Info for International Students

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 an international student!

Here are a few tips and tricks and things to know as an international student arriving to study in Canada!

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.
Based on your country of origin, you may be able to apply online, otherwise you will need to apply at the border when you enter the country.
Be sure to have all of your needed documents ready! You will need to have need photos of yourself, and you will have to pay a fee (see the above website for more specifics as outlined by the Canadian government).
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, just be sure you know everything you are bringing in case you are asked!

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 needing to import your vehicle! If they ask you to fill out a form officially importing your car, you can do it as there is an option that says you are a temporary resident and you will not need to 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

In order to work in Canada (aka get paid to be a graduate student and teaching assistant!) 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:

  1. Basic health care
  2. Extended health care
  3. 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 and 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. Unfortunately as international students you will have to pay $75/month for the MSP, however you can set this up to be automatically deducted from your bank account once you are signed up for the plan. =

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, you will be automatically signed up for Mandatory Temporary Medical Insurance (MTMI) through when you register for classes at UVic.

A few other helpful tidbits!

Below on the map is the Peace Arch Border Crossing between Blaine, WA, USA and White, Rock, BC, Canada. This is the closest major land border between the US and Canada to Victoria and where you will most likely cross the border if you are driving a vehicle from the US. Note that there are other smaller border crossings in the vicinity (such Sumas,WA/Abbotsford, BC) but these smaller crossing may not be able to offer the full range of services such as vehicle imports and granting study permits that can be done at the major border crossings.

Taking the Ferry from the US with your car? You’ll need to Coho from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria!