Moving to Vancouver

Preparing for your travel

We from CIRA College understand the difficulties and challenges that comes with moving to a new country. We know it can be intimidating but are here to help you make your transition as smooth as possible.

If you are moving to Canada, there are many things that you need to prepare and organise. Once you arrive here, there will be another set of documents and preparations you will have to do. To help you, we created this page with a list of almost everything you will need to prepare for a new climate and culture and ensure you have a nice stay in Vancouver.


Although exciting, moving to a new country can be overwhelming. Useful and reliable information about the process of moving to Vancouver as an international student is often scattered around several pages and websites, and the number of documents to keep track of can be daunting. That’s why we created this compendium of everything you should know and prepare to have a smooth and enjoyable time in Vancouver.


Documents checklist

We created a list of the essential documents you should have in your carry-on luggage as you travel to Vancouver as an international student. Granted, some of them you might not need during your trip, but we believe it is better to be safe than sorry and avoid unnecessary anxiety.

To make it easier, we recommend getting a plastic folder and pre-labelling all the pages with the documents you’ll need. That way, you can print as you get them, and in the end, you will have everything almost ready to go.

  • Passport – valid for the duration of your trip.
  • Port of entry letter of introduction.
  • Letter of Acceptance – document the school will issue to you.
  • Proof of enrolment.
  • Proof of tuition payment.
  • Proof of living arrangements.
  • Proof of vaccination.
  • Proof of funds.
  • Proof of private health insurance for the first 3 months.
  • Medical records.
  • Medicine prescription (if you need any special medication or are travelling bringing medication).
  • Photo ID’s from you country.
  • Drivers license.
  • ArriveCan (submit information within 72 hours before your arrival in Canada).

Packing checklist

What you’ll need to pack to move to Vancouver varies for each person, but here it is a general list of essentials.

Check-in luggage

  • Winter clothes:
    • Sweaters,
    • Jumpers,
    • Warm pyjamas,
    • Winter jacket (bring if you have one, but in case you don’t have a proper winter jacket it is better to buy in Canada, as you might find more options here),
    • Waterproof jacket (Vancouver rains frequently, a water proof jacket is a must. However, as the winter jacket, if you don’t have one it might be better to be prepared to buy one here),
  • Shoes (shoes are usually heavy, so try to stick to one pair of each type of shoe):
    • Casual shoes,
    • Formal shoes (think of job interviews and presentations),
    • Running shoes,
    • Slippers,
    • Winter boots (if you have one),
  • Towel and light bed linens (just one of each),
  • Toiletries,
  • Cosmetics,
  • Medications (If you need prescription medications, don’t forget to bring the prescription together, if possible translated to English),
  • Power adaptor (Canada uses plugs type A and B).
Type A plug
Type B plug

Carry-on luggage

  • 2 changes of clothes,
  • pyjamas,
  • earphones,
  • ballpen,
  • entertainment for the flight (music, book, …),
  • toiletries,
  • mask,
  • disinfectant wipes for surfaces,
  • charger and power bank,
  • laptop (everything that is important and high-value you should carry with you on your carry-on luggage),
  • camera,
  • wallet,
  • phone,
  • documents.


Finding a suitable accommodation option in Vancouver can be a little bit of a challenge. That’s why we recommend researching it as soon as possible. We listed here some options to find your new place.

Vanmates helps international students find new accommodation in Canada. You can rent a single or shared room or book a homestay with them. In a homestay, you’ll be hosted by a family and participate in their routine. It is an excellent option if you want to be immersed in the local culture, and it has the additional benefit of having meals included in the service.

Do you need accommodation? Please complete this Accommodation Form.


You also have the option of finding a place by yourself. Over 130.000 international students come to Canada every year; therefore, there are many other people in the same situation, looking for a new place. Here are a few popular places to begin your search:

Beware of scams

If you are looking for a place by yourself, be extra careful not to be a scam victim. Here are some tips to ensure you are not falling for a scam:

  • Make sure that you or a friend see the property before signing a contract.
  • Meet the landlord or the property manager in person, and inspect the place together
  • Ensure you have all the details of the person listing the property: full name, address, phone number.
  • Never send money to someone outside of Vancouver.
  • Always read the entire contract carefully, and make sure you understand it before signing.
  • Don’t pay a deposit or a month’s rent before seeing the property and signing the lease.
  • Be careful with the sensitive, personal information you provide. You don’t need to provide your Social Insurance Number (SIN), bank account and credit card details.
  • Trust your instincts. If something seems off, be extra careful.


CIRA College is conveniently located at the heart of Vancouver, near Broadway – City Hall train station and buses station, making it easily accessible through public transport. You can also find several parking spots, available 24 hours with 24-hour security, on the south side of the campus.
Once you get to Vancouver, we recommend getting your compass card, a reloadable fare card used for public transport in Vancouver. You save money by using the compass card instead of buying single tickets.


After arriving in Vancouver, with your study permit in hand, there are a series of documents you will have to do here to make your life easier, work and access the medical services plan. Find below a list of the documents we think are essential and how to get them.


Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Social Insurance Number or SIN is a 9-digit number you need to work in Canada or access government programs and benefits. Your SIN is private, and you should keep it safe and protect it.
To get your SIN, you need first your Study permit. Therefore you can only apply for your SIN after arriving in Canada.
You can apply for a SIN online, by mail or in person at a Service Canada Office. If you apply in person, the SIN is issued on the same day.
Find here the Service Canada Office closest to you.

Work eligibility

The SIN alone does not make you eligible to work in Canada; you need to make sure you meet any other requirements to work.

SIN eligibility

To apply for a SIN, your study permit must have at least one of the conditions below:

  • “May accept employment on or off-campus if meeting eligibility criteria, per paragraph R186(f), (v) or (w) and must cease working if no longer meeting these criteria.”
  • “May work 20 hours per week off-campus or full time during regular breaks if meeting criteria outlined in paragraph 186(v) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.”
  • “May accept employment on the campus of the institution at which registered in full-time studies.”

What do you need?

To apply for your SIN you will need:

  • your Study Permit,
  • your passport,
  • and a proof of address (if applying online):
    • It must be issued by the government, a company, an institution, an organisation, a landlord or an employer.
    • It must be a document or an attestation letter signed by the issuer.
    • It must contain the full name that appears on your documents.
  • For more information about the necessary documents, check the official website.

Medical Services Plan (MSP)

International students in Canada are required to have basic and extended health insurance for the duration of their stay in Canada.

The public health insurance in BC is called Medical Services Plan, and it is mandatory for everyone who lives in BC for six months on longer. You should apply for MSP as soon as you arrive in BC. However, it takes around 3 months for it to be processed. For that reason, you should get private health insurance for at least the 3 first months you are in Vancouver.
Even though MSP is public health insurance, international students must pay a monthly health care fee of $75.

How to apply

You can apply for MSP online here.
The application process takes about 15 minutes to complete.

To apply, you will need:

  • One of the following browsers:
    • Mozilla Firefox,
    • Google Chrome,
    • Safari,
    • or Microsoft Edge.
  • Scanned copy or a digital photo of your study permit. Make sure it is:
    • The entire document.
    • At least 1000 pixels wide x 1500 pixels tall.
    • Rotated correctly (not upside down or sideways).
    • In focus and easy to read.
    • A JPG or PNG file (not a PDF).

Compass card

The Compass card is a card you can recharge and use to pay for public transport in Vancouver. You can use it for:

  • Single fares,
  • Monthly Passes,
  • Day Passes and
  • Bike Parkade enrolment.

We recommend getting a compass because you can save some money on public transport.

You can get a new Compass card in any Compass Vending Machine (CVM) located:

  • all SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express stations,
  • Select London Drugs stores,
  • By calling 604.398.2042,
  • Compass Customer Service Centre: Stadium–Chinatown Station.

The CVMs accept cash, debit and credit cards. A $6 refundable deposit is required to purchase a new compass card. After getting the card, you can recharge it online or in any CVM.

BC ID card

You should keep an ID with you at all times. However, we do not recommend carrying your passport with you everywhere due to the problems you may face if you lose it. The BCID card is an excellent solution if you also don’t have a Canadian driver’s license.
To get a BCID card, you’ll have to book an appointment at a driver’s licensing office. Find the closest office to you.

You will need to bring:

  • Primary ID: valid Study Permit,
  • Secondary ID:
    • Passport
    • Driver’s license
    • School ID

View the complete list of accepted ID.


Canada International Royal Arts (CIRA) College is a Graphic Design School located in the heart of Vancouver. It is designated by the Ministry of Advanced Education. CIRA aims to provide high-quality programs and services that will contribute to the student’s academic and career-driven success.


We provide quality education at an affordable price for domestic and international students.

Real-world experience

The classes tackle real-world applications and challenges to prepare students for the job market.

Small classes

Our classes have between 8 to 15 students, ensuring a personalized experience and total attention from instructors.

Convenient location

CIRA College is conveniently located near Skytrain and buses stations.