So you are new to Canada, welcome! During the hectic time of getting adjusted to life in Victoria there are a few things to keep in mind as international student. The following tasks are extra tasks that international students will need to do.
Applying for a study permit
In order to live in Canada, you will need to apply for a study permit. The detailed information for how to do this is given here.
You may be able to apply online, otherwise you will need to apply at the border when you enter the country. You will need to have many documents available, you will need photos of yourself, and you will have to pay a fee (see the above website). Make sure you have enough CAD to pay the fee.
There are several weird requirements the immigration services people may enforce. You may be asked to undergo an official background check or a medical exam. They probably won’t ask these things of you, but be prepared.
They will also want to know the value of any items you are bringing into Canada, especially if you are driving in; you may have to officially import some goods.
Importing goods (including a car)
There are always restrictions on the amount and kind of goods you can bring into Canada. If you are bringing a lot of stuff with you, they will probably ask for a rough estimate of the value of your goods. When a past grad student traveled through customs from Port Angeles, WA, they simply asked for a typed list of everything with rough dollar amounts. There were no fines for anything; it seemed like they just wanted a record of what was coming in.
The exception to this is if you are bringing in a car. Since cars are much more valuable, the customs officers may say that you need to import it and pay import fees. However, as a student you are exempt from this. If they ask you to fill out a form officially importing your car, you can do it–there is a box somewhere that says you are a temporary resident. Do not pay any fees to import the car!
Similarly, you do not have to register your car in Canada. Keep in mind that insurance here is probably different than in your home country, so you should check to ensure what is covered. More information on Car Insurance can be found here on the website for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).
Applying for a SIN
You will also need to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN). This process is surprisingly simple: all you have to do is gather the necessary documents and head to a nearby Service Canada Centre, as described here.
This is an important step as you you will need this number for forms at UVic and to be able to get paid without delay! Which brings up the next important item to keep in mind:
There are six major banks in Canada (Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), Bank of Montreal (BMO), Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)) and each of them offers student banking plans. The perks of the plans offered by each bank change regularly so make sure to read up on them and reach out to currently enrolled students about who they bank with before making a decision!
You will need to purchase health insurance while you are living in Canada. There are three different kinds of insurance you’ll need to buy:
- Basic health care
- Extended health care
- Dental care
Numbers 2 and 3 are automatically provided by the University. If you don’t want them, you’ll have to Opt Out, but you’ll have to have equal coverage to do this. You will need to purchase your own basic health care.
The basic plan in BC is the Medical Services Plan (MSP). You’ll need to apply using the form on their website:
You’ll need to submit a copy of your study permit. There are two important things you should know.
Your MSP health insurance will not take effect immediately; you must wait three months after your arrival before the insurance to take effect. Because being uninsured is potentially dangerous, there is a company that will offer you temporary insurance during this waiting period. The form is available on their website.
You may have heard that Canada has free health care. This is not true–the premium costs are scaled according to income, but unfortunately, international students do not qualify for premium assistance. Thus, you will have to pay $75/month for the MSP.
NOTE: If you already have health insurance (e.g. through your parents), you may not need to purchase any additional insurance. However, you’ll definitely want to check out how much things will cost if you use your insurance out of your native country. It’s probably safer to at least purchase basic health care in Canada.