2022-11-30T16:06:05-05:00Jul 30, 2021|

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

Last updated: March 28, 2022

The Canadian government is regularly revising travel restrictions for people entering the country, based on the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of October 2022, all COVID-19 related travel restrictions, including vaccination requirements, COVID-19 testing, quarantine requirements, and masking advisories have been removed. All new and returning international students can now enter Canada if they are enrolled with a approved Designated Learning Institution (DLI). 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 provide a general overview of travelling to Canada as an international student. We will also share information 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

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.
  • Prepare your non-medical masks and face coverings. These are no longer mandatory but will keep you safe during your travels.
  • 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.
  • Although you no longer need proof of vaccination to enter Canada, be sure to carry your vaccination certificates in case health advisories within Canada change.

Note: Effective October 2022, the use to ArriveCAN to provide your travel and COVID-19 vaccination information is no longer mandatory.

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.

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.

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. The Service Canada centre that caters to newcomers arriving at the Toronto Pearson International Airport was closed during the pandemic, so do check if it’s open when you arrive. Typically, these centres operate 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 any additional requirements and plan your travel well.