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Checklist for International Students Before Arrival: Studying in Canada

Checklist for International Students Before Arrival: Studying in Canada

International students moving to Canada can be exciting and overwhelming. This may be your first solo international move. Freedom comes with great responsibility. Before starting your studies in Canada, you must apply for a study permit, find student housing, and find funding.

In this article, we provide a pre-arrival checklist for international students moving to Canada, including all the essential tasks you should complete in your home country before studying in Canada and suggested timelines.

One year before studying in Canada

1. Make your Budget for your studies in Canada

International students pay much higher tuition than Canadian permanent residents and citizens. In addition to tuition and other academic fees, you’ll need to pay for housing, food, travel, phone bills, entertainment, and more in Canada.

2. Select a Canadian study program

You should study what you know. If your Canadian study program fits with your previous studies or work, visa officers will approve it. Moreover, If you apply for a study permit, make sure your Statement of Purpose (also called Letter of Intent) explains how switching programs will benefit your career.

Before enrolling, check Canadian universities and colleges’ admission requirements. Your program may require a high language test score, subject study, a minimum GPA in previous academic programs, work experience, academic references, and more.

Also, See if your program qualifies for a Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

3. Take an approved language test

English and French dominate Canadian courses. Most schools require language testing before admission.

Universities usually require IELTS Academic or TOEFL (iBT) with a cut-off. Retake the test if your score is too low. Interviews and statements of purpose can assess the language skills of colleges and universities.

4. Apply to Canadian universities and colleges.

List Canadian universities and colleges with selected study programs. Make sure your schools are international DLIs. Compare tuition, admissions, faculty, and student facilities. In addition, Most colleges charge a non-refundable application fee, so apply to schools where you’re likely to be accepted.

Most universities admit students in September, January, or May (summer intake). Most schools increase fall enrollment. Verify program enrollment.

Apply a year before the first semester. Admissions close six to eight months before the program begins. Pre-deadline checks avoid application delays.

5. Explore options for funding your education in Canada.

Canadian universities accept more than savings. International students receive university, government, and other scholarships. Scholarships, grants, and bursaries help needy students. International merit-based scholarships are available.

6. Check the validity of your passport

Make sure you have plenty of time left on your passport before applying for a study permit, as it cannot be extended. Before applying for a study permit, renew your passport if it expires soon. This however ensures that your study permit lasts the entire program plus 90 days.

Six months before studying in Canada

1. Get your Letter of Acceptance (LOA)

Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) send Letters of Acceptance (LOAs) to accepted students. Your student visa application requires proof of admission to a Canadian university or college.

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Your school will give you a few days to accept and confirm your enrollment. If you chose on-campus housing or a meal plan, you’ll also have to pay the first-year tuition at this point. Avoid delays by arranging your finances before receiving your LOA.

2. Explore Canada housing options

After admission, you should choose a place to live. After receiving your LOA, register for on-campus housing at your university or college. Demand for school housing often exceeds supply.

International students often live off-campus near their schools. Ask current students at your new school about off-campus housing. Temporary housing may be best for off-campus students. Then, after exploring the neighborhood and visiting some properties, you can look for longer-term rentals.

3. Check your Student Direct Stream eligibility.

The Student Direct Stream (SDS) may expedite study permit processing for 14 countries, including India, China, the Philippines, and Brazil. Also, The Student Direct Stream may process your study permit application in 20 business days.

Students applying for a study permit under the Student Direct Stream must buy a $10,000 Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) to prove financial support. You must also show proof of first-year tuition and on-campus housing.

4. Get study permit documents.

a) Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)

SDS study permits require $10,000 GICs. A GIC can show financial support for a general stream study permit.

GICs are CDIC-guaranteed. You’ll receive a portion of your GIC each month during your first year of study until you receive the full amount (plus interest).

Apply online for an RBC International Student GIC after receiving your Canadian DLI Letter of Acceptance. After purchase, banks send GIC certificates, Investment Directions Confirmations, and Investment Balance Confirmations. SDS requires this.

b) Proof of financial support

Visa officers evaluate study permit applications based on whether you can prove you can afford education and living in Canada. Students applying for a general stream study permit can also show proof of funds with documents like:

  • If you transferred money to Canada, your Canadian bank account.
  • Bank-issued student loans.
  • Four-month bank statements.
  • Canadian-denominated bank draft.
  • Housing and tuition receipts.
  • A scholarship letter from a school or person.
  • Proof of Canadian-funded scholarships or educational programs.

c) Letter of Intent (or Statement of Purpose)

Study permit applications do not require a statement of purpose or LOI. A well-written LOI can convince the visa officer that you’re a legitimate student, studying in Canada will benefit your career, and you won’t overstay your study permit. These boost study permit applications. LOIs justify study permits.

d) Québec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ)

Before applying for a study permit in Quebec, you must get a provincial Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ). Contact your school for CAQ application and fee information.

5. Canadian study permit Application

Apply for an IRCC study permit online with all the necessary documents. Fill out the form, upload documents, and pay processing fees before applying for a study permit.

International students can get study permits from immigration or educational consultants. Consult CICC consultants. Unauthorized consultants are risky because the Canadian government will not communicate with them. Avoid fraudsters offering Canadian university admission or requesting a study permit lie.

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RCICs help with visas, work, study, and PR applications, while RISIAs help with study permits.

RISIAs are university-affiliated Canadian organizations. They can advise you but not submit your study permit application.

Three months before studying in Canada

1. Get a Driver’s license extract

Your regional transportation authority issues a driver’s license extract to verify your driving history and that you had a valid license in your home country. With two or more years of foreign driving experience, a driver’s license extract can speed up the Canadian driver’s license process.

In Ontario, someone with over two years of foreign driving experience can take a G road test immediately after passing the G1 knowledge test, skipping the G2 road test and waiting period. You could get a full license in weeks or months.

Start the driver’s license extraction process at least a few months before you leave, as it can take weeks or months in some countries.

2. Collect other official documents

Gather your educational transcripts, past employment letters, academic or professional references, identity documents, and other important documents using the Canadian student visa document checklist.

Besides your study permit application, you may need other important documents in Canada. Bring your marriage certificate, birth certificates, school, and health records if your family is visiting you in Canada.

3. Canadian student bank accounts

A Canadian bank account simplifies money management. Opening a bank account before arriving in Canada lets you transfer your savings and have them available. Start opening your student bank account with an RBC Advisor six to eight weeks before your arrival.

For daily expenses, open a chequing account in Canada. Your chequing account will receive GIC funds. After arriving in Canada, you can apply for a credit card.

One month before studying in Canada

1. Choose what you want to bring.

Though it’s too early to pack, decide what you’ll bring and start preparing. Check the government’s import restrictions.

Ship large items like furniture. Note that most on-campus housing in Canada is fully or partially furnished, so check with your university or college. You may need a laptop or phone for school.

2. Manage your finances

Your study program may keep you away from home for a year or more, but you can visit family during breaks. Consolidate your finances before leaving to avoid stress.

You’ll need enough savings to study in Canada. It’ll also be crucial to have easy access to your savings or home funds. To avoid being charged for services you won’t use, close bank accounts, pay off credit cards and cancel recurring payments or subscriptions.

Gather bank statements, GIC, education loan, and scholarship paperwork one month before coming to Canada.

3. Find part-time job opportunities

Many international students in Canada can work part-time. Your study permit states whether you can work.

Start researching part-time jobs before arriving in Canada if you’re eligible. Talk to current students and check Canadian job portals to learn about part-time jobs near your school. Look for opportunities that match your study program or help you develop transferable skills.


After starting school, you can work part-time. Make employment decisions after you know your class schedule.

4. Comprehensive health checkup

Before leaving, see your doctor, dentist, or ophthalmologist. Get prescriptions for any ongoing medications, update your vaccinations, and get a copy of your medical and dental records.

Before leaving, get checkups and last-minute dental cleanings and fillings since Canadian provincial and student health insurance plans don’t cover regular vision and dental care.

Two weeks before studying in Canada

1. Buy health insurance, if needed.

Canadian study permit holders must have health insurance. If their study program is long enough, some provinces (except Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec) offer publicly funded healthcare to international students. Check your province or territory for healthcare registration. You may need private coverage before joining the provincial plan.

Studying in Ontario or Manitoba requires UHIP or MISHP primary health coverage. Vision and dental insurance may cost you.

2. Gather or buy your first-week essentials.

Pack a week before flying. First-week clothing should be weather-appropriate. Canada’s winters require heavy jackets, snow boots, and layers. Canadian winter gear is popular with students from warmer countries. Don’t pack just winter clothes—Canada’s summers are hot.

Check your accommodation’s kitchen if you haven’t signed up for a meal plan. Because works and pressure cookers are expensive and hard to find in Canada, buy them in your home country to cook your native food.

Carry enough toiletries, spices, etc. for a week.

3. Spend time with family and friends

Spend time with family and friends after completing essential tasks. You may not meet for months or years. No problem—call, video call, or email.

International students must complete several tasks before arriving in Canada. Plan ahead for budgeting, studying, and finding student housing.

Before leaving for Canada, print the free international student checklist



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