International Visiting Graduate Students
“It is a great privilege to be challenged to travel beyond comfort zones.”
- Verena Kozmann
- PhD Candidate, Anthropology, International Visiting Graduate Student from Austria
Overview: International Visiting Graduate Student (IVGS) Program
The International Visiting Graduate Student program (IVGS), established in 2008 allows graduate students enrolled in research-based programs at international universities to undertake some of their research under the supervision of a University of Toronto faculty member. The IVGS Study Abroad Agreement is intended to allow students from any recognized university to come to U of T, even in the absence of a formal exchange agreement. International students benefit from the expertise, resources, and facilities of a world-class institution, while enriching the intellectual community of the host department. IVGS students are not able to enrol in courses for credit but, with permission from their graduate unit and instructor, they may be allowed to audit classes.
This program is only open to students who are currently enrolled in a graduate degree program; students are required to maintain registration at their home university for the duration of their study period at the University of Toronto. Students do not pay tuition, but are required to pay the incidental fees required of all graduate students, as well as insurance premiums in the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP).
The IVGS program is also an important tool for the University to develop mutually beneficial reciprocal relations with researchers and institutions around the world: in welcoming students from around the world we foster opportunities for our students to visit other institutions, with or without a formal exchange agreement in place. The program ensures that visiting students have a defined legal relationship with the University, and secures them access to Student Life programs and services, University resources (libraries and information technology) and health coverage under both the University Health Insurance Plan for international students and the University of Toronto Graduate Student Union’s supplementary health and dental plans.
Section 1: Information for Faculty & Staff
Admissions Procedures & Timelines
A visit under the IVGS program can be initiated by a faculty member or a student. Any U of T faculty member with a graduate faculty appointment (or associate graduate faculty appointment) at the School of Graduate Studies can invite an IVGS student. Faculty members who do not hold a graduate appointment can co-supervise a visiting student, but not act as primary supervisor.
The only formal requirement for admission is that visiting students must be registered in a research-based graduate degree program at their home institution. Students in diploma or certificate programs are not eligible, nor are recent graduates, or students on leave from their current degree program. While there are no formal requirements for documents in support of an application, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to assess the student’s suitability for the proposed research project. You should feel free to request a curriculum vitae, research proposal, and/or recommendation from a prospective student’s supervisor.
While there is no requirement for IVGS students to submit English language proficiency scores, you should assure yourself that the student’s level of English is sufficient both for the proposed research, and to navigate day-to-day life on campus in Toronto. When planning a visit, you and your student should be mindful of the time required to apply, the time required to secure travel documents. Overall, the process can take up to four months. For example, a student planning on arriving in September should begin planning for the visit in May. A visit that begins at the start of an academic term (January 1, May 1, or September 1) is most straightforward from a fees perspective. The School of Graduate Studies needs time to review completed applications and process offers of admission. Successful applicants will need enough time between receiving an offer and their planned start date to apply for the requisite travel documents. Please review Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s processing times to gauge whether you and your student are allowing enough time.
Supervisors of visiting students should be aware of the responsibilities inherent in the relationship. While visiting students have the support and guidance of their home supervisor, the U of T faculty member hosting a visitor is an important local support for the student. The study period encapsulates in a short time some of the most intense supervisory commitments: a project proposal, admission, and completion of a specified research goal.
- Help the student outline a realistic project for the time and resources available.
- Plan the visit with a clear understanding of the timelines required for institutional approval and immigration issues.
- Consult with the School of Graduate Studies beforehand if you are planning to offer financial support to the student.
- Guide the student through institutional policies on research ethics and intellectual property.
- Encourage the student to visit the website of the Centre for International Experience.
- Recognize that, unlike students admitted to a degree program, you student will have less connection to — and even awareness of — the supports put in place by your department, SGS, and University-wide services.
- Help the student integrate into your unit’s academic and social life.
- Help connect your student to relevant resources, whether on-campus or off.
- Do not try to offer immigration advice. Only registered immigration advisors are legally able to provide such advice. Rather, feel free to refer students to the School of Graduate Studies. In doing so, it’s important to manage student expectations, as difficulties with immigration have in rare instances led to the cancellation of a planned visit.
- Be sure to offer information on fees and finances related to the IVGS program.
Section 2: Information for Prospective Visiting Students
Admissions Procedures & Timelines
All IVGS placements begin with a key relationship: students need to find a qualified supervisor willing to oversee their research. It’s up to you, as a prospective student, to identify a supervisor working in a research area that is closely related to your work, who holds a graduate faculty appointment, and who is willing to commit the time and energy required to supervise you. For help in finding a supervisor, please feel free to review our list of degree programs; each fact sheet on our listing links back to the website of the graduate unit (department, faculty, or institute) offering that program, where you can review a list of faculty members. Before contacting a prospective supervisor, please check the School of Graduate Studies’ listing to ensure that they do, in fact, hold a graduate appointment.
When planning a visit, you should be mindful of the time required to apply and the time required to secure travel documents. The School of Graduate Studies needs time to review completed applications and process offers of admission. Successful applicants will need enough time between receiving an offer and their planned start date to apply for the requisite travel documents. Please review Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s processing times to gauge whether you are planning far enough in advance.
Admission requirements are simple: you need to be registered in a research-based graduate degree program at your home institution. Students in diploma or certificate programs are not eligible, nor are recent graduates. IVGS applicants do not need to submit transcripts or English-language proficiency scores. Your supervisor may wish to review a curriculum vitae or proposed research plan.
When approaching a prospective supervisor, it’s important to ensure that you outline your plans for the visit clearly. What is the scope of the project you are working on, and how much of it do you plan to accomplish while at the University of Toronto? What support are you hoping for from your supervisor? What University resources will you need?
For a research visit to take place, you will need approval not only of your U of T supervisor, but also of the chair of his or her graduate unit. You will also need approval from your home university supervisor, and from the chair or head of your department. Your supervisor will need to draft a letter of invitation that clearly lays out the agreed terms of the visit, and both the letter and the IVGS Study Abroad Agreement need to be signed by the appropriate parties. Please note that it can take some time to secure the required approvals and signatures on the form and letter. The final signature to approve the visit is that of the Director of Student Academic Services, School of Graduate Studies. Once all other signatures have been secured, please send the completed form and letter to email@example.com for final approval. If the School of Graduate Studies approves the visit, you will be issued an official offer of admission to the School of Graduate Studies as a full-time visiting graduate student.
Fees & Other Costs
IVGS students are not charged tuition, but they are responsible for paying the mandatory incidental fees paid by all students. Please note that these fees do not include accommodation costs. Fees at the University are assessed based on the number of academic sessions during which the student is on campus; the Fall session runs from September to December, the Winter session runs from January to April, and the Summer session runs from May to August. If a student is on campus for only part of a session, he or she is still liable for the full session’s fees.
IVGS students are also required to purchase health coverage through the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP). UHIP premiums can be pro-rated on a monthly basis. For the academic year 2018-19, premiums are set at $52 per month, or $624 for the year.
For example, the fees for the Fall session in 2018 or the Winter session in 2019 for a student on the St. George campus break down as follows:
|Student system access fee||$55.00|
|Student Life services fees||$156.72|
|Athletic Centre membership||$189.00|
|Hart House membership||$89.40|
|University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) dues||$48.32|
|Varsity newspaper levy||$0.80|
|UTGSU Health Plan||$169.58|
|UTGSU Dental Plan||$113.44|
|Total||$767.26 per session, plus $55 per year, plus UHIP|
Campus fees at the St. George and Scarborough campuses are roughly comparable. UTM student fees are higher, as UTM students have access to the free shuttle bus that runs between the St. George and UTM campuses. The difference in student fees for UTM students is significantly lower than the transit costs involved in travelling between the campuses.
Fees for the coming academic year normally are confirmed in mid-July. Incidental fees can be found on the Student Accounts and Vice-Provost, Students websites. Summer fees are lower than Fall or Winter fees, as students are not enrolled in the GSU supplementary health plans.
We encourage you to begin your visit at the start of an academic session if possible. Beginning at other times will have fee implications.
Example 1: September 1 to December 31
This student would pay the Fall session fees, the student system access fee, and four months of UHIP premiums. Total: $1,030.26.
Example 2: November 1 to February 28
This student would pay both the Fall and Winter session fees, the system access fee, and four months of UHIP coverage. Total: $1,797.52
Example 3: September 1 to April 30
This student would pay both the Fall and Winter session fees, the system access fee, and eight months of UHIP coverage. Total: $2,005.52
Example 4: July 1 to December 31
This student would pay both the Summer and Fall session fees, two system access fees, and six months of UHIP coverage. The student would not have coverage for prescription drugs, vision care, or dental care until September 1. Total: $1,624.38
Please see the section “Accommodations” and the frequently asked questions for information on accommodation and living expenses.
Securing appropriate travel documents (visa, study, or work permit) for a research visit to Canada can be confusing, as the status of visiting research students is not clearly laid out in Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s policies. Although IVGS students are visiting as part of an academic program, they may be deemed workers, rather than students. Many of our IVGS students successfully apply for study permits, but some are required to apply for work permits. The School of Graduate Studies can assist students in applying for work permits in some cases.
In some cases, it has been necessary to cancel visits when students were not able to secure appropriate travel documents, so please take the time to review this section carefully and plan well in advance.
Before you apply to the IVGS program, review Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s processing times to ensure that you are applying far enough in advance to secure travel documents before your visit.
Students who need to apply for a visa can apply for the relevant permit at the same time. Students from visa-exempt countries will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA); the permit application is separate. Students requiring a visa to travel to Canada do not need to make a separate application for an ETA, as it is issued along with the visa.
Usually, there is no financial support available to visiting graduate students. In a small number of cases, an individual supervisor may have discretionary research funding that will allow him or her to provide some support for a visiting student. Please note that any student receiving a study stipend from a Canadian source will need a social insurance number (SIN). If a SIN is required, you will need a study permit or work permit.
If you encounter difficulties in applying for your travel documents, please contact the Admissions and International Student Advisors at the School of Graduate Studies. SGS will then work with the University’s immigration advisors to provide advice and support. Our regular hours are between 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday.
Arrival, Registration, and Fee Payment
You have two options for paying fees. One is to open a Canadian bank account before leaving for Canada, and pay prior to arrival. If you request a JOINid from firstname.lastname@example.org, you will be able to use the ID check your financial account on ACORN, the student account portal; using the information from your fee invoice, you can then pay your fees as a bill through online banking. The second option is to pay by credit card, which you can do on ACORN.
Please note that this option entails a 1.75% convenience fee. Please note that students are usually charged a full year’s UHIP premiums, even if they are visiting for a shorter period. The amount billed to your account for UHIP premiums can be adjusted on arrival.
For each of the three steps listed below, you will need to bring your offer of admission and your travel documents (passport, plus visa/permit if applicable). Upon arrival:
- Stop by the front reception desk at the School of Graduate Studies (63 St. George Street) to confirm your registration.
- Visit the TCard office (first floor of 214 College Street) where you can pick up your student card and activate your UTORid.
- Visit the UHIP office at the Centre for International Experience (33 St. George Street, across the street from the TCard Office). The UHIP office can adjust your premiums if necessary, and activate your coverage.
It is important to start searching for accommodations in advance of your visit. For tips and advice on securing accommodations in Toronto, visit Housing Services.
The University’s housing office can provide you with guest access to search a database of off-campus housing. You should also look into housing rental sites to become familiar with the market and develop a sense of rental prices. Since most leases begin on the first day of the month, the first few days of every month are the best time to contact landlords and property managers.
On-campus options are limited for visiting students. Graduate House will not accept visiting students as part of its main September intake. Undergraduate colleges only accept graduate students in the summer months (May through August); the theological colleges on campus may have vacancies that coincide with your visit. Other private student residences near campus include Tartu College.
Services for Students
Many resources are available to you as a U of T student. The Centre for International Experience offers resources and workshops for students who are new to Canada. The Academic Success Centre offers a range of resources to help students improve their research and writing skills.
All students and faculty are members of Hart House, the centre of non-academic student life on campus. Hart House houses a fitness centre, is home dozens of student clubs, and a wide range of events. Take a drop-in fitness class, listen to a Sunday concert, watch a student debate, or just relax in the gothic revival library.
Your student fees also cover your membership athletic facilities. St. George student enjoy access to the downtown Athletic Centre, while UTM students and UTSC students have their own facilities. Whether you want to swim in the Olympic-sized pool, take a class, or just work out at the gym, make the most of your time at the University of Toronto by making sure you take care of your body as well as your mind.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are the admission requirements?
A. The IVGS program is open to students who are currently enrolled in a graduate degree program; students are required to maintain registration at their home university for the duration of their study period at the University of Toronto. The program is not open to undergraduate students, students on leave from their degree program, or anyone not currently enrolled in a graduate degree program.
Q. What is the application process?
A. The application process is simple, but can take time. The U of T faculty member who has agreed to act as a supervisor should send a letter of invitation (as described in the IVGS agreement) to the visiting student’s home supervisor. The letter and the application form need to be signed by:
- The U of T supervisor
- The chair of the U of T graduate unit
- The visiting student’s home supervisor
- The chair or head of the student’s home department
The signed letter and form are then sent to the School of Graduate Studies for final approval. If the visit is approved, SGS will issue a formal offer of admission.
Q. How do I find a supervisor?
A. It is the visiting student’s responsibility to find a willing and qualified supervisor. Please review the faculty listings in the U of T graduate unit or units most closely related to your research interests. Some students find it helpful to review our list of programs to help them find a suitable graduate unit.
Q. How do I pay fees?
A. Most students visiting for more than a couple of months choose to open a Canadian bank account, often before coming to Canada. If you do so, you can register the University of Toronto as a bill to be paid, much as you would your telephone bill. Students who do not wish to open a Canadian bank account have the option of paying their fees by credit card, on arrival. Please note that this option entails a 1.75% service charge.
Q. Is there financial support?
A. Usually, there is no financial support available to visiting graduate students. In a small number of cases, an individual supervisor may have discretionary research funding that will allow him or her to provide some support for a visiting student. If a prospective supervisor wishes to offer a stipend or cover some of the costs of a visit, he or she should contact one of the Admissions and International Student Advisors at the School of Graduate Studies for information before issuing the letter of invitation.
Q. What kind of visa or permit do I need?
A. A visa is a document allowing a person to enter the country. Citizens of many countries need to apply for a visa before travelling. Students from visa-exempt countries will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). A permit is a document authorizing certain restricted activities, such as study or work, during a visit to Canada. Students visiting Canada for the purpose of conducting research are not well defined under current regulations. We encourage visiting students who have received their formal offers of admission to seek advice from the nearest Canadian consulate, embassy, or High Commission on what travel documents they may need to secure. Please note that any student receiving a study stipend from a Canadian source will need a social insurance number (SIN). If a SIN is required, you will need a study permit or work permit.
Q. I’ve been told to apply for a work permit. What’s next?
A. If advised that you need to apply for a work permit, contact the Admissions and International Student Advisors at the School of Graduate Studies. If possible, SGS will issue the required supporting documentation.
Q. Can I work while visiting?
A. If a work opportunity arises in the graduate unit you are visiting, you will only be able to accept that opportunity if you have the correct permit. Many study permits will specifically authorize work, under certain restrictions. If you hold a study permit, check the restrictions to confirm that you qualify. If you have entered the country with a work permit, you will not be able to undertake any work other than the research described in your letter of invitation. The work permit will have been issued on the basis of that very specific description of duties; to take on extra work would violate the terms of the permit.
You will only be allowed to accept employment if you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada, if you hold a study permit with the appropriate restrictions, or if you have a work permit appropriate to the employment offered.
Q. Can I take courses?
A. IVGS students are not allowed to register in formal graduate courses. Depending on the permission of your graduate unit and of the individual instructor, you may be allowed to audit courses.
Q. Do I have to pay UHIP fees?
A. You will need to purchase coverage under UHIP unless you hold existing coverage under the health plans of a Canadian province. This is true even of students whose health insurance from home extends to provide coverage in Canada.
Q. I have travel health insurance. Do I need to buy into the UTGSU supplementary health and dental plans?
A. Students who can demonstrate that they hold coverage comparable to — or greater than — the UTGSU supplementary health and dental plans have a narrow window in which they can apply to opt out. To determine whether you are eligible to opt out, compare your existing coverage as it applies in Canada with the benefits outlined in the UTGSU health benefits booklet. If your existing coverage has significant gaps when compared to the UTGSU plan, then your request to opt out will not be approved. If your benefit coverage is comparable, get instructions for how to opt out online. The deadline to opt out of Fall session coverage is usually the end of September. The deadline to opt out of Winter session coverage is usually the end of January. These deadlines are strictly enforced.
Q. What will my campus be?
A. Students visiting a specific laboratory will usually base themselves on the campus where the lab is located, but you should discuss this with your host supervisor. With a few exceptions, most graduate units teach their graduate courses at the downtown St. George campus, but faculty members in the sciences may have their labs at either U of T Scarborough (UTSC) or U of T Mississauga (UTM). Most students in the humanities and social sciences opt to stay at or near the St. George campus, where the main library resources are housed, regardless of where their supervisor holds their undergraduate teaching appointment. Campus fees at the St. George and Scarborough campuses are roughly comparable. UTM student fees are higher, as UTM students have access to the free shuttle bus that runs between the St. George and UTM campuses. The difference in student fees for UTM students is significantly lower than the transit costs involved in travelling between the campuses.
Q. Can my family come with me?
A. Visiting students are sometimes accompanied by family members. While the University can assist you in securing health insurance for your family members, we cannot provide significant support on immigration issues. Services covered by incidental fees are for the student only. Some services, such as athletic facilities, may have community membership options. If you are considering bringing family members, please allow more time to plan your visit, and inform the Admissions and International Student Advisors at the School of Graduate Studies as early as possible.