An Orientation Guide for International Students in Canada

The quality education in Canadian universities is world-renowned. Every year, it attracts thousands of international students to the country's tertiary institutions.

Planning ahead for your first year of study in Canada is not easy, especially if you've never been to our vast, beautiful country before.

There's so much to consider. Should you stay on or off-campus? How do you get connected? Do you need a Social Insurance Number (SIN)? Which are the best banking options for foreign students in Canada? The list goes on.

As you look forward to joining over 642,000 international students in Canada from 156 countries worldwide, we've compiled this guide on what to expect and how to prepare for your orientation week and your student life in Canada.


Student Accommodation in Canada

To live on or off-campus? That is the question. Both have their pros and cons, and it purely depends on your preferences and budget.

On-Campus Housing

Cost - Approximately CAD 6,500 -20,500 per year (University of Toronto)

Most universities offer accommodation on campus or near campus. You'll likely be able to choose between dormitories/residence halls, townhouses or apartments.

Dormitories usually mean sharing a room with another one or two students and are probably the most cost-effective and convenient option. You'll have access to shared kitchen, bathrooms and laundry facilities and can purchase hot meals from the dining hall or preorder from meal plans. This is the ideal option for your first and second-year students as it will be easy to meet new friends, and you'll save time and money that would otherwise be spent on commuting to and from classes, utilities and food. You'll also have access to 24/7 housing support at most universities.

Townhouses usually mean sharing common areas with three to six students, but unlike living in a dormitory, you'll have a single room all to yourself. These are usually reserved for third or fourth-year students.

Off-Campus Housing

Cost - Approximately CAD 700 -2,000 per month (

Living off-campus can be great if you prefer separating home and campus life and are looking for a little more freedom and independence.

This is also a great option if your course is short and you only need accommodation for a few months. It is however important to note your university or college does not inspect them. It will be up to you to examine the rental before signing a lease, which can range from six months to a year.

There are different options for foreign students, including furnished and unfurnished house shares. Finding private accommodation may be a more expensive opinion as your rent will depend on the location and quality. You will also have to pay for utilities (electricity and water) as well as internet and cable but these expenses are usually split between you and your flatmates.

Here are some options to find off-campus accommodations in Canada.

Another option is to find a Host Family or Homestay in Canada. You will usually have a private room and access to home-cooked meals and the internet. This is a great opportunity to experience Canadian culture firsthand and can be a short-term solution while looking for an apartment or long-term accommodation.

Here are some options to find homestay placements in Canada.


Registration in Canada

This is one of the first things that you'll need to do, especially if you've arrived close to the start dart of your course. When you enrol, you will get a student number and identification card. This will come in handy when scooping up those student discounts at a wide variety of retail stores, restaurants and cafes as well as even public transportation, that you'll soon have access to.

You will also receive information about dates for enrollment and will receive your schedule once enrolled. Be sure to familiarise yourself with your schedule once you receive it. No one wants to be that student that turns up late to their first class.

If you're worried about perfecting your university registration process or are unsure as to how you can even apply for a Canadian university, we're here to help. Our team of Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) can provide you with all of the help and guidance you need to get apply to the university of your choice, get your study permit and be prepared to start your first week on campus on the right foot.

Getting Connected

Getting Connected in Canada

A fundamental aspect of student life in Canada and life, in general, as an international student is your connectivity to the world around you via the internet. Many classes are taught online and mapping applications can help you ensure you get lost as little as possible. However, setting up your connections to the world while in Canada can be confusing if you don't know how Canada's mobile provider systems work.

Mobile Providers in Canada

Choosing the right cell phone or internet plan is key, especially when you want to stick to a tight budget. There are various providers in Canada for international students that will cater to your needs and budget.

You can choose between prepaid or monthly contracts. Prepaid costs tend to be more expensive than contracts but can be economical depending on how often you use your phone. A 5GB data plan can range from 40 to 42 per month, according to

Bring Your Own or Buy Through a Provider?

The easiest option is to bring your own device as in order to purchase a device on a contract will generally require having a credit check done which usually requires having a Canadian financial history. Be sure to have your phone unlocked and that your phone will be compatible with Canadian networks. The upside to bringing your phone is that the plans are generally a lot cheaper

Some of the top “Bring Your Own” Providers are:

Internet Providers in Canada

You'll be able to choose between a variety of options in Canada to get set up for internet services. You'll have to choose between:

  • Wireline Telephony
  • Mobile Wireless
  • Broadband Internet or
  • Mobile Internet Access.

These services are usually priced according to levels based on talk time, text messages, data usage and line speeds.

Top providers include:

Learn more about how to set up your cellphone and internet plan in Canada here.

Networking in Canada

Getting connected is not just about setting yourself up digitally. Most universities and colleges will have orientation events and international student services that will help you meet other international students in Canada. Be sure to check your local notice board at your dorms or on campus to find out where and when the next event will take place.

Opening a Bank Account

As an international student in Canada, you will have a variety of banks to choose from and will need to choose between a savings or checking account.

The best part is that as a student, you won't have to worry about monthly service fees as most banks offer this and other perks such as points systems and discount savings for students. To open a bank account, you will need two of the following documentation:

  • Passport;
  • Letter of Acceptance;
  • Study Permit;
  • Temporary Permit;
  • Canadian or driver's licence;
  • Canadian Government Identification Card; and
  • Travellers' Checks.

Learn more about how to set up your financials in Canada here.

How to Get a Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Getting a Social Insurance Number

If you plan on working in Canada part-time as a student, you'll need a Social Insurance Number (SIN). As an international student in Canada, you can work for up to 40 hours per week as a student during the semester and as much as you want over vacation.

A SIN is a nine-digit number that will allow you to work in Canada, and give you access to various government programs and benefits. You can apply online, by mail or in person and will require the following documents:

  • A copy of an original valid primary document;
  • A copy of an original secondary document;
  • A copy of proof of address;
  • A copy of an original valid supporting document.

You will more than likely receive your confirmation of SIN letter on the same day and it's free. It is advisable not to carry this around with you but rather store it in a safe place. We'd also recommend that you get to Service Canada early because there can be quite a wait.


What If I Haven't Applied for a Study Permit Yet?

No problem. Applying for a study permit for Canada can be confusing but our consultants and student advisors are here to help and support you as you start your journey to Canada. You can apply for your own student visa, of course, but our professionals are trained in over 100 immigration and visa programs and visas, some of which you may or may not be aware of.

For example, Canada's Student Direct Stream can make the application process far shorter and simpler for students from eligible countries.

This video gives you a great overview of how to apply for a study permit.

If you want to ensure your study permit application goes over without a hitch, you can benefit a lot from speaking to one of our RCICs.

Is Student Life in Canada Good?

While we could list the massive amount of fantastic opportunities, services and perks of studying in Canada, it may be easier for you to draw your own conclusions. To help, here's a full breakdown of student life in Canada.

What are the Best Universities in Canada for International Students?

While each university has pros and cons, we've compiled both a list of every university in Canada based on their Times Higher Education world ranking. To help find which one might be right for you, we have created a list of the top 5 universities that combine both a very high Times Higher Education World Ranking and a very high level of international student services.

Canada Awaits

An Orientation Guide for International Students in Canada

Now that you have an understanding of what your orientation to student life in Canada is going to be like, it's now time to start your process to ensure you get the start in Canada you've been wanting.

With strict deadlines, procedures and requirements to adhere to, it can be easy to make a mistake that could cost you your chance to join the thousands of international students already in Canada. But with the guidance and assistance of one of our knowledgeable RCIC's, the process will be stress-free.

When you choose to use our expertise and government-trusted services, you will receive:

  • An in-depth eligibility assessment
  • Guidance on which of 100+ immigration programs and visas to choose from;
  • An immigration plan tailored to your individual needs;
  • A review and submission of all application forms and documentation; as well as
  • Support through every step of the application process.

All you have to do is fill out our application form to receive your eligibility assessment and let us take care of the rest. It's just that simple! Your Canadian journey starts here.