Prepare for Exchange at Waterloo

Congratulations on your admission to the University of Waterloo's international exchange program!

To help you prepare, here are some important steps you need to complete before you arrive in Waterloo for exchange. Click on the topics below to jump to their relevant sections:

Apply for your immigration documents 

You require a valid passport or travel document issued by your country of citizenship in order to travel. 

After you  have been admitted to the University of Waterloo, you will be provided with an official Offer of Admission and Letter of Acceptance form that can be  downloaded from  Quest.  

Please note: IRCC announced changes to the study permit application process on January 22, 2024.  Some new study permit applications will now require an additional provincial attestation letter (PAL) as of 8:30 am (ET) on January 22, 2024.  It has not yet been clarified by IRCC if exchange students applying from outside of Canada will need an attestation letter.  Furthermore, the province of Ontario has not yet provided a process on how to get a PAL. 

Please check back here regularly for further updates.

Two-term exchange student

Two term exchange is not an option for 2024-2025.  

The Government of Canada recently imposed a significant limit on the number of available international study permits for incoming students.  As a result, Waterloo has made the difficult decision to only accept exchange nominations for one term exchange students for the 2024-2025 academic year. We are unable to make any exceptions. 

One-term exchange student

If you are an exchange student studying in Canada for less than six months, you may come to Canada and study with a valid  Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) depending on your country of citizenship.

Please note:

  • One term students should not apply for a study permit. It will not be granted.  
  • You will not be eligible to work during your exchange term.  

Differences between a study permit vs a TRV/eTA:

A TRV/eTA is an entry document which allows you to visit Canada for six months at a time, unless a Border Services Officer decides otherwise.  As a visitor in Canada, you are not authorized to work. 

Any country can apply for a TRV.  However, only certain countries may apply for an eTA.  The benefit of an eTA is that it is a low cost application ($7 CAD) which usually takes less than 24 hours to be approved.  An eTA can be applied for here.

A list of eTA eligible countries can be found here.

An additional list of eligible countries added under the eTA expansion program can be found here.  Applicants applying from one of these countries would still need to have a visitor visa if traveling to Canada by car, bus, train or boat and would have to:

  • have held a Canadian visitor visa (TRV) in the past 10 years, or
  • currently hold a valid United States nonimmigrant visa

If you are applying for a study permit, the entry document (TRV or eTA) will be issued to you with a study permit approval. A study permit is a status document which is required for studies longer than six months. 

As an exchange student with a valid study permit that includes both on and off-campus work authorizations, you are able to work on-campus without limitations on hours and work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week. In order to work, you would also be required to be registered in a full-time course load. If you're studying at Waterloo for only one term, you still need to apply for a study permit if you would like to work while studying. In your study permit application, it's important that you include a letter of explanation to clarify why you are applying for a study permit for one term of study. If you receive approval for a study permit and wish to work on and/or off campus during your studies, you need to verify that the study permit has the R186(f) or (v) work condition for on and off campus work stated on it when it is issued to you at the airport. 

Please check out the immigration applications webpage for additional resources. 

Contact one of University of Waterloo's immigration consultants for free if you have questions. 

Arrange housing

Once you receive your offer letter, you will need to start your housing search. As with many cities in Canada, Waterloo Region is experiencing a housing shortage. Students need to start their search early and secure housing before you arrive in Waterloo.

There are two broad categories when it comes to housing: 

  • Off campus: As most exchange students live off campus students are strongly encouraged to actively search for off campus housing. There are options available through the Off-Campus Housing listing service and through the Waterloo Co-operative Residence Inc. (WCRI), which is conveniently located just across the street from campus. 
  • On campus: We cannot guarantee you an on-campus housing spot as housing reviews these applications on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that spots are extremely limited. In addition to your on-campus housing application, we strongly encourage that you also look for off-campus housing in case your on-campus application is unsuccessful. When Campus Housing applications open, exchange students can apply with their personal email.
  • Architecture students: The School of Architecture is located in the city of Cambridge, about 1 hour away from the Waterloo main campus using public transit. Exchange students studying there are advised to search for accommodation in Cambridge using the Off-Campus Housing listing service. The commute by public transportation would not be feasible to/from the Waterloo campus.

Set up your email and Duo two-factor authentication

Once your application status is set to "Matriculated" on Quest, you're required to set up and regularly check your @uwaterloo.ca email. All official communication including news, updates, course selection, fee deadline reminders and messages will be sent to your @waterloo.ca email.

You will need to register for Two-factor authentication (2FA), powered by Duo Security as this adds an extra layer of security to your University accounts. 

Review your courses and course change requests

The following information explains Waterloo's course registration process for undergraduate and graduate students and how you can request changes to your class schedule.

Pay your incidental fees and health insurance

While tuition fees for the majority of exchange programs are paid to your home university, you'll be assessed incidental fees per term at Waterloo for health insurance and student services. Some of the fees are compulsory, some are voluntary, and others are optional. Applicable fees will be posted on Quest approximately one month prior to the beginning of your term. All fees are approximate in Canadian funds and are subject to change. You can choose to opt out of the optional fees charged to your student account until the due date for the term. If you do not pay your fees by the deadline, late fees will be applied. We encourage you to pay your fees as soon as possible as it can take a few days for international payments to be transferred.

You will be enrolled in two health insurance plans while on exchange in Canada.

  • The University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) covers basic health care services, such as medical doctor appointments, hospital visits, and most diagnostic tests.
    • As an exchange student traveling to Waterloo you must pay for UHIP. Applications for UHIP exemption are only considered if you meet the criteria outlined under "opt out/exemptions" on the UHIP website after you have paid.
  • The Studentcare extended Health and Dental Plan covers extra costs like prescription drugs, paramedical practitioners, vision, and dental care.
    • You must first pay for Studentcare extended Health and Dental Plan and can opt out at a later date through Studentcare if you meet the criteria and can prove that you have equivalent coverage. 

If you have any questions about fees or opting out of UHIP please contact The Centre or submit a request on SFS Jira Portal for assistance.  

Accessibility

  • The University of Waterloo is committed to ensuring all students can access and meaningfully participate in their education by removing barriers and building capacity for personal success.
  • AccessAbility Services offers academic accommodations for students with disabilities and disabling conditions (e.g., injuries, medical conditions, or impacts of trauma such as from violence, discrimination, or oppression). If you believe you may require academic accommodations during your studies at Waterloo, learn about the accommodation services and supports available and how to apply for them. If you have some questions, please call 519-888-4567, ext. 35082 or email AccessAbility Services.

Attend Orientation

Exchange Orientation is an opportunity for new students to experience a balanced introduction to the academic, social, and community aspects of life at Waterloo. Program details and dates will be sent to you closer to the start of the term.

You should plan to arrive in time for Orientation at the beginning of your exchange. You should not make any travel arrangements during the exam period until you have your exam schedule; travel plans are not considered an acceptable reason to have an exam rescheduled. Check Quest for a complete list of important dates by year.

Review important dates

For the full list of important dates, please see Undergrad Important Dates and Graduate Important Dates

Milestone Fall 2024 Dates Winter 2024 Dates Spring 2024 Dates 
Housing applications open February 15, 2024 September 26, 2023 TBD
UWaterloo email account available June 24, 2024 Early November 2023 Early March 2024
UG course schedule available on Quest   July 17, 2024 November 16, 2023 March 21, 2024
Grad course enrollment available   TBD - early August December 4, 2023 April 1, 2024
Incidental fees due TBD - late August December 14, 2023 April 24, 2024
Orientation program August 28 - September 1 ** Tentative dates may change First week of January 2024 First week of May 2024
Classes begin September 4, 2024 January 8, 2024 May 6, 2024
Holidays Reading Week - October 12-20, 2024

Reading Week - February 17-25, 2024

Good Friday - March 29, 2024

Victoria day – May 20, 2024  

Canada Day July 1, 2024

Civic Holiday August 5, 2024

Classes end December 3, 2024 April 8, 2024 July 30, 2024
Examination period December 6-19, 2024 April 11-25, 2024 Aug 2-16, 2024
Official transcript Transcripts available to share with your home university by the end of February 2025 Transcripts available to share with your home university by the end of June 2024 Transcripts available to share with your home university by the end of October 2024

Helpful resources

As a new student at Waterloo, you will have many questions about getting here and settling in. Here are some article from the International Student Guide that can give you the information you need:

Contact us

Contact your Global Learning Coordinator, Hope Salese, with any questions you have leading up to your exchange term. 

Hope SaleseHope Salese (she/her)

Global Learning Coordinator

Inbound Exchange