Last updated: February 2, 2021
In early October, the Canadian government amended travel restrictions for international students. The new exemptions, in-effect from October 20, will allow new and returning international students to enter Canada if their Designated Learning Institution (DLI) has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place. This change to travel restrictions is applicable to all international students, regardless of where they are travelling from or when their study permit was approved.
In this article, we will provide a general overview of various protocols that students are expected to adhere to while travelling to Canada. We will also share information on a few requirements that you should be aware of as you plan your travel and provide tips to help you get set up with the basics upon arrival.
For all latest updates, please see Government guidelines and restrictions for travel to Canada.
|If you’re looking to apply for a student permit for Canada, check out the following resources:
Note: Due to the impact of COVID-19, currently, you can only submit student permit applications online.
What is a readiness plan?
A readiness plan is prepared by individual learning institutions (universities and schools) and submitted for evaluation to their respective provincial or territorial government.
A COVID-19 readiness plan includes detailed information on the following:
- Information sharing in pre-arrival: How will the learning institution will provide information to international students on health and travel requirements before they arrive in Canada;
- Quarantine assistance: How will they manage the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for international students, including arrangements for transportation to the students’ quarantine location, and how will they provide guidance or assistance in acquiring the necessities of life, such as food and medication;
- Outbreak readiness: How will they manage students’ health in the event there are suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases at the school.
Where can you check the list of approved DLIs?
The list of DLIs with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan is available on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. This 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.
Immediate family members may be able to accompany you to Canada if their reason for travel is non-optional or non-discretionary, such as getting established in Canada to support your study. They don’t need a separate written authorization from IRCC to travel with you.
Tip: International students and accompanying family members should not make any travel plans until they have met all requirements and received all necessary authorizations.
Checklist for planning your travel to Canada
Before you leave your country –
- Confirm if your required courses will be offered online or on-campus and whether travel to Canada is required.
- Review the travel requirements, restrictions, and exemptions to enter Canada as an international student.
- Get health coverage – check if your DLI offers a plan or purchase medical coverage from an insurance provider.
- Outline your quarantine plan and be ready to share it with the border services officer upon arrival to Canada.
- Prepare your non-medical masks and face coverings.
- Monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms such as fever/chills, cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath and do not travel if you are experiencing these symptoms.
- 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 and must still complete the full, mandatory 14-day quarantine. More details are available in the news release by Transport Canada.
- 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.
Tip: Many DLIs are offering quarantine packages for international students arriving in Canada. These packages typically include accommodation, transportation, health check-ins, and a meal plan. Check with your DLI to know if they have a similar offering.
To be able to travel to Canada as an international student, you must meet two requirements:
- You must have a valid study permit or a letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a study permit.
- You must be attending an approved DLI with a COVID-19 readiness plan.
Additionally, you may be required to show proof that you have enough money to support yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada.
- Since everyone entering Canada is required to quarantine for 14 days, 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.
- Providing a quarantine plan to the border services offer is mandatory. For advice and recommendations on making your quarantine plan, see: What to expect as a newcomer moving to post-COVID Canada.
Preparing to travel to 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.
- As per new travel restrictions announced on January 29, 2021, all air travellers arriving in Canada, with very limited exceptions, must reserve a room in a Government of Canada-approved hotel for three nights at their own cost, and take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival at their own cost. The hotel quarantine requirement is expected to cost each traveller upwards of $2,000 CAD. All hotels will be located near one of the four Canadian airports currently accepting international flights. Travellers will be responsible for all associated costs, such as: hotel room, food, security, infection control, and transportation. The start date for this measure hasn’t been announced yet; more details and the complete list of hotels will be available in the coming days.
- Screening Officers working with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) will 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, starting in Montréal and Toronto.
- You are required to submit COVID-19 related information electronically daily through the ArriveCAN app.
- Failure to provide accurate information and/or violating any quarantine or isolation instructions provided to travellers by a Screening Officer or quarantine officer when entering Canada is also an offence under the Quarantine Act and could lead to serious penalties, including six months in prison and/or $750,000 CAD in fines.
Tip: If you won’t be residing on-campus and are looking for permanent, long-term accommodation, read How to find student accommodation in Canada to learn about available options and identify which one might be best suited to your needs.
Planning for the basics upon arrival in Canada
Once you arrive in Canada, there are a few essential tasks that you will need to complete: obtaining a Social Insurance Number (SIN), opening a bank account, and getting a local phone plan and internet access. Planning for these in advance will ensure a stress-free arrival.
Obtaining a SIN
Depending on your arrival airport in Canada, you may be able to get your SIN at the airport. This service is currently provided for newcomers at Toronto Pearson International Airport and Vancouver International Airport during business hours on weekdays.
If you are unable to get your SIN at the airport or if your arrival airport does not offer SIN services, you have the option to apply online or by mail:
- For applying online: Read the application guide and apply online.
- By mail: Complete a physical copy of the form and mail it to Service Canada with the required original documents. After verification, your documents will be returned to you by mail.
If your SIN application meets the requirements, you will receive a letter with your SIN by mail within 20 business days from the date the application is received. If more than 25 business days have passed, and you would like to find out the status of your application, you can contact the SIN program for an update.
Opening a student bank account while in quarantine
As an international student, you want a trusted partner who understands your banking needs. RBC (Canada’s largest bank*) has been such a partner to newcomers for 150 years. It’s why they support everything we do at Arrive.
Book an appointment with an RBC Advisor to learn more about opening an RBC student bank account remotely while in quarantine.
To open a student bank account with RBC, you will require the following documents:
- Your passport
- Student permit (IMM 1442) or Temporary Resident Visa (TRV)
- Proof of enrollment (optional, good-to-have)
- Social Insurance Number (SIN) or proof of residence (optional, good-to-have)
Getting a phone plan
Telecommunication providers in Canada offer various packages and cell phone plans exclusively for students. You have the option to choose between a pay-as-you-go (prepaid) option and a postpaid plan. Approximately 90 per cent of Canadian mobile phone users subscribe to one of the three largest national telecommunication companies (Rogers, Bell, and Telus) or one of their subsidiary brands.
List of subsidiary brands:
- Rogers: Fido, Chatr, Cityfone, Primus Wireless, Zoomer Wireless, and SimplyConnect.
- Bell: Virgin Mobile, Lucky Mobile, Solo Mobile, and Bell MTS.
- Telus: Koodo and Public Mobile.
- Shaw: Shaw Mobile and Freedom Mobile.
Tip: Phone plans can be expensive in Canada. Explore lower-cost alternatives by getting a pay-as-you-go plan with one of the subsidiary providers instead of the main provider companies, i.e. Bell, Rogers, and Telus.
For postpaid phone plans some providers will run a credit check to verify that you have a good credit history and pay your bills on time. Note that as an international student, you may not have any credit history, which may lead to the company limiting your mobile phone usage or not offering a phone plan at all. To sign up for a postpaid plan, you will need government-issued photo identification (such as a passport) and proof of address.
How to get a Canadian phone number while in quarantine
You have two options that you can consider that don’t require visiting a store or providing any other documentation:
- Get an international calling plan on your existing phone number before departing for Canada; or
- Sign up for a Pay As You Go (prepaid) plan. You can purchase a SIM card through the provider’s website and have it mailed to your quarantine address.
Tip: If you opt for a Pay As You Go plan, purchase the SIM card online a couple of days prior to departure – this will ensure you receive it in a timely manner upon arrival.
Getting an internet plan
If you’re living on-campus, you should have access to the local Wi-Fi network. If you live off-campus, you may have to pay monthly fees to have internet service at home; plans generally range between $50 to $80 CAD per month. Some popular internet providers in Canada are Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, Virgin, and Fido. However, there might be other local companies that offer competitive pricing, so be sure to shop around before purchasing.
In addition to staying up-to-date on the latest news from IRCC, travelling to Canada during the pandemic requires ample preparation. So be sure to check with your DLI for the protocols they’ve implemented and plan your travel well. We look forward to seeing you in Canada soon!
Arrive is powered by RBC Ventures Inc, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada. In collaboration with RBC, Arrive is dedicated to helping newcomers achieve their life, career, and financial goals in Canada. An important part of establishing your financial life in Canada is finding the right partner to invest in your financial success. RBC is the largest bank in Canada* and here to be your partner in all of your financial needs. RBC supports Arrive, and with a 150-year commitment to newcomer success in Canada, RBC goes the extra mile in support and funding to ensure that the Arrive newcomer platform is FREE to all. Working with RBC, Arrive can help you get your financial life in Canada started – right now. Learn about your banking options in Canada and be prepared. Click here to book an appointment with an advisor.
* Based on market capitalization
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.