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Graduate Studies

International students travelling to McMaster University

McMaster University has updated its COVID-19 Readiness plan with both local and provincial governments. The COVID-19 readiness plan is mandatory for all new or returning students.

If you are an undergraduate student, please visit the Student Success Centre for all information about joining us at McMaster.

Latest travel updates

December 20, 2021 update: the Government of Canada lifted the extraordinary measures for travellers returning from the ten specific countries initially listed as of December 18 at 11:59pm. All travellers are strongly encouraged to pre-register with the testing provider at their arrival airport prior to coming to Canada.

Expandable List

December 1, 2021 update: the Public Health Agency of Canada announced three notable updates that impacts international student arrival:

  • Effective December 1, 2021 the Government of Canada is expanding the list of countries with entry prohibitions originally announced on November 26, 2021, to include Egypt, Nigeria and Malawi.
  • All fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from departure points other than the United States will be subject to arrival testing. Fully vaccinated travellers will be required to quarantine while they await the results of their arrival test.
  • Unvaccinated travellers, with right of entry to Canada, will continue to be tested on arrival and day 8 and quarantine for 14 days. However, those arriving by air will now be required to stay in a designated quarantine facility or other suitable location while they await the result of their on arrival test.

November 29, 2021 update: Until January 31, 2022, the Government of Canada is implementing enhanced border measures for all travellers who have been in the Southern Africa region — including South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia— within the last 14 days before arriving in Canada. Foreign nationals who have travelled in any of these countries within the previous 14 days will not be permitted entry into Canada.

November 19, 2021 update: The Public Health Agency of Canada announced adjustments to Canada’s border and travel measures:

November 2, 2021 update: Effective November 3, 2021, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) will no longer restrict international student arrivals to four weeks before their studies begin. CBSA will take a more facilitative approach to international students entering Canada, and any reasonable length of time prior to study will be considered. Please note that although arriving earlier than four weeks before starting your studies is possible, it is not guaranteed. If you are planning to arrive early, you are expected to have a reasonable explanation for your early arrival for the CBSA officer at the border.

October 26, 2021 update: Effective October 30, 2021, travellers will need to be fully vaccinated or have a valid COVID-19 test in order to board flights departing from airports in Canada. Between November 30, 2021, and January 14, 2022, international travellers with valid COVID-19 tests may take a connecting flight that is scheduled to depart within 24 hours of the departure time for their flight to Canada. Visit the COVID-19 Boarding flights, trains and cruise ships in Canada page for more information.

September 21, 2021 update:  Starting September 27, 2021, travellers eligible to enter Canada will be able to board direct flights from India to Canada with additional measures. More information about this update and the additional measures can be found in the Government of Canada’s official news release.

Before making arrival plans, all international graduate students must

  • be in possession of a valid study permit or “Letter of Introduction” that shows approval for a study permit; 
  • be enrolled or plan to enrol in McMaster University (be in possession of course enrollment letter or offer letter);
  • inform the university of their travel plans by downloading the iCent app (see below) and completing the mandatory forms.
  • Starting January 15, 2022, all travellers over the age of 18 must be fully vaccinated

Please note: If you do not have a quarantine space, you will find hotel package listings in the iCent app.

About iCent: An app just for international students

All new and returning international graduate students who are planning to travel to Canada must sign up for the iCent app. This is mandatory.

This app provides a streamlined process for safe arrival and quarantine in Canada, as outlined in our government-approved readiness plan.

All students joining us in Canada must:

  • declare your arrival plans
  • confirm your arrival status
  • complete mandatory daily wellness check-ins (if you are required to quarantine)
  • declare the completion of your quarantine (if you are required to quarantine)

Additional benefits of using iCent

  • Detailed arrival preparation information and document checklist
  • Provides options to book hotel packages if you need a place to complete your quarantine (select “hotel packages” in the “Quarantine Planning” section of the app).
  • Additional information about arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto – where to go, what happens when you arrive, etc.
  • Push notification for updates and automatic reminders to complete daily check-ins.

Get the iCent app

  1. Download the iCent app (available at the Apple Store and Google Play Store).
  2. Select “Canada” as your institution country.
  3. Select “McMaster University” as your institution name.
  4. Select “McMaster Grad Programs.”
  5. Enter your email address and click “Continue.”
  6. You will receive an email with a secured PIN to log in.
  7. Enter the secured PIN and go to “continue.”

Download iCent – Apple           Download iCent – Android           Go to iCent Web App

Fully vaccinated travellers

If you qualify as a fully vaccinated traveller as defined by the Government of Canada, you may be exempt from the 14-day quarantine. Fully vaccinated international students are required to declare their travel plans on the iCent app. 

All travellers, including travellers qualifying for the fully vaccinated traveller exemption, must provide a quarantine plan and be prepared to quarantine. Fully vaccinated travellers are required to be prepared to quarantine for 14 days in case it is determined at the border that they are symptomatic and/or don’t meet the requirements for the fully vaccinated traveller exemption.

Quarantine plans

You must declare your arrival and quarantine plan on the iCent app.

International graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with homes or pre-arranged rental accommodation may plan to quarantine in those accommodations as long as it meets government requirements as a suitable place to quarantine. Use the Canadian Government’s quarantine assessment tool to determine if your plan is suitable.

If you do not have a pre-arranged private residence to complete your quarantine, you may plan to quarantine at a hotel. Hotel options and instructions to book a hotel room are available through the iCent app, under the “Quarantine Planning” section of your arrival plans.

Students and postdoctoral fellows in quarantine will be expected to follow the Government of Canada’s quarantine regulations for the full duration of their quarantine.

The details of your quarantine plans will be assessed by a Canadian Border Service Agent at the point of entry to Canada. An unacceptable quarantine plan may result in you being denied entry into Canada. It is the responsibility of the student/postdoc to ensure their quarantine plan meets government requirements.


Incidents of failure to comply with quarantine rules will be reported and investigated under McMaster University’s Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. The university is required to report incidents to Hamilton Police Services and Public Health. Hamilton Police Services will determine whether to lay charges under the Federal Quarantine Act.


When to arrive

Students usually arrive between 3 and 4 weeks prior to the start of term.

If you choose to arrive earlier than four weeks before your program starts, you may be denied entry by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) if you do not have a valid reason for your early arrival. Contact CBSA for more information on how this may impact your arrival in Canada.

Please note that settling in Canada, finding a place to live and visiting a family member are not considered essential reasons to enter the country earlier than what is permitted.

If you are travelling early for medical, immigration and/or academic requirements, you must have documentation that explains the reason(s) for your early arrival to provide to the CBSA when you arrive.