2021-08-11T15:57:16-04:00November 24th, 2020|

How to navigate quarantine as an international student moving to Canada

Last updated: August 11, 2021


In October 2020, the Canadian government amended travel restrictions for all new and returning international students, allowing them to enter Canada if their Designated Learning Institution (DLI) has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place. Following this announcement, many students are now preparing for their travel to start or resume their studies in Canada. 

In this article, we will discuss the quarantine guidelines outlined by the Canadian government, so you’re well-aware of the requirements. We will also provide tips and recommendations to help you plan your quarantine stay as an international student in Canada. 

Planning to apply for a Canadian student permit? Check out the following resources:

Note: Due to the impact of COVID-19, currently, you can only submit student permit applications online.

Requirements to enter Canada as an international student

Before you book your travel to Canada, you should –

  • Confirm if your university, college or Designated Learning Institution (DLI) features on the approved DLIs list – this is an essential requirement to travel to Canada as an international student. Approved DLIs are educational institutions that have a COVID-19 readiness plan in place. The list is updated regularly as provinces and territories identify additional schools. If your DLI isn’t on the list yet, check back regularly to see if it’s been added. Note that if you try to travel to Canada when your DLI isn’t included, you may not be allowed to board your flight, or you may be turned away at the port of entry.
  • Confirm if your required courses will be offered online or on-campus and whether travel to Canada is required. 
  • Have a valid study permit or a letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a study permit.
  • Have a valid letter of acceptance (LOA) from a DLI with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by its province or territory. 
  • Have proof of financial support ready for yourself and any family members who accompany you to Canada.
  • Familiarize yourself with the requirements for appropriate cleaning and disinfection standards for COVID-19 in preparation for your quarantine in Canada.
  • Effective January 7, 2021, all air passengers five years of age or older are required to test negative for COVID-19 before travelling to Canada. Documentation of a negative COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (or PCR) test result must be presented to the airline prior to boarding a flight to Canada. The test must be taken within 72 hours prior to the traveller’s scheduled departure to Canada. Please note that everyone with a negative test result authorized to enter Canada, is required to have a quarantine plan. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must still complete the full, mandatory 14-day quarantine. Travellers who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine that is approved in Canada can exit their quarantine after they receive a negative test result for their Day 1 COVID test.
  • Download the ArriveCAN mobile app (available on Android and iOS) and submit your travel and contact information, quarantine plan, and COVID-19 symptom self-assessment electronically. You must be ready to show your ArriveCAN receipt when seeking entry into Canada; a border services officer will verify that you have submitted the information digitally. If you do not submit the required information digitally before boarding the flight, you could be subject to enforcement action, which can range from verbal warnings to a $1,000 CAD fine. 

How to prepare a quarantine plan

Even if you are fully vaccinated and are exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirement, having a quarantine plan is mandatory. Your quarantine plan may not only be required at the time of your entry to Canada, but you may also have to get it pre-approved by your DLI in advance of your arrival. If you don’t have a plan, you should not travel to Canada. Otherwise, you may not be allowed to enter the country. 

According to government guidelines, your quarantine plan should outline:

  • Where you will be staying for the duration of your quarantine (have a single address ready);
  • How you’ll – 
    • Get to your destination from the airport; 
    • Get your groceries or meals; and 
    • Access essential services and medical care, should you need any. 

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Tips for your quarantine plan

Many DLIs are offering quarantine packages for international students arriving in Canada. These packages typically include accommodations, transportation, cleaning supplies, health check-ins, and a meal plan. Check with your DLI to know if they have a similar offering.

If you decide to create your own quarantine plan, here are a few tips to help you: 


  • If you are not fully vaccinated and will need to adhere to the 14-day quarantine requirement, you should plan on arriving at least two weeks before your classes start – this is one of the factors that border services officers will look at while approving your entry into Canada. 
  • Book temporary accommodation for the duration for your quarantine. See: How to find temporary accommodation in Canada for more recommendations and advice to find a suitable place. 
  • Some DLIs may have made arrangements for international students to quarantine in dedicated dormitories or in on-campus accommodation. Check with your university before you book temporary accommodation.


  • To travel from the airport to your temporary accommodation, you can opt for a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft or have a friend or relative pick you up at the airport. 
  • You are required by law to go immediately to your place of quarantine. Stopping at the grocery store or going to a friend’s place on the commute between the airport and accommodation is strictly prohibited, and if caught, you could face fines or jail time.
  • You must wear a suitable non-medical mask or face covering while in transit.

Groceries, cleaning supplies, and essential items: 

  • Ask for assistance from friends and/or family members living in the vicinity or neighbourhood of your accommodation. 
  • Shop online and request a no-contact delivery. Examples for grocery delivery retailers/apps include Instacart, PC Express, Inabuggy, Walmart, Costco, Metro, and Save-On-Foods, to name a few. These may vary depending on where you live. A quick search online will show you all the local options. 
  • Order takeout and delivery food online from restaurants. Skip The Dishes, Doordash, and Uber Eats are some popular food delivery apps. 

Payment options:

  • Cash payments are discouraged due to COVID-19. You may not have a Canadian bank account or credit/debit card in the first few days or weeks; hence, it is highly recommended to have an international credit card and/or a forex card, to pay for transportation from the airport to your accommodation, as well as for purchasing groceries or ordering food online.

Arriving in Canada

Here are a few things to note for your arrival in Canada:

  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering that covers your mouth and nose.
  • Be ready to pass two health checks: 
    • Conducted by the airline before boarding your flight.
    • Conducted by a Public Health Agency of Canada officer once you arrive in Canada.
  • Have a quarantine plan ready to be shared with the border services officer. This plan is mandatory, even if you have no symptoms or are exempt from a full 14-day quarantine. 
  • You will be required to take a COVID-19 molecular test on Day-1 upon arrival in Canada.
  • Stay updated about the face covering requirements for air travellers.
  • Ensure you can provide the method of contact once you arrive in Canada so that authorities can reach you. For example, WhatsApp, Canadian phone number, etc. 

Post-arrival protocols

  • If you are fully vaccinated:
    • You are required to quarantine until you receive a negative result for your Day-1 COVID-19 test. Post that, you are free to exit your quarantine.
  • If you are not fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorized in Canada:
    • In addition to the Day-1 COVID test, you will be required to take another COVID-19 molecular test on Day-8 of your arrival. A test kit shall be provided to you upon arrival.
    • If you test negative on your Day-8 COVID-19 test, you will need to complete your 14-day quarantine and can exit your quarantine on Day-15 of your arrival.
    • You are required to submit COVID-19 related information electronically daily through the ArriveCAN app.
    • Screening Officers working with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) may visit travellers’ quarantine locations to establish contact, confirm identity and confirm that travellers are at the place of quarantine they identified upon entry into Canada. Officers will conduct visits in 35 cities across the country, including Montréal and Toronto.

Note: Dedicated lanes for faster processing for ArriveCAN users are available at some major international airports (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montréal). ArriveCAN does not use any technology or data, such as GPS, to monitor or track traveller movements. Your privacy is protected. For more details, refer to the announcement from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Quarantine guidelines for international students arriving in Canada

Before travelling to Canada, you must plan for your quarantine period, starting on the day you arrive. International students who are fully vaccinated must quarantine until they receive a negative result for their post-arrival Day-1 COVID-19 test.

If you aren’t fully vaccinated, even if you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms, you must quarantine for 14 days while you’re still at risk of developing symptoms and infecting others. Should you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 during your 14-day quarantine, you must begin isolating for an additional 14 days from the date of your positive test result or onset of symptoms. 

Where not to quarantine

Do not quarantine in places where you can’t separate yourself from those who live with you. For example: 

  • In a group or communal living setting;
  • In a household with large families or many people;
  • In a shared a small apartment, or have roommates who have not travelled with you; or
  • At a camp, student dorm or other group setting where there is close contact and shared common spaces.
  • In a household with vulnerable people, such as those who: 
    • Are 65 years or older,
    • Have underlying medical conditions, or
    • Have compromised immune systems.

Monitor your health after arrival

If you start experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 (new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, fever equal to or greater than 38 degree Celsius, chills, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, new loss of smell or taste, headache, gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting; or feeling very unwell), isolate yourself from others and follow the COVID-19 instructions of the local public health authority

Note: All students arriving from outside of Canada are required to take a mandatory COVID-19 test upon arrival. International students who are not fully vaccinated must take a second post-arrival COVID test on Day-8 of their arrival.

What you can and cannot do during your quarantine

The following is prohibited during quarantine:

  • Leaving your place of quarantine unless it is to seek time-sensitive medical services.
  • Having guests over even if you are outside and stay two metres apart.
  • Using shared spaces such as lobbies, courtyards, restaurants, gyms or pools.

The following is permitted during quarantine:

  • Living with family or friends who didn’t travel with you, provided you have a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible.
  • Using shared spaces such as a kitchen, provided you:
    • Limit interactions with others in the household and wear a mask or face covering if a two-metre distance cannot be maintained;
    • Thoroughly and regularly clean common areas after use.
  • Using private outdoor spaces (such as a balcony), provided you avoid contact with others who didn’t travel with you.

The following is recommended during quarantine:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Avoiding touching your face.
  • Covering your mouth and nose with your arm when you cough or sneeze.

Note: You may be called from 1-888-336-7735 to verify your compliance during your quarantine. If federal and provincial/territorial quarantine guidelines differ, you should follow the most precautionary and stringent requirements.

Tip: See Moving to Canada as an international student during COVID for tips to help you get set up with the basics upon arrival in Canada.

The penalties for not following your quarantine plan once you’re in the country can include:

  • A fine of up to $750,000 CAD; 
  • Six months of jail time;
  • Being found inadmissible, removed from Canada and banned from entering for one year.


International travel during the pandemic requires plenty of preparation, especially if travelling as an international student. Be sure to get information from authentic sources and consult with your DLI, so you can plan your travel, stay, and studies smoothly and without stress. 



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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.