BP101: Studying in Canada

Documents Required at Airport for International Students in Canada

Documents Required at Airport for International Students in Canada
Written by: BorderPass Corp.
Last updated:  
April 2024

Documents Required at Airport for International Students in Canada

International students who embark on a journey to Canada are met with an exhilarating experience, brimming with anticipation and countless preparations. One very important aspect of this journey is guaranteeing that all relevant documents are in order, particularly upon arrival at the airport. While this step can be hard for many foreign students, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

There are countless online and offline sources ranging from government to university websites, consultants and other officials, that can help students navigate this process. One of these sources is BorderPass Document Vault, where students can back up and access their documents easily. It will also remind them of any upcoming expiration dates.

What Documents are Required at the Airport for International Students in Canada?

1. Passport and Visa

Valid Passport Essentials

A passport is an official document issued to an individual (in this case, a student) by their native country’s government as an identification of their identity and nationality for the purpose of international travel. It is also the gateway to international student’s experience in Canada. For this reason, it is imperative to ensure that a passport is valid for the entire duration of the intended stay. As a rule of thumb, students should consider renewing their passport if its expiration date is approaching within the next six months.

It is also advised to be mindful of the passport’s processing time. This can take anywhere from 3 to 18 weeks, depending on the country.


Understanding Different Visa Types

A visa is a conditional authorization placed within a passport that grants the foreigner official permission to enter, leave or stay in a country for a specified time period. The most common visa types are tourist, student and work visas, and depending on which country a person is entering, they can be valid for single or multiple visits.

Canada offers a variety of visa types, each catering to specific purposes. For international students, a student visa or study permit is of utmost importance. It is crucial, however, to also understand the nuances of other visa types, such as work visas or temporary resident visas, to navigate through the immigration process smoothly. Canada also offers spousal visas to spouses or common-law partners who accompany international students.


Visa Expiry and Renewal Information

International students should keep a close eye on the expiration date of their study permit. It is recommended to start the process at least 30 days before the expiry date to avoid any legal complications or last-second delays. Extending the permit can be done from within Canada, but it is not required. The cost of extending the permit is $150 CAD. Application is done online through the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.

Understanding the specific requirements for visa renewal is the key, as this may involve updating documentation and ensuring compliance with the latest regulations.

2. Study Permit

Definition and Importance of Study Permit

The study permit is a fundamental legal document issued by the Canadian government that authorizes international students to pursue their studies in the country. Obtaining a study permit is a prerequisite for enrollment in designated learning institutions (DLIs) in Canada. To familiarize themselves with the study permit application process, students can check a short but in-depth article from BorderPass.

Aside from allowing international students to study in Canada, a study permit has other benefits:

  • A study permit often allows international students to work part-time during their studies
  • With a study permit, international students who have completed their program may be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)
  • As previously mentioned, study permit holders may be eligible to bring their spouse or common-law partner, as well as dependent children
  • In some provinces and territories, study permit holders have access to the public healthcare system
  • Having a Canadian educational background and work experience obtained through a study permit can enhance an individual's eligibility for permanent residency
  • Lastly, studying in Canada provides an opportunity for cultural exposure, language improvement, and networking with students and professionals from diverse backgrounds


Presenting Your Study Permit at Immigration

Upon arrival at the Canadian airport, presenting the study permit to immigration authorities is a pivotal step. This document serves as proof of a student's eligibility to study in Canada, and they must carry it with them throughout their academic journey. Border services officers will also make sure that a student meets some basic requirements. Furthermore, if there are any concerns or questions, one should not hesitate to ask for clarification.

3. Letter of Introduction and Acceptance

Role of the Letter of Introduction

The letter of introduction, issued by immigration authorities, plays a crucial role in the finalization of the study permit application process at the airport. It serves as confirmation that the applicant's study permit, work permit, or temporary resident visa application has been approved. While it confirms approval, the actual permit or visa is issued upon arrival in Canada, as the letter of introduction itself is not a travel document.

The letter typically includes important information and instructions on how to proceed when the student enters the country. This may include details on where and how to obtain the aforementioned documents and their validity period. It may also specify any additional documents or information that the applicant needs to provide upon arrival.


Importance of Acceptance Letter from Educational Institution

The letter of acceptance (LOA) is an official confirmation from the DLI that the student has been accepted into a specific program of study. It includes information about the program (like start date and duration), course load, and any prerequisites that the student has satisfied. Also, it is a mandatory document for applying for a study permit. Immigration authorities may request to see this document when students enter the country so they can assess the purpose and details of the student's stay.

There is other important information included in the letter of acceptance like details about tuition fees, program costs, educational institution contact details, orientation dates, etc.

4. Financial Proof

Types of Acceptable Financial Proof

For students to be able to start their educational journey in Canada, they have to provide proof of financial capacity; that is, they have to prove that they can support themselves and their family members who come with them while they are in Canada. Acceptable forms of financial proof include:

  • proof of a Canadian bank account in their name if they’ve transferred money to Canada
  • a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) from a participating Canadian financial institution
  • proof of a student or education loan from a bank
  • bank statements for the past 4 months
  • a bank draft that can be converted to Canadian dollars
  • proof they paid tuition and housing fees
  • a letter from the person or school giving them money or
  • proof of funding paid from within Canada, if they have a scholarship or are in a Canadian-funded educational program


Minimum Financial Requirements

Canada has specific financial requirements that international students must meet. These requirements cover tuition fees, living expenses, and other associated costs. The cost-of-living requirement for study permit applicants for 2024. will be $20,635 CAD in addition to their first year of tuition and travel costs. This number goes up the more family members come with the student.

To study in Québec applicants must prove they meet the financial requirements outlined by the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration:

  • One person under the age of 18: $7,541
  • One person aged 18 and over: $15,078
  • Two people aged 18 and over: $22,115
  • Two people aged 18 and over and one person under the age of 18: $24,773
  • Two people aged 18 and over and two people under the age of 18: $26,737

5. Health Insurance Documentation

Understanding Health Insurance Needs

One of the essential things that international students should research prior to coming to study in Canada is which health insurance plan they should purchase. Health insurance provides coverage for medical expenses, helping individuals manage the costs associated with healthcare services like doctor visits, hospitalization, prescription medications, preventive care, and emergency services. If a student has a pre-existing condition, they should also ensure that their health insurance plan adequately covers it.


Presenting Health Insurance Documents

Have your health insurance documentation readily available for inspection at the airport. This includes health insurance cards, medical records (especially for ongoing conditions), a list of prescription drugs a student needs in Canada and immunization records. If a student has specific health insurance, they should carry information about the policy just in case it’s needed. Being prepared in this regard ensures a smooth entry process.

6. Accommodation Details

Proof of Accommodation Requirements

Once a student arrives in Canada, they may get asked by the border services official for proof of accommodation. Taken from previous student’s experiences this usually consists of showing the financial capacity to live in Canada during the stay as this already covers all the living expenses. Students should have other necessary documentation with them, like a letter of acceptance, which would further prove their reason for the stay.


Types of Acceptable Accommodation Documents

Aside from a letter of acceptance and proof of funds, students can provide a few other types of documentation as proof of accommodation:

  • on-campus housing confirmation if the student has secured on-campus accommodation
  • a signed rental agreement or lease document if the student is renting off-campus
  • letter from the landlord or property manager
  • homestay confirmation fetter if the student is staying with a host family or in a homestay arrangement
  • hotel reservation confirmation

These documents should include information like reservation dates, address, details about residence, room assignments, costs and contact information.

7. Additional Documents

Other Essential Documents

Depending on circumstances, there may be additional documents (aside from previously mentioned ones) students need for entry into Canada. These could include:

  • depending on the student’s country of origin, one may need a temporary resident visa (TRV)
  • if a student is from a visa-exempt country (like Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc), they may need electronic travel authorization (eTA)
  • travel itinerary (travel arrangements, including flight information and arrival plans)
  • biometrics (photographs, fingerprints)
  • language proficiency test results
  • academic transcripts, diplomas, certificates, or any other educational documents
  • a letter of explanation
  • proof of ties to the home country, such as family connections, employment prospects, or property ownership, to assure authorities that you plan to return after your studies
  • medical examination report


Handling Special Cases and Exceptions

There are times when students may find themselves in unexpected situations requiring additional documentation or exceptions. If this happens, the first step should always be to seek guidance from official sources before taking any action. Needless to say, cautionary steps should be taken prior to travelling, so it doesn’t come into any of these situations. Carrying any documentation that you may need, even if it’s not mandatory, is advised.

Key Takeaways

For international students it’s crucial to understand what to do upon their arrival to Canada. They’ll come in contact with immigration officers who will ask them for the required documentation before allowing them to proceed into the country. To ensure that this process goes smoothly and stress-free, students should:

  • prepare all the most important documents beforehand. These include a valid passport, letter of introduction, letter of acceptance and proof of financial capacity
  • carry other essential and non-essential documents they may need like health insurance documentation, details about accommodation, TRV, eTA, travel itinerary, biometrics, etc.
  • follow all other specified instructions given by the border services officers
  • once everything is cleared, students will be issued their study permit, after which they can make their way to their designated destination

Additionally, students who want to work while studying in Canada should apply and obtain a Social Insurance Number (SIN). This is a private 9-digit number given to Canadian citizens, as well as permanent and temporary residents, so they can work or access government programs and benefits. Without SIN, it’s impossible for foreigners to obtain a work visa.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Do My Immigration Check at the Final Destination Airport?

In Canada, the immigration check for international students typically occurs at the first port of entry, not at the final destination airport within Canada. When you arrive in Canada, you'll need to go through the immigration and customs process at the airport where you first land. This is often referred to as the "port of entry."

What Should I Do if a CBSA Officer Denies Issuing a Study Permit at the Airport?

If a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer denies issuing a Study Permit at the airport, you should remain calm and respectfully ask for clarification. It’s important to gain an understanding of why you were denied. The next step should be to inquire about the appeal process and contact designated officials at the educational institution if needed. If they weren’t able to help, but you still feel that you got unjustly denied, consider seeking legal advice from an immigration lawyer.

Another important thing is to be aware of the reasons why study permit applications get denied. BorderPass has an article listing the most common ones.


Should I Be Concerned About Losing the Second Flight?

When it comes to connecting flights, it's important to leave enough time in between them. This way, the risk of missing a connecting flight due to unforeseen delays or long queues can be minimized. Choosing a reputable airline with a history of punctuality can also minimize the risk of missing a connecting flight. You should familiarize yourself with the airport layout, transportation options and potential delays beforehand to ensure a smooth transition between flights.

If you do encounter a problem, you should seek help from airport staff by informing them about your connecting flight.

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