Before You Arrive
Once you have received and decided to accept an Offer of Admission to a graduate program, you must apply for a Study Permit. For more information about obtaining a Study Permit, visit McMaster’s International Student Services.
Depending on your country of origin, some students require a Visa to travel to Canada. More information about Visas — who needs one, how to obtain one, Visa offices outside of Canada — is available on the International Student Services site.
Register! Go to How to Enrol.
McMaster has three academic terms: Winter, Summer and Fall
Students starting in January should register for Winter and Summer terms. Enroll in at least one course for each term.
Note: For students who have completed course work, enroll in SGS 700 or 711 – these are placeholder courses.
Contact your academic department for more information about attending McMaster, as well as your Course Schedule.
International grad students travelling to McMaster
International students travelling to McMaster University
Planning your travel to Hamilton? We’re here to help.
Latest travel updates
For the latest information about Government of Canada’s COVID-19 related travel requirements, visit the Government of Canada’s COVID-19: Travel, testing and borders website. Travel restrictions may change without notice, make sure to check this page closer to your travel date.
For the latest information about McMaster University’ COVID-19 policies, visit our Back to Mac website. There are currently no additional requirements from the University for international students travelling to McMaster.
Preparing for your arrival
Before making arrival plans, all international graduate students must:
- be in possession of a valid study permit or “Letter of Introduction”(may also be known as a “Port of Entry letter”) that shows approval for a study permit;
- be enrolled or plan to enrol in McMaster University.
Make sure to have all your documents with you before you travel to Canada. Do not place any of these documents in your checked luggage.
To enter Canada, you must have:
- A valid passport or travel document
- A valid study permit or the letter of introduction the visa office sent you when they approved your study permit (this letter should contain your permit reference number).
- Your offer letter (new students) or confirmation of enrolment letter (current students).
- Proof of funds to support your stay in Canada
- no criminal or immigration-related convictions (unless pardon has been granted or deemed rehabilitated)
- valid immigration medical exam results, if applicable (find out if you need a medical exam) and be in good health
When to arrive
There is no set time frame for you to arrive in Canada before you begin your studies. You should arrive to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare before you start studying. If you are unsure if your arrival time may be considered reasonable to enter Canada, contact the Canada Border Services Agency(CBSA).
For the latest date you must arrive by, contact your academic program. Some programs may require students to arrive on campus for orientation activities before the first day of classes.
After you arrive
Follow the instructions and signage at the airport or your port of entry. It is at the discretion of the border officer to issue your study permit and approve your entry to Canada. Once you receive your study permit, make sure to carefully review the information indicated on the permit (eg. your name, date of birth, etc.) and correct any errors with the officer before leaving the student processing desk.
Get your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
If you arrive at the Toronto Pearson Airport during business hours, you may be able to get your Social Insurance Number (SIN) at the Service Canada Centre inside the airport. To find the Service Canada Centre location, look for signage for “Service Canada” or “SIN@Landing”, or ask the staff at the airport.
If the Service Canada Centre is not open or available at the time of your arrival, you may apply for your Social Insurance Number online, by mail, or in-person at your local Service Canada Centre.
Traveling from Toronto Pearson Airport to Hamilton
Most students travelling to Hamilton by air land at the Toronto Pearson Airport. McMaster University is about 68km away from this airport. Depending on the traffic situation at the time of your travel, travel time may range between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. Public and private transportation options are available.
The only public transit option is Go Bus route 40 (Hamilton/Richmond Hill Pearson Express). Check the bus schedule or use the Go Transit trip planning tool to plan your trip. The bus station is located on the ground level of Terminal 1. If you land in Terminal 3, you can take the free train at the airport to get to Terminal 1, following the signage at the airport. The standard fare for this trip is around $12.70 per person, with possible discounts if you have a PRESTO card.
Private transportation is available either through pre-booked services, rideshare services, or taxis at the airport. Visit Toronto Pearson Transportation and Parking for more information. There is no standard rate so the cost of services can vary. For reference, private taxi service from Toronto Pearson Airport to Hamilton may cost over $120.
December 2023 Update: Until the end of January 2024, the private company Airways Transit is offering a discounted rate of $110 for students traveling between Toronto Pearson Airport and McMaster University. To access this rate, visit the Airways Transit website and enter MCMU23 under “Booking Code”.
Welcome to the heart of Ontario and the economic engine of Canada – Hamilton and south central Ontario.
Hamilton is the ninth largest city in Canada, fourth largest in Ontario, and ranked as one of the top 10 places to do business in Canada. Situated on the Niagara escarpment, Hamilton is only 45 minutes southwest of Toronto and northwest of the U.S. border.
McMaster is nestled in the west end of Hamilton in a residential area called Westdale Village. Bordered by Cootes Paradise, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the shores of Lake Ontario, the campus is connected to kilometres of nature trails, biking paths, and Hamilton’s burgeoning waterfront.
Those in search of a more urban experience are never too far from amenities in downtown Hamilton – restaurants, concert theatres, hockey games, art galleries, street festivals and more.
Hamilton is also conveniently situated on major rail, air, water and road transportation networks to other large North American centres, including Toronto, New York, Chicago and Montreal.
HSR is Hamilton’s city-wide public bus transportation system, with many bus stops on and around McMaster’s main campus.
You will need to pay HSR bus fare out-of-pocket until you activate your Presto bus pass as a McMaster University student. Visit the Graduate Students Association site for more information about the HSR bus pass for graduate students. If you have any questions about your bus pass, contact the Graduate Students Association directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about using your Presto Card, Visit the PRESTO website.
GO Transit is a network of train and bus lines that keep people moving around the Greater Golden Horseshoe. It is one of the most affordable options that connect you from Hamilton to places such as Toronto Pearson Airport and Niagara Falls. You may catch a bus on campus, at one of their many stops in the city, or at the Hamilton GO Centre.
Students with the HSR bus pass activated on their PRESTO Card are automatically eligible for Go Transit student rates. Visit the Graduate Students Association site for more information about the HSR bus pass for graduate students. If you have any questions about your bus pass, contact the Graduate Students Association directly at email@example.com.
When you first arrive in Canada, you may need somewhere to stay for a short time, until you find long-term housing. Online searches may include:
Graduate Residence opens in September 2023
McMaster’s new residence for grad students will open its doors in Fall 2023. For all information about the residence, please visit the 10 Bay Graduate Residence website.
You should anticipate spending time to research available spaces and several communications with landlords/rental agents/owners.
Some sites that you may find helpful
For information about rights and expectations as a renter, check out Residential Tenancy Act, Ontario
*These sites are public online sites, the listings posted on these sites and are not endorsed by McMaster University.
Learn more about housing options in Hamilton through webinars hosted by McMaster University’s International Student Services.
Often, landlords will require:
- Application and deposit (to be used towards your first month’s rent)
- Renters sign a Lease Agreement
- First AND last month’s rent to be paid on first day of tenancy (minus deposit)
NOTE: Ask your landlord for rent receipts.
For information about rights and expectations as a renter, check out Residential Tenancy Act, Ontario
Setting up your bank account
When you arrive in Canada, setting up your bank account should be a priority. You are required to have an account at a Canadian banking institution.
If you would like more information on banking in Canada, visit Educanada.
If you have a scholarship payment (refund) owing to you:
- For students residing in Canada, we will coordinate the refund for you and you will receive an e-transfer to your McMaster email address within a week after we process the payment.
- For students who have not yet arrived in Canada, your refund will be held in your McMaster account until you arrive in Canada.
Please note: Not all students will have a refund owing to them.
If you are paid Research Scholarship, TA, and/or RA in lieu of TA, these monies will be deposited directly into your bank account. This method of payment is mandatory.
Enrol in Direct Deposit
Please note: You must have a Canadian bank account to enrol in Direct Deposit.
Moving to a new country – even for a short time – can be stressful for students and their families. The following information is intended to help you as you start out in your graduate life at McMaster. These lists are not exhaustive of what’s available, so we encourage you to do your research.
Cell phone rates in Canada are among the most expensive in the world. You may want to research different cell phone plans from different companies to find the best available rates that meet your needs. Some of the major service providers in Canada includes the following companies:
Visit the City of Hamilton’s Internet in Hamilton page for comprehensive information about accessing internet and internet service providers in Hamilton.
Canada is a mosaic of cultural diversity and that is reflected in foods available in grocery stores and restaurants.
Several different grocery stores are available in the area surrounding McMaster’s campus, two of the largest of them are:
Notably, Nations Fresh Foods (2 King St W) offers a range of multi-cultural food products and is another popular grocery store with international students. It is located in the Jackson Square mall, easily accessible by bus from McMaster’s main campus.
For tips and strategies to help you shop on a budget – including student discount days – attend our orientation webinars or watch the webinar recording in our Orientation Webinar Library if you have missed our latest live event.
What you decide to bring to Canada with you may depend on when you arrive and where you’re arriving from.
Winter weather in Hamilton can be harsh, while summers can be very hot and humid. For statistics about average temperatures, humidity, rain and snowfall in Hamilton, visit The Weather Network.
January start date
- December – February are the coldest months of the year. Bring warm clothing.
- If you are travelling from a warmer climate, be prepared to shop for winter-appropriate clothing once you arrive. This includes heavy outerwear – cold-weather coat, accessories – hat, scarf, gloves/mittens, winter boots.
- Prices vary. Check online or connect with others in the community to find the best places to shop that will fit within your budget.
- While outdoor spaces are expected to be cold, indoor spaces are well-heated.
May start date
- Spring weather is unpredictable in Hamilton. In an average year, temperatures will be moderate.
- Bring clothing suitable for cool weather and rain, including a coat.
- Be prepared for weather to fluctuate, especially between day and night time.
September start dates
- Summers are hot and humid, but by early September you are likely to experience more moderate summer temperatures.
- You will not need to purchase a winter coat at this time.
Canada’s seasonal shopping cycle
Shopping for clothing in Canada is seasonal. You may be able to find some outer clothing available year round, but the traditional shopping cycle is:
- Winter clothing is still available, but more limited in sizes and styles. You can often find clothing on sale after the December holiday season (December 26 and beyond).
- The first of Spring clothing will be available.
- Spring and summer clothing available, including seasonal outerwear for warmer weather.
- Summer and Fall clothing available.
- Most coats available during these months are not intended for cold winter use; they are late summer, autumn coats.
- Warm clothing for late fall and winter use.
- Winter coats and boots are available. If you do not have a winter coat, make sure to get one at this time. If available, check the temperature rating on the coat for reference.
- There are winter coats for every budget. In addition to regular clothing stores, check out stores that sells sportswear for additional options.
- You may find clothing on sale after the Thanksgiving holidays.
You need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) to work in Canada. This means if you are expected to work as a teaching assistant (TA) or any kind of employment on- or off-campus, you must have a SIN before starting your position.
There is no fee to apply for your SIN. You can apply online, by mail, in person at a Service Canada Centre, or attend one of our many in-person clinics on campus (if available). It may also be possible for you to apply for your SIN at the Toronto Pearson Airport when you first arrive in Canada (note: this service is only available during business hours, for passengers who have just arrived in Canada). You cannot apply for your Social Insurance Number if you have not arrived in Canada.
There are two Service Canada Centres in Hamilton:
- 1565 Upper James St, Hamilton, ON L9B 1K2
- 700 Queenston Rd, Hamilton, ON L8G 1A3
Questions about your eligibility to work in Canada as an international student? Visit the Immigration Advising page.
Paying Your Tuition and Fees
- Visit this Tuition and Mandatory Supplemental Fees Chart for information about graduate student fees.
- If you have arrived in Canada: How to pay your tuition
- Bank transfer is the recommended method to pay tuition, as it is the most convenient and secure.
- To learn more about Dates and Deadlines for fees and associated financials, visit the Office of the Registrar – Fees & payment page.
Once enrolled, you will be able to check funds owing on your tuition and fees.
- Log in to Mosaic
- Click on Student Center tab
- Go to Finances.
- Under “My Account” open Account Inquiry. This will show balances by term.
- In dropdown menu, “Other Financial…” select “Charges Due”
Important to Know
- You will not receive a bill or invoice
- You can print invoices directly from your Student Center
If you are working as a Teaching Assistant (TA), it is important to check your payment schedule.
Managing your budget
Check out these tools and resources to help you create – and manage – your money!
This online resource was created by McMaster’s School of Graduate Studies. It provides a starting point for building your own budget.
Key on-campus service locations for the graduate student community
In addition to your graduate department, you may need to connect with other offices and services at McMaster.
Use one of our maps – available in a variety of formats – to navigate your way across campus:
For a comprehensive list of services and resources available to all graduate students, visit our Graduate Community Resources page.
Located in Gilmour Hall, second floor, Room 212.
The School of Graduate Studies plays an important role in the graduate student experience. We are here to answer questions; offer academic, research and professional supports; connect you to the broader McMaster graduate community; and help you succeed at McMaster University.
International grad student programming
Yufei Zheng, our international graduate student coordinator, works out of the School of Graduate Studies. Yufei is part of the Graduate Student Resources team and works on programming, activities, and events aimed at helping international grad students navigate their journey at McMaster. Yufei is also available for one-on-one appointments with current international graduate students.
Located in Refectory Rathskeller Building, East Tower, 2nd floor.
The Graduate Students Association (GSA) represents graduate student interests at McMaster University. Visit their website to learn more about services and support they provide, as well as the various ways you can get involved in student government.
An important service provided by the GSA is the GSA Benefits Plan. This plan provides extended health and dental coverage for eligible full- and part-time graduate students.
Located in the McMaster University Student Centre, room B118.
McMaster’s International Student Services (ISS) provides support and resources for international students before they arrive and once they join the McMaster graduate community.
Adjusting to a new country can be challenging, especially when dealing with the immigration process. Through our immigration advising services, we can offer advice and connect you with resources to complete the immigration process and help you settle into your new environment.
Located in the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning, room 210/201.
The Student Wellness Centre is the place on campus to address your wellness needs. They provide a range of counselling options, medical services and wellness programs.
Located in L. R. Wilson Hall, 4th floor.
The McMaster Office for the Development of English Language Learners (MODEL) is a free service designed to help both undergraduate and graduate students who may be struggling with the English Language.
MODEL offers English-language training, workshops, and support, developed by certified ESL and EAP experts, to meet the needs of McMaster students of all academic backgrounds and levels of English language proficiency.