Everyone is stressed or overwhelmed when starting a new degree, but international students face additional stressors before the semester even starts. When you’re moving to a different country, you must run a lot of errands and fill out a lot of paperwork before you can settle into your new home. I moved to Canada from the U.S. in 2021 to start my master’s at Queen’s, and I’m so grateful that I received lots of helpful advice throughout that process. This blog is meant to help future graduate students navigate that process and find helpful resources so they can smoothly join the Queen’s graduate student community in Kingston.
As soon as you’re accepted
First things first, you should start your Visa or Study Permit application as soon as you receive your official proof of admission from Queen’s. It sometimes takes months for these applications to be processed, so it’s best to start as soon as possible. It will take a while to get all your supporting documents in order, so don’t delay! Keep in mind that you may also want to renew your passport before submitting your Visa or Study Permit application if your passport will expire during your studies at Queen’s. Your Study Permit will expire when your passport expires. To avoid that hassle in the future, double-check the expiry date on your passport and renew it before you apply, if necessary.
If you have any questions throughout the process, the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) is the place to direct them. They respond to questions quickly via email and run helpful virtual events where you can ask your questions live or listen to other incoming students who are facing similar barriers. Plus, QUIC is a great resource for answering your COVID travel questions. It’s also important to attend one of their virtual sessions about UHIP, the health insurance for international graduate students, before you arrive in Canada so you understand your coverage.
A month before you arrive
If your housing doesn’t come with WiFi set up and ready to go, then you should probably call to schedule your Wi-Fi installation a few weeks before you arrive in Canada. That way you can have it installed shortly after you move in (so you don’t have to go to Starbucks every day for a week as I did). The main internet providers are Cogeco and Bell, but there are other more affordable companies that use the same service. I’d recommend doing some research on what type of plan you’ll need for your typical internet use before you call to make an appointment.
Researching phone plans is also a good idea before you arrive in Canada. I’ve been here for almost a year, and I still only use my U.S. cell phone with an international data plan. I get decent service in, and around, Kingston without having to pay for two phone plans. And I’m usually on WiFi at home and at campus, so I don’t use very much data. However, many people find it helpful to put two SIM cards in their phone – one for home and one for the Canadian phone.
After you cross the border
Once you’ve made it to Canada, getting your Social Insurance Number (SIN) should be a top priority. That is because it will allow you to open a Canadian bank account, which you’ll need to get paid by Queen’s. The fastest way to get a SIN for the first time is to visit a Service Canada Centre in person, which is a short drive or bus ride from campus. I’d recommend arriving early in the morning so you will be accepted as a walk-in appointment. The appointment itself will probably take less than 20 minutes if you have the right paperwork, but you might have to wait in line for hours, so come prepared. To make sure you have all the correct paperwork, you can review this online form.
Your next stop on the road to settling in should be a bank close to your apartment so you can open an account with your new SIN. Most banks have student accounts that don’t charge transaction fees, so make sure you get one of those. Once you have a bank account, you can add the Direct Deposit form information to your Queen’s SOLUS account to ensure you don’t miss a payday.
I hope this information helps you start the processes of moving to Canada with a little more awareness and confidence than you had yesterday. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, just remember: if you have questions, QUIC is your best resource!
By: Lisa Cicchetti