Life in Canada as an International Student
Here are the answers to the most pressing questions international students have about studying in Canada.
Whether you’re considering coming to Canada as an international student or you’ve already been accepted and are currently planning your move, you’re likely curious about life in Canada as a student.
From how to get a study permit to suggestions on ways to make friends once you arrive, we have you covered. Here are the answers to the most pressing questions international students have about studying in Canada.
How do you get a study permit?
To apply for a study permit, you need a letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution. You may need to be interviewed by a consular official in your country or get a medical exam or police certificate.
To be approved for a study permit in Canada, you need to show proof you have the funds to support yourself while in the country. That amount is at least $10,000 on top of your tuition (plus additional funds if you’re bringing dependents and/or studying in Quebec). You can show proof of funds with a Canadian bank account in your name, a guaranteed investment certificate (GIC), proof of a student loan, bank statements, a letter from a person giving you money, or proof of funding via a scholarship.
Many students buy a GIC to expedite the study permit process. Scotiabank offers the Scotiabank Student GIC, in which you can invest anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 and get your money back in monthly installments over 12 months.
Are there COVID travel restrictions?
Generally speaking, students traveling to Canada will need a valid study permit (or letter of introduction showing your study permit approval), and you must be attending a designated learning institution with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan. Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you might still need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
With COVID travel restriction constantly changing, your best bet is to check the government of Canada’s COVID travel page specifically for students and foreign workers before you leave your home country.
Are you eligible for scholarships or financial support?
The good news is that despite being an international student, you’ll still be eligible for scholarships and financial support in Canada. Keep in mind that funding is not guaranteed and you often have to do some digging to find out what you’re eligible for and how to apply.
If you’re a graduate student attending a Canadian university, many programs will offer a funding package that includes scholarships and bursaries. You should also contact your school’s financial aid office to see if they have any scholarships or bursaries available for international students.
Search online for additional resources; a good place to start is EduCanada.
How do you find a place to stay?
While many schools will offer residence to international students in dormitories, if your school doesn’t have housing or if you don’t get offered a dorm room by your school, you’ll need to find a place to stay. Ask your school’s international student office where apartments or rooms to rent are usually advertised in the city you’re moving to.
Before you sign a lease, read through the CMHC’s renter’s guide for information on the process of renting in Canada and what to look for in a lease agreement.
What’s banking like in Canada?
Banking might be different in Canada than where you’re from, but it’s fairly easy to get started. Banks like Scotiabank offer accounts designed for international students and friendly branch staff who will help get your account set up. All you need to open an account is your study permit or temporary visa, a piece of government photo ID, and proof of school enrollment.
The Scotiabank StartRight® program 1 offers no monthly account fees2 on an eligible chequing account, unlimited no-fee international money transfers3, an unsecured credit card with a limit of up to $5,0004 to help you build your credit, and secure online and mobile banking 24/7.
How do you access Canadian healthcare?
Some Canadian provinces cover the medical costs of international students through their provincial health insurance plans, while others require students to purchase private health insurance. Many schools offer their own mandatory private health insurance coverage for international students. You may be able to opt out it if you have proof that you have other private health coverage.
Your school will help you navigate this process, but if you’re curious about which provinces include international students on their provincial health coverage, this Canadian government site can direct you to the website of the province you’re moving to.
Can you work?
Whether you wish to work to help pay for school or to get relevant job experience, you’re likely wondering what the rules are for international students. The answer is that you can work but you’re limited to where and how much you’re allowed to.
International students can generally work on campus if their study permit says they can but may only work after their program starts — not before or after they stop their studies. Your employer can be your school, a student organization, or a private contractor that provides on-campus services. You may also run your own business so long as it’s physically located on campus and you can work more than one job.
As an international student, you’re eligible to work as many hours as you wish on campus, but you’ll need to apply for a Social Insurance Number. You might also be eligible to work up to 20 hours a week off campus and may work in a co-op position but only if your program requires a co-op placement to graduate. You’re also eligible to work full-time off campus during scheduled breaks, like during the summer, the winter holidays, or reading week. During those periods, you can work overtime or two part-time jobs that add up to more than an average work week — but you have to be a full-time student before and after that break to be eligible to work full time.
How do you get involved in student life and make friends?
While it’s important to know how to navigate life as a Canadian student, the thing that will determine how much you enjoy your time spent in the country will likely be the people you meet.
Get involved in student clubs, study groups, intramural activities, and your dorm residence’s activities. Your school’s international student office will often have social events organized for international students where you can meet people who also moved to Canada to study and who are looking for friends.
How do you succeed at school?
When it comes to succeeding as a student, it can sometimes be more challenging for international students since the language, schooling structure, and expectations might be different than in your home country. However, most schools offer support resources, such as tutors, professors, and teaching assistants, who are available to help students during office hours.
You might also want to create a study group of your peers so you can help each other. Here’s a quick overview of what to expect as a student in Canada.
How do you navigate culture shock?
Moving to a new country always comes with a learning curve. There are all sorts of cultural and social practices that are likely quite different than at home, and you might end up missing friends and family. Give yourself time to adjust and make friends with other international students in the same boat.
What are your residency options after studying in Canada?
Interested in staying in Canada to work after you graduate? Graduates of certain designated learning institutions may apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). To be eligible, your program has to be more than eight months long. If your program is over eight months but less than two years, you’re eligible for a work permit equivalent in length to your program. If your program is more than two years long, you’re eligible for a work permit that’s valid for three years.
Once you get a job and start working in Canada, you can apply for permanent residence and citizenship.
It’s easier than it seems
Moving to a new country to study can seem a bit overwhelming, but it’s easier than it looks. Making a plan for what you need to do with all relevant deadlines for documents can help you ensure the application and move goes smoothly.
Getting help from your school and a bank like Scotiabank that specializes in helping international students manage the transition will also help. Book an appointment today to learn more about how we can help.
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1 Scotiabank StartRight Program, created for Canadian Permanent residents from 0–3 years in Canada, International Students and Foreign Workers.
2 Additional fees apply for shared ABM services, cross-border debit transactions and other banking services not included in the Student Banking Advantage Plan account package. Qualifying students are full-time students enrolled at a Canadian university, community college, CEGEP or other recognized post-secondary institution. To take advantage of the Student Banking Advantage Plan account benefits, you will need to provide your branch with proof that you are enrolled full-time at a qualifying postsecondary institution each academic year prior to November 30.th When you are no longer enrolled full-time or you have not presented proof of enrolment, the plan will be removed and the account will automatically be converted to an account that is suitable to you based on your recent transaction behaviour.
3 Foreign currency exchange rates apply. A transfer needs to be made from an eligible Scotiabank Chequing or Savings account.
4 Subject to credit approval. To be eligible, you must be a participant in the Scotiabank StartRight Program. To qualify for a credit card, you must be a resident of Canada and the age of majority in your province/territory where you live. Your approval for a credit card and the credit limit assigned will be determined based on Scotiabank’s credit criteria, including your verifiable income and credit history (If available). The credit limit amount of up to $5,000 under the Scotiabank StartRight Program is subject to change by Scotiabank from time to time without prior notice. A credit history in Canada is not required in order to be eligible for a credit card under the Scotiabank StartRight Program.
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