on immigration and non-immigration topics.

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Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies

Additional resources and supports are available for international students through Gradudate and Postdoctoral Studies.

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Graduate Student Community Guide

This is a compilation of resources that can help support you. Find resources on research, learning, wellness, peer support, and more.

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Step 3. Review medical insurance coverage information

The Canadian health system provides a high standard of health care, but care is very expensive if you are not insured. You must have medical insurance for the entire duration of your studies. 

Medical Insurance at SFU

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. 

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Opting Out

As an international student you are automatically enrolled in medical insurance plan for your first term at SFU. Check to see if you are eligible to cancel (opt out of) the Plan and receive a full or partial refund. 

GSS Health and Dental Plan is your secondary medical insurance. May-start students can self-enrol for your first semester at SFU.

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Step 4. Learn your resources for studying remotely

There are various resources to support you in an online learning environment. 

Adapting to Online Learning

Student Services has created a dedicated toolkit with tips for online learners and online etiquette. This guide was created to help students transition to an online learning environment.

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Research Commons

SFU Library's Research Commons supports the research endeavours of the University community, with particular focus on graduate students during all stages of the research lifecycle and provides easy access to both physical and virtual research resources.

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Remote Study, Work, and Research Resources

From an IT perspective, check out more study, work, and research resources available for you.

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Step 5. Stay connected with other SFU students

Meet other graduate students and stay connected with SFU community. 

Events and Workshops

With numerous online events and workshops offered by ISS, you can connect with your peers remotely and learn up to date information on selected topics from subject-matter experts.

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Graduate: Life and Community

Looking to connect with other graduate students? Make the most of your time as a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow at SFU! Take advantage of workshops, assistance, materials, volunteer and employment opportunities, as well as support services available to you. 

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PREPARING FOR YOUR ARRIVAL - When it is safe to do so

Before you arrive:

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, so does the Government of Canada’s response to the pandemic. Before travelling to Canada, students should be aware of travel restrictions to Canada and requirements upon entering Canada in order to ensure their own safety and the safety of others. 

Step 1. Review the current travel restrictions to ensure that you are eligible to travel to Canada at this time.

COVID-19 FAQ: Travelling to Canada

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Canada has implemented travel restrictions that limit travel to Canada. The requirements to enter Canada continue to evolve as the situation with COVID-19 evolves. Please do not make any arrangements to travel to Canada at this time if you do not meet the requirements.

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Step 2. Review the Travelling to Canada: Self-Isolation Guide and register your plans

Travelling to Canada: Self-Isolation Guide

This guide has been prepared to assist any new and returning international students who are currently outside of Canada, and plan to travel to BC to return to studies. Any student arriving from outside of Canada must self-isolate and monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days upon their arrival and complete/register a self-isolation plan. 

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SFU International Arrival Plans

You must register your plans for travel and self-isolation with SFU as early as possible. This will also give you better access to supports during your self-isolation and help us to support you before and after your arrival. 

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Step 3. Find housing and decide where to live

Housing Resources

Research housing options and consider making an advance appointment and discuss with International Student Advisors before making a decision on off-campus housing to avoid housing scams.

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SFU Residence and Housing

Living in Residence is perhaps the best way to get the most out of your university experience. Spaces are limited, so apply as early as possible. 

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Arriving in Canada:                                                                                           

Review the information below to ensure you’re prepared when entering Canada.

Step 3. Arrive at the port of entry (border)

Arrive at the Port of Entry

When you arrive at the Canadian port of entry (border) there are several things to keep in mind, including holding the appropriate immigration documents reflecting your purpose for coming to Canada. Additional screening measures are in place at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) for people returning to BC from international locations. 

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Vancouver International Airport (YVR) Expedited Processing Submission Form

The Vancouver International Airport (YVR) Expedited Processing Submission Form is an online form you can complete prior to arriving at YVR. Completing this form is optional, however it will expedite the process of issuing your study permit at YVR. Click here to access the form.  Additional information can be found in the link below (scroll down to Step 4).

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Leaving the Airport

There are multiple transportation options that you can use to get to your accommodations once arriving to Vancouver. Wearing a mask or face covering will be required during transportation. Use private transportation to get to your place of quarantine, if possible.

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After You Arrive                                                                                                 

 Step 4. Plan your finances


Learn more about how to open a bank account and the list of banks in Canada.

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SFU Financial Aid and Awards

You may be eligible to apply for scholarships, awards, busaries, and work-study programs through the SFU Financial Aid and Awards office. Check your financial aid options.

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 Step 5. Complete settlement tasks

BC Medical Services Plan

Students staying in BC for 6 months or longer are required to enrol in the British Columbia Medical Services Plan (BC MSP) under the Medicare Protection Act. Apply for BC MSP as soon as you arrive in BC.

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Social Insurance Number

A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a number that the Canadian government requires for taxation purposes and without one, you can not get paid. A SIN is required only if you earn income in Canada, on or off campus.  This number enables your employer to make the necessary government deductions.

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Driver's License/BCID

If you are a full-time international student and planning to drive in BC, you may do so with a valid international driving licence. While driving, carry your valid International Driving Permit or home driver's licence (and an official translation if it is not in English), your valid SFU student ID card and your study permit. If you are not a driver, you can apply for a BCID card which can be a reliable piece of government photo ID. 

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