Arriving in Canada

Traveller With Plane Behind HerIt can be daunting to think about leaving friends and family behind to travel thousands of miles away to an unknown destination across the world. Proactive planning can help students travel and settle into their new home away from home. Here are a few tips and a checklist to make sure the student is prepared before they board their plane to Canada.

Student Checklist

  • Arrange accommodations. Learn more about how to secure your accomodations in the Living in Canada section of this course.
  • Register for courses
  • Pack bags
  • Buy plane ticket
  • Obtain ground transportation from the airport to accommodation
  • Create an emergency contact list
  • Need to travel with medication? Learn how to travel with medication and what documentation the student needs to bring with them.
  • Arrange banking—consider buying traveller’s cheques for large denominations, as well as carrying a smaller amount of cash. Monetary Instruments, including cash and traveller’s cheques, valuing at or more $10,000 CAD (or its foreign equivalent) must be declared at customs. Learn more.
  • Keep documents secure! Have the student save pictures of their passport, study permit (and visa, if relevant); have electronic copies of insurance and rental agreements saved securely for future reference. Make sure they know when their study permit will expire.

What to Bring

Before packing, an incoming student should:

  • Verify luggage restrictions with their airline
  • Pack for the weather. We recommend researching the weather in the city of stay and pack accordingly. In most of Canada, t-shirt and shorts are great for the summer months, and winter coats, boots, hats, and mittens are required in the fall, winter, and spring months.
  • Check which items the Canadian Border Services Agency does not permit through customs (eg. pets, plants, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat products, etc.).

The Government of Canada has a list of items that international students should pack in their carry-on luggage, as they may be required to show them to customs when they arrive. A list of these items can be viewed here.

Arrival at a Canadian Airport

When flying to Canada, students are required to do the following things:

  • Before landing in Canada, complete a Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) Declaration card. These cards are distributed on the airplane prior to landing.
  • Upon arrival, follow the signs that say “Arrivals and Customs” (known as the immigration area).
  • Enter the non-Canadian citizens line.

When called by the Immigration Officer, present them with the travel documents which include the following:

  • A valid passport or travel document
  • A valid temporary resident visa
  • An original or copy of Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from the academic institution
  • Proof of adequate funds for the stay in Canada (GIC documents)
  • Letter of Introduction (LOI) issued by CIC in the student’s home country
  • Any other documents submitted while applying for visa
  • Letters of reference or any other document the visa office told the student to bring
  • Official marksheet/certificates from home country

Common Questions Asked at Arrivals

Below is a list of common questions that students are asked by an Immigration Officer when they arrive at the airport.

  • What is your name?
  • Where are you from? What is your home address?
  • What is your mother’s and father’s name?
  • What is your date and place of birth?
  • What school are you going to attend in Canada?
  • What program are you going to study and how long is the program?
  • What are your plans after completing the program?
  • Who packed your bag(s)? Do you know what’s inside the bags?
  • How much cash are you carrying with you?
  • Do you have relatives/friends/family in Canada? If yes, where do they live? If no, where will you stay?
  • Is someone coming to pick you up at the Airport?
  • Do you require a social insurance number (SIN)?

Respond to all the questions asked by the Immigration Officer with simple and clear answers. If the student does not understand the question clearly, they can ask for an interpreter (available in almost all languages).

Navigating the Airport

Many airports have arrival guides on their websites. We highly recommend students research the airport they will be landing in to get themselves familiar. The 10 most frequently accessed airports in Canada are:

Graphic of Plane, Bus, Car, Taxi

Airport Pick-Up and Transportation

Students will need to arrange their own transportation from the airport to their accommodation. Students are also responsible for arranging their own transportation to and from the campus daily.

Available Transportation Options

  • Taxi: Students can arrange a local taxi to pick you up. Simply search for local companies on Google. Most airports also have a designated area where visitors can get a taxi; no prior booking required.
  • Uber and Lyft: Both mobile transportation applications are widely used in Canada. However, there are some limitations on where one can be picked up at the airport. View ride availability by searching within the apps.
  • Private/Rental Car: Students can rent a car at the airport provided that they have a valid driver’s license. Many car rental companies, such as Avis, Enterprise, and Budget have offices at the airport. Students should make a reservation prior to their arrival to ensure a car that fits their needs and budget will be available.


Students can pay for their transportation at the end of the ride using a debit or credit card that works in Canada, or in cash with Canadian currency. If the transportation was pre-booked, students can often also pay through the transportation provider’s website or through their smartphone app.