International Graduate

In this Welcome Guide, you will be able to access general information, procedures, and resources on what to do before you arrive, upon arrival, and after you arrive in Canada.

For latest updates and specific information on COVID-19 including impacts on immigration applications (e.g. study permit, visa), travel restrictions, arriving in Canada, work eligibility, medical insurance, and additional resources for international students, click below.

COVID-19 FAQ for International Students

This step-by-step guide is for new international graduate students and includes a downloadable checklist and resources list.

This page is regularly reviewed and updated and was last updated on June 15, 2020. If you copy or print information from this page,  refer to the live content on the page for any updates when using the information in the future.


 Step 1. Prepare your study permit and other documents

☑ Apply and receive approval for a study permit

▶ Apply early -- you must wait for your application to be approved before travelling to Canada

▶ If you are a citizen or permanent resident of the USA, you have the option of submitting your application upon your arrival at a Canadian Port of Entry (e.g. your airport of arrival or land crossing into Canada)

▶ If your spouse or common-law partner and/or any dependent children would like to accompany you to Canada, they can apply for a work permit, study permit, or visitor visa at the same time that you apply for your study permit

☑ Purchase early arrival medical insurance coverage o, if you will arrive in Canada before the first day of the term (e.g. May 1, Sept 1, or Jan 1). Your medical insurance coverage through SFU ( and GSS Studentcare) will start on the first day of the term.

☑ Purchase medical insurance coverage for your family members o, if applicable

☑ Before travelling to Canada, ensure you have the following: 

▶ a valid passport or travel document,

▶ a valid Temporary Resident Visa/TRV or Electronic Travel Authorization/eTA (if required),

▶ your SFU letter of acceptance,

▶ proof of funds oand

▶ your IRCC letter of introduction o

 Step 2. Plan your arrival

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, upon arriving in Canada, most travelers are required to isolate for a period of 14 days. The Government of BC also requires that travelers complete a self isolation plan which includes arranging necessary supports (e.g. medication, food, etc.). Please be mindful of this when you are preparing to travel to Canada. To learn more click here.

☑ Check out the Vancouver International Airport website o to get a detailed overview of the airport arrival process

☑ Plan your route and transportation form the airport to your destination

☑ Make electronic copies of important original documents and leave a copy with your family or friends, keep one with you

 Step 3. Find housing and support for your family (if applicable)

☑ Decide where to live

▶ Research housing options: on campus or off campus

▶ Consider making an advance appointment and discuss with International Student Advisors before making a decision on off-campus housing to avoid housing scams

☑ (If applicable) Apply for on-campus housing as soon as possible, spaces are limited

☑ Research child care options and/or the public education system, if you are bringing family with you

 Step 4. Learn about SFU

☑ Check out the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Virtual Orientation o

☑ We are currently planning pre-arrival sessions for international students to address your questions and provide valuable information prior to the semester start. Stay tuned and look out for emails with details.


Burnaby Campus Tour


 Step 5. Arrive at the port of entry

☑ Review your immigration documents, such as your study permit, carefully upon receiving them at the airport or land border

▶  If you notice any errors on your or your family's immigration documents (e.g. name, personal information) request changes before you leave immigration

▶ Check the conditions/remarks relating to your work eligibility while you study. Ensure the details under the client information section are correct on the study permit issued to you

☑ If you are a citizen or permanent resident of the USA, you have the option of submitting your study permit application upon your arrival at a Canadian Port of Entry (e.g. your airport of arrival or land crossing into Canada)


 Step 6. Plan your finances

☑ Open a bank account

☑ Check your financial aid options

 Step 7. Ensure you have proper medical insurance coverage

As a new international student at SFU, you will be automatically enrolled in a 4-month primary medical insurance plan with for your first term of studies. This is to ensure you have valid coverage during the waiting period for public health insurance under the BC Medical Services Plan (BC MSP).

☑ Apply for BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) o for yourself and any accompanying dependents as soon as you arrive. Your coverage will begin two to three months after your arrival date in BC.  If you will be residing in BC for six months or longer, it is mandatory for you to enroll yourself and any accompanying family members in BC MSP.

▶  For Teaching Assistants, Tutor Markers, and some Research Assistants, MSP and partial short-term medical insurance is part of your employee benefits. Contact SFU Human Resources o for MSP application information

▶  If you are already in BC and have valid MSP coverage, or you are outside of Canada during the Fall 2020 term, you can opt out of the Guard.Me@SFU o plan online for a full refund before the opt-out deadline o. To opt out of, visit their website o after your first day of classes. Click the "Graduate Students" category and follow the opt-out instructions. You may be eligible for a partial refund of the fee if there is more than one month remaining in the term, and you have not used the plan. 

☑ Opt out of the o plan when your BC MSP takes effect (after the waiting period). You may be eligible for a partial refund of the fee if there is more than one month remaining in the term, and you have not used the plan.

▶ Check opt-out deadlines for o

☑ Make changes to your secondary medical insurance o (GSS Studentcare) if necessary (i.e. opt out with equivalent coverage or add family members to the plan) during the opt-out period for Studentcare.

▶ Check opt-out period for Studentcare o

 Step 8. Confirm your enrollment requirements and work eligibility

☑ Maintain enrollment requirements o as an international student

▶ 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. To help you comply with the conditions of your study permit, review the information in this section carefully and contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist if you have any questions.

☑ Determine your eligibility to work on campus o or off campus o

☑ Apply for a Social Insurance Number(SIN) o if you are eligible and planning to work in Canada. 

▶  You must provide your SIN to your employer within three days of starting work.

▶  At the begining of hte Fall and Spring terms, Service Canada offers on-campus SIN clinics to help you apply for a SIN on campus. See upcoming sessions here.

☑ Learn about filing a Canadian Income Tax o return 

 Step 9. Stay connected with SFU community

☑ During the Fall 2020 term, we will be offering a number of virtual events and where you can connect with other SFU students. Stay informed about ISS plans by watching our Events and Programs o webpage.

☑ Read Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies monthly newsletter that you will receive via SFU Mail to stay up-to-date on programs, awards, events, deadlines, and more

☑ Read ISS Newsletter sent to your SFU Mail account to stay up-to-date on advising, immigration, medical, opportunities, and important reminders.

☑ Check out the Bring your partner and family program o offered by Graduate and Postdoctoral studies

☑ Follow ISS on Facebook o and Instagram o for the upcoming events, opportunities, and important reminders

 Step 10. Know your resources to support your transition

☑ Adjusting to a new academic and social culture can be challenging. Read more about this topic o

☑ The transition to life in a new country can be exciting, but isn't always easy. SFU has a number of supports available to you if you are struggling. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are having a difficult time at any stage of your SFU degree -- we're here to help.


SFU Health and Counselling Services oWhether you're looking for assistance with managing school stress or understanding Canadian services, the Transition Case Manager is here to provide one-to-one support for international students

MySSP o: With My SSP, all graduate and undergraduate students will have access to immediate or ongoing, confidential support - accessible from anywhere in the world by phone or through the downloadable app.

Career and Professional Development o: You’ll proactively tap into the jumble of thoughts and feelings about your career and professional development, get clearer about possibilities, and design an intentional action plan to guide your next steps and career management strategies. 

Financial Support:

GSS Emergency Grocery Card Program o: Facing hunger or serious financial pressures? Apply for and redeem a $50 grocery card once per term.

Bursaries are a supplemental source of funding for students with demonstrated financial need, and are available to international students.

SFU Bursaries for Graduate Students o

The Graduate Student Society - Bursaries o

Resources for LGBTQS+ students from International Pathways:

In partnership with SFSS Out On Campus, Health and Counselling Services is paying particular attention to the unique needs of LGBTQIA2S+ students. Click here to earn more o

Community resources on supporting LGBTQ newcomers in the Province of BC o