2022-03-28T10:43:03-04:00July 30th, 2021|

Moving to Canada as an international student during COVID: What to prepare

Last updated: March 28, 2022


The Canadian government is continually revising travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for people entering the country. The current amended travel restrictions for international students allow new and returning international students who are fully vaccinated 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. 

information icon  Important:
As an international student, you will not be allowed to enter Canada if:

  • your study program has been cancelled or suspended
  • you’re entering Canada for any reason other than to study
  • you are not fully vaccinated with a vaccine that’s approved in Canada.

In this article, we 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 the latest updates, please see Government guidelines and restrictions for travel to Canada

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 provide information to international students on health and travel requirements before they arrive in Canada;
  • Quarantine assistance: How will they manage the 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. 


  • You must be studying at one of the approved DLIs to be able to travel to Canada. 
  • Any DLI that no longer meets its provincial or territorial public health requirements will be removed from the approved list. 
  • If your DLI is NOT listed, you cannot travel to Canada to study at this time. 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. 

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

information icon  Information:
As of January 15, 2022, only fully vaccinated students will be allowed to enter Canada to attend a designated learning institution.

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 April 1, 2022, fully-vaccinated travellers no longer require pre-arrival COVID-19 tests while travelling to Canada. test negative for COVID-19 before travelling to Canada. However, you must still have a quarantine plan in place, in case you’re randomly selected for an on-arrival COVID-19 test and receive a positive result.
  • 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:

  1. You must have a valid study permit or a letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a study permit.
  2. 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.


  • Even if you are fully-vaccinated, you may be required to quarantine if you test positive on your on-arrival COVID-19 test. You should plan on arriving well before your classes start, so you have time to quarantine, if required.  

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.
  • All international travellers must have a quarantine plan in place before they enter Canada.
  • If you’re required to quarantine, 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.
  • If you test positive on your on-arrival COVID-19 test, you are required to submit COVID-19 related information electronically daily through the ArriveCAN app during your period of quarantine.
  • 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: 

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 remotely

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 online or over phone.

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:

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 SIM card shipped to you

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!