Newcomers and Refugees

This step-by-step guide is for new students with permanent residence or refugee status, as well as Canadian citizens who are new to Canada. 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. 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 medical insurance, exchange and study abroad, and stay engaged by participating in ISS programs and events.

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Advising and Support

Academic advisors can assist you with everything from specific questions about enrollment and course selection, to complex questions about your future. Find out more about other helpful advising and support services. Also, check your financial aid options such as scholarships, awards, busaries, and work-study programs through the SFU Financial Aid and Awards office. 

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Refugee and Newcomer Programs

SFU International Services for Students (ISS) provides support services for SFU students who identify as refugees or newcomers. SFU also partners with World University Services of Canada (WUSC) to directly sponsor refugee students via the Student Refugee Program (SRP).

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Graduate Student Community Guide

If you are a graduate student, 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 2. 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

Apply for the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) if you are a permanent resident or Canadian citizen and have not already done so. Enrolment in BC MSP is mandatory for all residents except for Canadian students moving from another province. Please note there is a wait period of 2-3 months for newcomers. In order to be covered during the wait period you may purchase a private medical insurance plan through 

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Medical Insurance for Refugees

 If you are a refugee and do not yet have BC MSP, apply for Interim Federal Health (IFH) and BC MSP. IFH will provide coverage while you wait for your MSP to take effect.

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If you are a Refugee Claimant and paying domestic tuition fees to SFU, you will be automatically enrolled in the International Medical Insurance plan. The International Medical Insurance fees will be assessed to your SFU student account. Opt-out of if you have BC MSP or equivalent medical insurance plan.

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Step 3. Sign up for orientation and transition programs

Orientation and transition programs help you learn about your new academic environment, connect you with other students, and introduce you to SFU staff and faculty.

Undergraduate Students

University Prep

It's a free online course that will help you prepare for your academic transition to SFU. Each step will take about 30 minutes to complete and take you step by step through what you need to know and do before classes start.

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Global Connections Program

This is a peer-support program designed to help new students from international pathways including those who transfer from other Canadian post-secondary institutions. This program provides the opportunity to learn about the culture of SFU while making new friends and exploring what the community has to offer. 

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Welcome Day

Welcome Day is for all students starting at SFU this Summer. Let us welcome you and introduce you to your new community.

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SFU 101 & the HIVE

HIVE is your Home for Interactive Virtual Engagement, where you and a small group of fellow new students are connected in a fun and engaging way to build a virtual community.

SFU 101 is a free online course to help you transition to SFU and prepare for academic success. SFU 101 gives you tips for a successful first year on campus.

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 Step 4. Complete settlement tasks and get to know community resources

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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Community Resources

There are a number of services and resources you can access in the community for free. Check out various community programs and resources offered for international and newcomer students by local not-for-profit organizations. 

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

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Step 5. Learn your resources for studying remotely

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

Undergraduate Students

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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Student Learning Commons

SFU’s Library Student Learning Commons offers expert and friendly help in various topics, including strategies for online courses, using technology effectively, managing technology, and time management at University.

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Student Success in Remote Learning 

Learning remotely requires unique strategies for online collaboration and engagement. The curated list of resources on this Canvas training will help you navigate the transition to the remote learning environment successfully. 

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IT Services: E-Learning

Check out e-learning resources available for you including course management systems, lecture recordings, and how to check your grades online.

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Graduate Students

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 6. Stay connected with other SFU students

Meet other undergraduate students and stay connected with SFU community. 

Events and Workshops

With numerous virtual 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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Community Connection

We’re still one community, no matter where we are. Community Connection is your hub to find out about events, workshops, and ways to engage remotely. Stay connected, de-stress, practice self-care, prioritize your well-being, and learn strategies for online and remote learning.

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