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
McMaster University COVID-19 Readiness plan was approved by the Province of Ontario. We continue to monitor and update arrival procedures in alignment with government and university guidelines and requirements.
If you are an undergraduate student, please visit the Student Success Centre for all information about joining us at McMaster.
Latest travel updates
March 16, 2023 update: The Public Health Agency of Canada announced as of March 17, 2023, COVID-19 emergency air travel requirements have ended for China, Hong Kong and Macao.
January 5, 2023 update: As of January 5, 2023, All air travellers 2 years of age and older, taking a flight originating from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong or Macao that lands in Canada must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status. Visit the COVID-19 pre-boarding test requirements for air travel from China, Hong Kong and Macao page for more information.
September 26, 2022 update: The Government of Canada announced starting October 1, 2022, all COVID-19 border requirements, including vaccination, mandatory use of ArriveCAN, and any testing and quarantine/isolation requirements will end for all travellers entering Canada whether by land, air or sea.
June 29, 2022 update: The Government of Canada announced it is extending current border measures for travellers entering Canada. Requirements for travellers arriving to Canada are expected to remain in effect until at least September 30, 2022. This means, for international students who are over the age of 18, the requirement to qualify as a fully vaccinated traveller to enter Canada will be in place until at least September 30, 2022.
April 22, 2022 update: The Government of Canada announced that, effective April 25, 2022 at 00:01:00 EDT, all fully vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to provide a quarantine plan upon entry. Note that all travellers are still required to use ArriveCAN to provide mandatory travel information within 72 hours of their arrival to Canada.
March 17, 2022 update: The Government of Canada announced that effective April 1, 2022 at 12:01 AM EDT, fully vaccinated travellers will no longer need to provide a pre-entry COVID-19 test result to enter Canada by air, land or water. Fully vaccinated travellers seeking to arrive in Canada before April 1, 2022, must still have a valid pre-entry test.
February 15, 2022 update: the Government of Canada announced a series of adjustments to the current border measures that impact the arrival process. As of February 28, 2022:
- Travellers arriving in Canada from any country, who qualify as fully vaccinated, will be randomly selected for arrival testing. Travellers selected will no longer be required to quarantine while awaiting their test results.
- Travellers will now have the option of using a COVID-19 rapid antigen test result (taken the day prior to their scheduled flight or arrival at the land border or marine port of entry) or a molecular test result (taken no more than 72 hours before their scheduled flight or arrival at the land border or marine port of entry) to meet pre-entry requirements. Taking a rapid antigen test at home is not sufficient to meet the pre-entry requirement – it must be authorized by the country in which it was purchased and must be administered by a laboratory, healthcare entity or telehealth service.
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.
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:
- Effective November 30, 2021, the Government of Canada will expand its list of accepted vaccines for the purposes of entry into Canada and exemption from some testing and quarantine requirements. The list will include Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN, matching the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Use Listing (EUL).
- As of January 15, 2022, international students over the age of 18 will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada.
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”(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 (be in possession of course enrollment letter or offer letter).
Preparing for your arrival
All travellers arriving in Canada are required to follow the latest travel measures in place, as indicated by the Government of Canada.
- A valid passport or travel document
- Depending on your country of citizenship, either a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or visitor visa (temporary resident visa)
- Note: The relevant eTA or visa will be issued to you automatically with your first approved study permit.
- 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).
- Financial proof that you have enough money to support yourself during your stay in Canada.
- Any other documents the visa office told you to bring, including valid medical exam results (if you needed one).
- Update: If you are travelling after January 5, 2023, and taking a flight originating from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong or Macao, you must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result.
When to arrive
Students usually arrive between three and four 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.
If you are travelling early for medical, immigration and/or academic requirements, you must provide documentation to the CBSA when you arrive, that explains the reason(s) for your early arrival.
After you arrive
Follow the instructions at the airport or your port of entry. It is at the discretion of the border agent to issue your study permit and approve your entry to Canada.
After arriving in Canada:
- Continue to follow local public health guidelines, which may include wearing of masks or face-covering in certain settings.
- Continue to follow McMaster University’s health and safety measures.
- Download McMaster University’s Safety App.
- Complete Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 self-assessment if you were exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms, or are required to do so for any reason.
Traveling from Toronto Pearson Airport to Hamilton
McMaster University is about 68km away from Toronto Pearson 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.
Private transportation is available either through pre-booked services (such as Airways Transit) or taxis at the airport. Visit Toronto Pearson Transportation and Parking for more information.
Getting around Hamilton
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 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 email@example.com.
For more information about using your Presto Card, Visit the PRESTO website.
Hamilton Cab services
- Blue Line Taxi – Book online or call 905-525-0000
- Hamilton Cab – Book online or call 777-777-7777
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*
- Hotel McMaster (student rates may be available in the summer months)
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 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.
Canada has five major banks. Each has student rates that you can ask about.
To open a bank account, you will need
- study permit
- address verification (lease, bill, mail, etc.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: You must have a Canadian bank account to enrol in Direct Deposit.
Living in Canada
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.
Cell phone rates in Canada are among the most expensive in the world. You may want to do some homework to find the best available rates. To get a cell phone in Canada requires a credit card.
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.
Working in Canada
All individuals who work in Canada MUST HAVE a Social Insurance Number.
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 or drop in/book an appointment at one of our many in-person clinics on campus (dates and times below). 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.
Cost of Living: Your Budget
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!
Managing Your Money: A guide for graduate students Check out the guide
This online resource was created by McMaster’s School of Graduate Studies. It provides a starting point for building your own budget.
Mac's Money Centre Visit Mac Money Centre
Check out online resources and in-person workshops, coaching and more to help students get on track with their finances.
Student Budget Worksheet Visit Financial Consumer Agency Canada
Download this budget worksheet available from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
Expatistan Visit Expatistan
A website that compares the cost-of-living between different cities.
A Bill-by-Bill Guide to Saving Money on Your Monthly Expenses Visit LifeHacker
LifeHacker offers some helpful tips on managing your expenses.
Worksheets and online tools Learn more about Canada's banks
Several of the large Canadian banks provide online budgeting tools geared at students.
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.
Information about UHIP and help with registering for the program.
If you have any questions about UHIP at McMaster or to add your dependents to your UHIP plan, contact our UHIP administrators at email@example.com.
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.
Counselling, medical and wellness services. Visit the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning, room 210/201.