Drowning in Documents

UVic Global Community Newsletter: January 18, 2021

In the Know: Advice for International Students is a section of the UVic Global Community Newsletter that includes valuable information and important dates for undergraduate and graduate international students in the following categories: degree-seeking, incoming exchange, and incoming study abroad/visiting.

Does it feel like you're drowning in documents?

As a temporary resident in Canada, there are important documents you must apply for and maintain. It isn't fun, and sometimes it isn't easy, but keeping track of these documents is an essential part of your international student experience.

Take a moment to consider some of the documents you already have and some other documents you might need along the way.

Your travel document

Most likely, your travel document is a passport issued by your country of citizenship.

If your passport will expire while you are inside Canada, contact your country's nearest consular office for instructions.

Your Canadian immigration documents are often set to expire when your passport expires. Start the process of renewing your passport at least nine months before it expires to ensure you will have enough time to extend your Canadian immigration documents.

Your Canadian immigration documents

Canadian immigration documents may be issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The following information explains the differences between status documents and entry documents and some tips for you to keep track of your required Canadian immigration documents in Canada.

Note: Due to COVID-19 some of you may have started your program from abroad due to current travel restrictions. When your study permit is approved, you will receive a letter of introduction and an entry visa or eTA if required. A letter of introduction is a study permit approval that will allow CBSA officers to issue a study permit when you arrive to Canada.

Status Documents:

Status documents allow temporary residents to stay in Canada for a period of time to study, work or visit. 

  • Study permit

When you are in Canada as an international student, a study permit is the most important status document that you must always have in your possession.

With very few exceptions, every international student, who intends to complete a program of study that is 6 months or longer at UVic requires a study permit.

If you have a study permit, it determines the length of your stay in Canada and allows you to engage in studies at a Canadian institution. If you meet certain eligibility requirements, your study permit will also allow you to work in Canada.

Your study permit expiry date is listed on your document. If you want to continue studying in Canada beyond the expiry date listed on your study permit, you MUST extend your study permit before it expires. If you don’t extend your study permit, you must leave Canada before your status expires.

Instructions for a study permit extension application are available on the IRCC website.

Note: Other documents like your BC Services Card and your Social Insurance Number will most likely be set to expire when your study permit expires. Start the process of extending your study permit at least four months before it expires to ensure you will have enough time to extend or renew your other documents. Refer to our website – Health Insurance and Working in Canada pages for more information about when and how to set up your BC Medical Services Plan and Social Insurance Number when you arrive to BC.

  • Work permit

If you want to participate in a co-op work term, an internship or any other employment that is an essential part of your program of study, you must apply for a co-op work permit.

If you want to stay in Canada and work after completing your degree program at UVic, you may be eligible to apply for a post-graduation work permit.

If you have a spouse or common-law partner who wants to work in Canada, they may be eligible to apply for an open work permit.

Make sure you understand the restrictions associated with working in Canada BEFORE starting to work. Do not work without the proper authorization.

  • Visitor record

A visitor record is a document that may be issued to temporary residents to extend or restrict your stay in Canada. In this case, a visitor record may be a status document that determines a temporary resident’s authorized stay in Canada.

A visitor record may be issued by a CBSA officer at the port-of-entry or by IRCC while you are inside Canada. It is not the same as a TRV (or visitor visa). Refer to the IRCC website for information about when a visitor record may be issued.

Generally speaking, you will not need a visitor record when you have a study permit. However, if you need to take an authorized leave for more than 150 days during your regular academic session and stay in Canada while on leave, you must change your status temporarily to a visitor or a worker to keep your study permit valid.

If you don’t change your status and cannot resume your program of study within 150 days since a leave commenced, your study permit may become invalid and you will be required to leave Canada.

Refer to the IRCC website for detailed information about a leave from your studies and how to stay compliant with your study permit conditions during a leave from your studies.

Contact International Student Services (ISS) if you have questions about whether you need to apply for a visitor record when you need to take a leave from your regular academic terms.

Entry Documents:

In addition to a status document, you may also need a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada. TRV and eTA are entry documents and whether you will need a TRV or eTA depends on:

  • the type of travel document you will travel with;
  • the country that issued your travel document;
  • your nationality; and
  • how you will travel to Canada.

If you are an international student requiring a TRV or eTA to enter Canada, your TRV or eTA will be automatically issued to you after your study permit application is approved by a Canadian Visa Office overseas. You will not need to make a separate application for your entry document.

Note: If you are a US citizen, you don’t need an eTA or TRV.

Refer to the IRCC website to find out what entry document you may need in order to enter Canada.

  • Temporary resident visa

A temporary resident visa (TRV, also known as a visitor visa) is a sticker attached to one of the pages in a passport.

If you are already in Canada with a valid study permit, you can continue studying even if your TRV expires as long as your study permit is valid or you have submitted a study permit extension before it expires. However, you must have a valid TRV in your passport every time you want to leave and re-enter Canada.

In most cases, your first TRV expires the same time as your study permit. IRCC does not automatically issue you a TRV when you extend your study permit in Canada. If you need a new TRV, you need to submit a separate application after your study permit extension is approved if you plan to leave and return to Canada.

To apply for a new TRV inside Canada, follow the instructions to make an application online.  

  • Electronic travel authorization

An electronic travel authorization (eTA) is electronically linked to a passport. An eTA is not a visitor visa. You don’t also need an eTA if you require a TRV.

To check your eTA validity, use this tool on the IRCC website.

When you extend your study permit, your eTA will be automatically issued to the passport you use for your study permit extension if you need a new eTA.

Whenever you renew your passport, your eTA will expire along with your old passport. You must apply for a new eTA on your new passport if you need one for returning to Canada by air.

You do not need to stop studying or leave Canada if you do not have a valid eTA. However, you must have a valid eTA every time you want to leave and re-enter Canada by air.

If you need a new eTA, you can apply for one on the IRCC website.

Don't drown. Be organized!

Your travel document and your Canadian immigration documents are only a few of the many important documents you must deal with during your stay in Canada. There are also documents related to health insurance, being a tenant, working, filing income tax returns, banking, and the list goes on.

The International Student Advising team is available to help you understand what documents you have and why you have them. We can also help you understand what documents you need and how to get them. But, in the end you are responsible for obtaining the correct documents, keeping them valid and always abiding by their terms and conditions.

Here is the best advice we can offer: Be organized!

Students who are organized spend less time worrying about their documents and more time enjoying their international student experience.

Some tips for being organized:

  1. Keep a checklist of your documents.
  2. Check the expiry date on your travel document and on each of your Canadian immigration documents.
  3. Set a reminder on your phone or make a note in your planner nine months before the expiry date on your travel document and four months before the expiry date on your status document in Canada. If you need to extend or renew a document, be sure to start the process well in advance.
  4. Keep your original documents in a safe place if you don’t need to carry them with you.
  5. Always keep an electronic copy of your documents.

UVic important dates:

  • Some UVic academic important dates in the spring 2021 term have been changed. Please refer to the UVic Important Dates Calendar for updates.
  • UVic guard.me plan opt out deadline is January 26, 2021. To find out your eligibility to opt out or the opt out process, refer to the Health Insurance page – guard.me@UVic plan section.

If you have questions about any of these topics, make sure to contact International Student Services (ISS) for advice.