In the Know: Drowning in Documents

UVic Global Community Newsletter: May 1, 2023

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 as early as possible before it expires to ensure you will have enough time to extend your Canadian immigration documents. Application timelines vary, so make sure to check with your country’s consular office to find out how early you can apply and how long it will take.

Your Canadian immigration documents

Canadian immigration documents may be issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or the 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 immigration documents in Canada.

Note: When your study permit is approved, you will receive a letter of introduction (also known as a port of entry letter) and either 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 vs. Entry documents

Status documents allow temporary residents to stay in Canada for a period of time to study, work, or visit. Study permits, work permits, and visitor records are considered status documents for temporary residents. You and your family members must always have a valid status and stay compliant with conditions on your immigration status document(s) while in Canada.

In addition to a status document, you may also need a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada.

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 study at UVic in a program of more than 6 in length requires a study permit.

  • Your study permit 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 may 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 apply to 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: Your BC Medical Services Plan coverage, Social Insurance Number, and other Canadian documents will most likely be set to expire when your study permit expires. Start the process of extending your study permit at least four to six months before it expires to ensure you will have enough time to extend or renew your other documents.

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. For information about the eligibility criteria to work in Canada as an international student, visit our Working in Canada page.

Visitor record
  • A visitor record is a status document that may be issued to temporary residents to extend or restrict your 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 sessions, you must either leave Canada or apply for a visitor record to be compliant with your study permit conditions during your leave. You can’t work on or off campus during an authorized leave from your study program, even if your study permit says you’re allowed to work in 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 an International Student Adviser if you have questions about how a leave of absence will impact your immigration status, work authorization, and/or eligibility for a post-graduation work permit.

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Entry documents (TRV or eTA)

In addition to your study permit, you may require an entry document such as a temporary resident visa (TRV) or electronic travel authorization (eTA) to travel to Canada. The document you will need 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.

Refer to the IRCC website to find out what entry document you may need in order to enter Canada. If you are a US citizen, you don’t need an eTA or TRV.

Note: 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 if you are applying for a study permit from outside Canada.

Temporary Resident Visa (TRV)
  • A temporary resident visa (TRV, also known as a visitor visa or student 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 application before it expires. However, you must have a valid TRV in your passport every time you want to re-enter Canada after a trip outside the country.

  • In most cases, your first TRV will expire at the same time as your study permit since it is issued automatically with your study permit approval from outside Canada. However, it’s important to remember that IRCC does not automatically issue you a TRV when you extend your study permit in Canada. If you need a new TRV, you must 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 (eTA)
  • An electronic travel authorization (eTA) is electronically linked to a passport, and is required for citizens of some countries to enter Canada by air. An eTA is not a visitor visa. You don’t need an eTA if you require a TRV.

  • The eTA is normally issued with a validity of 5 years or to the expiry date of your passport, whichever comes first. To check your eTA validity, use this tool on the IRCC website.

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

  • If you renew or replace your passport, the eTA issued to your old passport will no longer be valid. You must apply for a new eTA using your new passport if you need one for travel.

  • If you are in Canada and do not have a valid eTA, you do not need to stop studying or leave Canada, provided your study permit remains valid. However, you must have a valid eTA every time you want to enter or re-enter Canada by air.

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

Don't drown. Stay 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: Stay organized!

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

Some tips for staying 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 9-12 months before the expiry date on your travel document and 4-6 months before the expiry date on your status document in Canada. If you need to extend or renew a document, 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 electronic copies of your documents and save them in a secure location.

If you have questions about any of these topics, contact the International Centre for Students (ICS) via email () or by phone (+1 250 721 6361) for advice, or attend our daily immigration drop-in hours to speak with an International Student Adviser.

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