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
June 21, 2021 Update: The Government of Canada announced new travel measures for fully vaccinated travellers who meet specific conditions and are eligible to enter Canada. These new measures will be in place starting July 6, 2021. The specific conditions include that travellers must have received the full series of a vaccine, accepted by the Government of Canada, at least 14 days prior to entering Canada, along with meeting other requirements outlined in the announcement. For travellers who are not fully vaccinated, there are no changes to Canada’s current border measures.
Travellers must still present a suitable quarantine plan, and be prepared to quarantine, in case it is determined at the border that they do not meet all of the conditions required to be exempt from quarantine.
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.
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.
Please note: If you do not have a quarantine space, you will find hotel listings in the iCent app.
All graduate students arriving in Canada will receive daily check-in messages; they must report their wellness and compliance status daily.
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 wellness check-ins
- declare the completion of your quarantine
Additional benefits of using iCent
- Provides options to book hotel packages if you need a place to complete your quarantine.
- 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
- Download the iCent app (available at the Apple Store and Google Play Store).
- If you’re unable to download the app, visit the iCent web version.
- Select “Canada” as your institution country.
- Select “McMaster University” as your institution name.
- Select “McMaster Grad Programs.”
- Enter your email address and click “Continue.”
- You will receive an email with a secured PIN to log in.
- Enter the secured PIN and go to “continue.”
Private quarantine plans
First, download and register in the iCent app. You must declare your arrival and plan to quarantine at your private residence.
International graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with homes or pre-arranged rental accommodation, may plan to quarantine in those accommodations following the completion of the federally mandated airport quarantine. These students and postdoctoral fellows will be expected to follow quarantine regulations in their accommodations.
The details of private 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.
Additional resources from the government:
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.
- Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Ontario
- City of Hamilton – COVID-19
- McMaster University – COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
- McMaster’s emergency financial support
- International Grad Student resources
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.
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.
Hamilton Street Railway – better known as the HSR – is Hamilton’s city-wide public bus transportation. You will need to pay HSR bus fare out-of-pocket until you pick up your HSR student bus pass at McMaster University.
Visit the Graduate Students Association site for more information about your U-Pass/Presto Card.
Hamilton Cab services
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:
- AirBnB Hamilton*
- Trivago Hamilton Search*
- Members of McMaster’s International Graduate Students Association Facebook group* may be able to offer some tips
Be patient when searching for long-term housing. McMaster University currently does not offer on-campus housing for graduate students, but you can secure housing in the private market.
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 are public online sites and are not endorsed by McMaster University.
Learn more about housing options in Hamilton during a recent webinar 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
To receive your monies, YOU must download and complete the Employee Contact and Deposit Form from the Human Resources website and email the completed form to email@example.com.
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 on students and their families. Services important to your daily life – banking, phone and internet, even grocery shopping – may be very different and a bit of a challenge until you get accustomed to your new home.
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.
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 and across the City of Hamilton.
For tips and strategies to help you shop on a budget – including student discount days – watch our Orientation webinar or download the accompanying slide presentation.
Winter weather can be harsh, while summers can be very hot and humid.
For statistics about average temperatures, humidity, rain and snowfall in Hamilton, Ontario, visit The Weather Network.
January start date
- 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. Connect with other grad students to find the best places to shop that will fit within your budget.
May start date
- Spring weather is unpredictable in Hamilton. In an average year, temperatures will be moderate. You may see a large fluctuation in temperature from the beginning to the end of the month.
- Clothing suitable for cool weather and rain, including a coat.
September start dates
- Summers are hot and humid, but by early September you are likely to experience more moderate summer temperatures.
- Note: Upon arrival, you will not need to purchase a winter coat. Please review our seasonal shopping guide so you understand how clothing is sold here.
- Can be expensive but also bulky for travel.
- Kitchen and other household items are readily available for purchase new or used.
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.
- The first of Spring clothing will be available.
- Spring and summer clothing available, including seasonal outerwear for warmer weather.
- Summer and Fall clothing available.
- Please Note: 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 buying new, check that outer clothing is rated for winter temperatures and use.
You need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) to work in Canada, no matter what the job. This means if you are a teaching assistant (TA), you must have a SIN.
To get your SIN, you can apply online. You cannot apply for your Social Insurance Number if you have not arrived in Canada.
NOTE: There is no fee to apply for your SIN.
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 Student Accounts and Cashiers.
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.
Please note that most McMaster University campus services and offices are virtual at this time. Please contact them through email or online chat via their website, where available.
Not sure where to find the School of Graduate Studies? First step: McMaster University Campus Map.
Key on-campus service locations for the graduate student community
In addition to your graduate department, you will need to connect with other offices and services at McMaster
Located in Gilmour Hall (Building 20 on Campus Map), 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.
Located in Refectory Rathskeller Building (Building 4 on Campus Map), 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.
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.