International Students

International Student Advising Office

The International Student Advising Office is the resource office for all international students, offering guidance on compulsory health coverage, study permits, and other aspects of academic and non-academic life at Memorial University. All international students must report to the international student advisor upon their arrival at the University. Be sure to bring your passport and study permit.

Immigration Advice

International students wishing to study in Canada must obtain a study permit before coming to Canada. You should apply for a study permit as soon as you receive your acceptance letter. If the program of study is less than six months, a study permit is not required. Applications and information on fees and requirements may be obtained from your nearest Canadian immigration authority. If you come from a country that requires a visitor’s visa (also known as a temporary resident visa (TRV), it will be issued at the same time as your study permit.

While the majority of people must apply for a study permit before coming to Canada, the following people may apply from within Canada: 

  • Dependants of athletes, media representatives, members of the clergy, or military personnel on assignment in Canada;
  • Dependants of officials of foreign governments working in Canada with a federal or provincial agency under an exchange agreement;
  • Dependants of a person with a valid study permit or employment authorization;
  • Holder of a minister’s permit and his or her dependants.

The following may apply for a study permit at a Canadian port of entry: 

  • Citizens and permanent residents of the United States of America;
  • Citizens of Greenland;
  • Citizens of France and residents of St-Pierre and Miquelon

Your spouse and children

If your family is accompanying you to Canada, or joining you at a later date, they will have to obtain a visitor’s visa (or a study permit, work permit as appropriate). Information on medical and other requirements of visitors to Canada may be obtained at your nearest Canadian immigration authority.

The Canadian port of entry

You must present all study permit and/or visa documents to the immigration officer at the airport or other point of entry. If your documents are not processed at this time, you may experience difficulties later.

Expiry date of study permits

You should pay special attention to the expiry date on your study permit. Though you may extend your period of study once you are in Canada, you must renew your study permit before it expires. Renewal for a period longer than one year may be obtained, but only on the recommendation of your department and with the approval of the immigration authorities.

Failure to renew your study permit can result in your having to leave Canada to re-apply for entry.

Renewing your study permit

To renew your study permit, fill out a Student Letter Request Form (available from the School of Graduate Studies). Please allow at least two days for processing and keep in mind that the form must have the appropriate departmental signature to be processed. A letter to verify your status (namely, that you are registered full-time, are in good standing and have adequate financial support) will then be prepared to accompany your application. Since all immigration documents are sent to the Immigration Department's Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta, you should start the process for renewal at least two months before the expiry of your current permit.

An extension of your study permit does not affect your visitor's visa or temporary resident visa (TRV). To obtain a new visitor's visa, you must apply from either inside or outside of Canada. If you plan to leave and re-enter Canada, it is your responsibility to ensure your visitor's visa remains valid.

Service Canada Link for Study Permit

Reporting changes

Changes in address and marital status must also be reported within two months of the change. If you fail to report changes, you can be found in violation of Canada’s immigration laws and, as a result, deported from Canada. To contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada, telephone 1-888-242-2100.

Leaving and returning to Canada

Travel is permitted while you possess a valid visitor’s visa. However, if it expires while you are out of the country, you may not be allowed to return to Canada, and if your study permit expires, you will not be allowed to continue your studies, unless you successfully re-apply for these documents. An immigration officer will decide if you still meet the criteria for admission. You
can obtain a letter to accompany your request for a visitor's visa to another country from the School of Graduate Studies.

English Language Placement Test

If your first language is not English and you have not completed a degree at a recognized university where the sole language of instruction was English, you will be required to take the English Language Placement Test upon arrival. The test has both a written and an oral component, and is administered once a semester only. You will be notified of the test dates and times.

Based on the results of this test, some students will be enrolled in a course of study designed to improve their ability to speak, understand and write in English. Please note that some students who pass the test, or who are technically exempt, may be required by their department to complete a part (or parts) of the English as a Second Language (ESL) course. Your department
has three semesters in which to make this decision. After this time, ESL courses may be recommended, but not required. Students who fulfill the ESL requirements will have this noted on their transcript.

Procedures for students who miss the test

Students who miss the test can often be accommodated in the speaking and listening component of the ESL course, though they cannot be assigned to reading/writing classes. Though they cannot fulfill the ESL requirement without passing the test, students can make a start on their oral skills while waiting for the next test sitting. If you miss the test, contact the Director, English as a Second Language Programs, Department of English Language and Literature.

English as a Second Language courses

The English language requirement for graduate students whose first language is not English and who have not previously completed a degree at a recognized university where the sole language of instruction was English, consists of three parts:
ESL I, ESL II and ESL III. Some or all of these courses may be required/offered for graduate students. There is no additional charge for these ESL courses.

Writing courses

ESL I is a 13-week basic writing course covering organizational patterns of academic writing and problem areas of English grammar. ESL II is an advanced academic writing course. It covers usage, style, organization, and documentation of sources. Evaluation of both these courses is based on weekly writing assignments and a final examination.

Academic speaking course

ESL III is a 10-week academic speaking and listening program led by graduate assistants. Students are given instruction and practice in preparing and delivering academic oral presentations, classroom style discussion, and asking and answering questions. Students are divided into groups of three to six according to discipline. As well, students are assigned a pronunciation tutor who provides weekly lessons. Students are evaluated on a formal presentation in their field of study that they give at the end of the semester.

Optional offerings

  • Pronunciation tutorials: In addition to pronunciation training required in conjunction with the academic speaking course, pronunciation tutorials can be arranged for graduate students who make a request for further practice.
  • Conversation groups: English-speaking students lead two to four hours of conversation/discussion groups weekly in the fall and winter semesters. Conversation groups aim to promote greater fluency and naturalness of speech.
  • Conversation partners: Conversation partners may be arranged (subject to availability of volunteers) for graduate students who wish more opportunities for practicing everyday English.


Non-Canadian graduate students are permitted to work in Canada, both on and off campus. For off-campus employment, eligible foreign students must apply for and obtain an off-campus work permit. The work permit is generally valid for the duration of their study permit. The agreements allow eligible international students to work off-campus for up to 20 hours a week during the school year and full-time during study breaks. Students will have to obtain a social insurance number (SIN) in order to be paid.

Any restrictions that you have are to be stated on your study permit.

Social Insurance Number

All international students who will be receiving a graduate assistantship or working off campus are required to obtain a Canadian social insurance number (SIN). You should apply for your social insurance number in person at the Human Resources Centre of Canada in St. John’s (223 Churchill Ave., Pleasantville, St. John’s, NL; Tel: 1-800-206-7218). You must provide a primary document that proves your identity and status in Canada, as well as a supporting document, if the name on your primary document is different from the one you are currently using. It is important that documents are originals and that they are written in English or French. You will also need to obtain a contract of employment, signed by both you and your employer, from your academic unit to submit with your application. While you may apply by mail, the in-person process is more convenient as it does not require you to part with your valuable identity documents or pay for getting photocopies of documents notarized.

Your SIN will expire at the same time as your study permit. If you require an extension to your study permit, please be aware that you will need to reapply for a social insurance number.

Employment for spouses

Spouses of international students may be employed on or off campus if they apply for employment authorization. To apply for a work permit, obtain an application from the International Student Advising Office.

Employment after graduation

International graduate students may work in Canada after graduation with proper authorization. Contact the International Student Advising Office or the Department of Citizenship and Immigration for more information. (Tel: 1-888-242-2100).

Service Canada Link for Social Insurance Number Information

Canadian income tax

International students must file a Canadian income tax form for every year they live in Canada. Forms are available at post offices and must be submitted to the Canadian government by April 30 (for income received in the preceding calendar year). A representative of Revenue Canada comes to campus each spring for an Income Tax Information Session. The session provides
information you need to complete your tax forms and answers to your questions. For more information about the Income Tax Information Session for international students, contact the International Student Advising Office.

Medical Care Plan and Health and Dental Insurance

All international students with a study permit valid for 12 months or longer and who are students at a post secondary institution in the province must apply for the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Care Plan. International students are also required to purchase drug and health insurance, contact the International Student Advising Office for more information. The Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) dental plan is also mandatory for all full-time international students. For more information on the GSU dental plan, please contact the GSU.