Travelling to Canada and self-isolation

Updated Jan. 26, 2021

In order to manage the COVID-19 virus, the Government of Canada has put into place travel restrictions that limit travel to Canada, with a few exemptions. Before planning travel to Canada, students should ensure that they meet the exemptions.

Please be aware that this information is subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. It is strongly recommended that students closely monitor the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website for any future updates.

To be able to enter Canada, students must meet two requirements:

  1. They must have a valid study permit or a letter of introduction that shows they were approved for a study permit.
  2. They must be attending a designated learning institution (DLI) with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by its province or territory. 

Travel to Canada will be considered essential (non-discretionary) if students have all of the required documents and their DLI is on the approved list.

Students’ travel to Canada will not be considered essential (non-discretionary) if:

  • the study program has been cancelled or suspended
  • they are entering Canada for any reason other than to study

The University of Victoria (UVic) has been included on the list of approved DLIs with a COVID-19 readiness plan. Please note that this list is subject to change. Before travelling to Canada, students should make sure their school is on the list of approved DLIs.

It is the student’s responsibility to prove that their travel to Canada is non-discretionary. A Canadian border services officer will make the final decision on the student’s eligibility to enter Canada when they arrive.

Students can contact the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for more information before travelling.

We recommend that students should ensure they are not travelling to Canada too early or too late in the study term as the border services officers may question the reason for coming to Canada. If they feel that a student is travelling for purposes other than studying, such as tourism, then the student may be refused entry.

When students meet the border services officers at the port of entry, they will be reviewing several factors, including:

  • Their reason for travelling to Canada
  • Their ability to complete a 14-day quarantine period as soon as they arrive at their final destination
  • If they either:
    • have time to complete their quarantine before they physically attend classes, or
    • can study online during their quarantine

Students should have the following items in order to travel to Canada at this time:

  • A valid study permit or a port of entry letter of introduction that shows they were approved for a study permit
  • A valid letter of acceptance and/or a valid letter of enrollment
  • Proof that they have enough money to support themselves and any family members who come with them to Canada
  • A plan for self-isolation (quarantine)
  • Valid entry document (temporary resident visa [TRV] or electronic travel authorization [eTA], if required)
  • Valid passport or other travel document

If students have already started their program of study, they can request a letter of enrollment from the department. In this case, the letter of enrollment may be used in place of the letter of acceptance.

Students whose study permit application is still being processed will need to wait to travel to Canada until they receive confirmation that their study permit application has been approved, and they receive the letter of introduction. Students should wait to make any travel arrangements until they have met the travel exemptions.

To board a flight to Canada, you will be expected to:

  • Present your travel and study documents
  • Confirm that you are attending a designated learning institution (DLI) with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan. The University of Victoria meets both these criteria. Your study permit information letter and verification of enrollment can be used to demonstrate that you are attending UVic.
  • Present a negative COVID-19 test result to the airline prior to boarding international flights bound for Canada (starting January 7, 2021, for air travellers 5 years of age or older). The test must be performed using a molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) and must be conducted within 72 hours of the scheduled departure to Canada.

You may not be permitted to board an airplane to Canada if you do not have the necessary documents or cannot produce a negative COVID-19 test result.

Under the Quarantine Act, anyone arriving in British Columbia from outside of Canada must self-isolate and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days upon arrival. This is required whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19 when they arrive. Both the federal and provincial governments have mandated universities to play a significant role in the management of international students' 14-day self-isolation. We have developed the UVic Student Self-Isolation Program to support students in planning and completing their 14-day self-isolation. This program will give international students access to resources, supports and guidance and can help students as they maintain their compliance with the self-isolation requirements.

Please be aware that it is the student’s responsibility to make their own self-isolation arrangements. UVic can provide resources that may assist students with planning their self-isolation, such as a list of hotels that offer special quarantine rates for UVic students, websites for stores that offer grocery and necessities delivery, and websites or apps that offer meal delivery. Please do note that the UVic Dormitories are not available for self-isolation.

As of February 22, 2021 all travellers will be required to take a COVID-19 test on arrival to Canada; after testing:

Travellers flying to Canada:

  • Must self-isolate in a government-authorized hotel in the city in which they first arrive in Canada. Travellers must arrange a three night, pre-paid booking in advance of travelling to Canada and at their own cost.
  • Travellers must remain in isolation at the hotel until receiving a negative result on their arrival test, and will be advised on travelling to their final destination for the remainder of the 14-day self-isolation period.

Travellers driving to Canada:

14-day self-isolation period:

During the 14-day self-isolation period, students must remain quarantined. Students must ensure that they:

  • Follow the Government of Canada and Government of BC requirements for self-isolation
  • Make arrangements for appropriate accommodations during self-isolation
  • Go directly to their place of self-isolation, without delay. Use a taxi or private transportation, if possible. Avoid public transportation.
  • Wear an appropriate mask or facial covering while travelling and in transit. BC health officials recommend that masks should be worn in all public spaces. 
  • Remain in their place of self-isolation for a minimum of 14 days and do not leave, unless it is to seek medical attention. If students develop signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed to another person who has signs or symptoms, they must:
    • isolate themselves from others
    • immediately call 8-1-1 to talk to a nurse at HealthLinkBC and get advice about what to do next, or contact the public health authority and describe their symptoms and travel history – and then follow the instructions carefully
  • Arrange for the necessities of life (e.g. food, medications, cleaning supplies) to be delivered to their place of self-isolation.
  • Do not self-isolate in a place where they will have contact with vulnerable individuals, including those who have an underlying medical condition, compromised immune systems, or who are 65 years of age or older.
  • Do not have visitors and limit contact with others in their place of self-isolation, including children and those who have not travelled, nor been exposed to the virus.
  • Do not go to school, work or any other public areas.

For further information, please review the BC Centre for Disease Control’s (BCCDC) website on how to self-isolate.

International students travelling to Canada and taking courses at the University of Victoria must provide appropriate notification to the university of their self-isolation plans by registering in the UVic self-isolation program prior to their arrival in Canada. 

Continuing Studies students must submit the Self-Isolation Registration form provided below so that we can correctly track students arrivals and self-isolation plans. I understand that some students may have submitted the Self-Isolation Registration through the International Student Services (ISS) Office. Please be aware that the ISS form will not be able to connect to your student file as the Continuing Studies and ISS systems are completely separate.

All international students must:

  1. Complete a self-isolation registration form prior to arrival
  2. Complete a daily check-in form (14 days), starting on your date of arrival

UVic's self-isolation program is designed to support you, as a UVic student, make the necessary arrangements for arriving in Canada, self-isolating on arrival, and ensuring a successful start to your studies in Canada.

  1. Review the information on travelling to Canada
  2. Submit their self-isolation plan to the Division of Continuing Studies
    • Once students submit their study location form and indicate that they will be travelling or have recently travelled to Canada, they will receive an email with further information to provide their self-isolation plan as a Division of Continuing Studies student.
  3. Download the ArriveCAN application and complete the form within 48 hours before arriving in Canada*
  4. Submit their self-isolation plan to the BC Government**
  5. Have appropriate health insurance in place. Students who have questions about optional medical insurance should contact
  6. Complete their daily check-in form with the Division of Continuing Studies throughout their self-isolation period.

Students must bring their ArriveCAN receipt (electronic or paper) with them to show the border services officer upon arrival.

It is highly recommended that students complete and submit the form online before they begin travelling to British Columbia. Please note, the online form is not compatible with the Internet Explorer browser.

*Submitting required information to the federal government

Students must download the ArriveCAN application and complete the application form prior to, or upon arrival in Canada. The ArriveCAN application is available through the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. Students without a smartphone may use the web form.

As of Nov. 21, 2020, students must use ArriveCAN (either before checking in at the airport or crossing the border) to submit their:

  • Travel and contact information
  • Self-isolation plan
  • COVID-19 symptom self-assessment

Once you submit your information through ArriveCAN, a receipt will be displayed. Be ready to show the receipt to a Canadian border services officer (you can show your receipt from the app as a screenshot or printout).

Once you've arrived in Canada, you must use the ArriveCAN system to:

  • confirm that you've arrived at the address you provided for your self-isolation location within 48 hours of your entry into Canada
  • complete daily COVID-19 symptom self-assessments until the completion of your self-isolation period or until you report symptoms


** Submitting the self-isolation plan to the BC Government

The self-isolation plan can either be:

  • completed and submitted online before or upon arrival in British Columbia
  • completed and submitted using a paper form upon arrival in British Columbia

It is highly recommended that students complete and submit the BC Government Self-isolation Plan online before they begin travelling to British Columbia. Please note, the online form is not compatible with the Internet Explorer browser.

If students or family members travelling with them develop COVID-19 symptoms during their self-isolation, please call 8-1-1 to talk to a nurse at HealthLinkBC. 8-1-1 has translation services in 130 languages. You can also find more information at HealthLinkBC.

It is important to be aware of the local policies and recommendations that are in place by the provincial government and the public health authority. This includes, but is not limited to, washing hands and using hand sanitizer frequently, keeping a physical distance of about 6 feet (2 metres) apart, limiting social circles or ‘COVID bubble’ and the requirement to wear a face mask when in a public place.

There may also be travel restrictions or lockdowns in the area that students will be living. Students may wish to monitor the local news for updates on health policies. Some British Columbia and Victoria news stations include Global News BC, Chek News and CTV News BC.

We know that the impact of this global pandemic has made starting, and continuing, student studies more complex. Please know that we are here to support students and look forward to welcoming them to the winter term.

Isolating in a new and different country may present challenges and raise questions. If students have questions, or need assistance, please email