Visiting International Research Students (VIRS)

VIRS Process and Eligibility


Please Note: New VIRS applicants now limited to stay of 6 months or less

Based on the guidelines recently announced by the provincial government, new applications for Visting International Research Students are limited to a stay of less than 6 months as they will not be eligible to receive a Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) and cannot apply for a study permit. VIRS students staying less than 6 months do not require a study permit to enter Canada. To determine what documents you will need to enter Canada please check this Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada page and indicate you are staying for 6 months or less.   If you are currently in Canada as a Visiting International Research Student, you can remain for the duration of your original stay dates.

A Visiting International Research Student (VIRS) is registered as a full-time student in their home country and visiting the University of Guelph for a period of one month or more for training, research or other experiential learning activity. These visits are arranged on a collegial basis and contribute to the student completing their research, training or degree requirements at their home University. VIRS activities are not part of any existing formal University of Guelph degree program but are meant to facilitate the collegial sharing of expertise, mentoring and supervision with students from abroad on a short-term visiting basis. VIRS status does not apply to Post-docs, paid employees or non-student visitors such as guest lecturers or sabbatical stays. For a full outline of procedures and responsibilities for the VIRS process see the attached PDF document.


To be a Visiting International Research Student, applicants must:

  1. Be registered as a full-time degree-seeking student in good standing at an accredited post-secondary institution outside of Canada (referred to as the Home Institution) at the time of application and during the entirety of their time at the University of Guelph
  2. Have written permission from their home institution and acknowledgment that their proposed activities at the University of Guelph are an integral part of their academic program at home. 
  3. Be visiting for the primary purpose of participating in an experiential learning opportunity (research, field research, training etc.) deemed relevant to their home institution degree.
  4. Have written acknowledgment from a University of Guelph regular graduate faculty member agreeing to act as their academic supervisor for the duration of their stay.
  5. Meet the English language proficiency requirements as set out by the hosting department at the University of Guelph.
  6. Be visiting the University of Guelph for a period of one month to a maximum of one year
  7. Have appropriate funding to cover costs for the duration of their stay and be eligible to enter Canada as per Citizenship and Immigration Canada requirements

Guelph Faculty wishing to invite a Visiting International Research Student to Guelph

Once you have determined that an international student satisfies the eligibility requirements for VIRS status, contact your departmental admin to obtain a template for the VIRS letter of invitation (latest update April 2022 attached below). This letter should be sent to the student and signed back with both the student's and their home institution faculty advisor's signatures indicating they approve of, and accept the terms of, the study period at Guelph. The student can then register for the course "Experiential Learning for Visiting International Research Students" through OpenEd and pay the applicable fees. Details of the process and procedures, including Faculty Supervisor Responsibilities, can be found in the document: "University of Guelph Visiting International Research Student Procedures and Responsibilities" *Note, this process should be completed at least one month before the VIRS arrives.

Please note: VIRS students are Open Learners and as such are not eligible for on-campus housing. If a VIRS student is coming to Guelph between May and August they can apply for summer hostel accommodation but otherwise will need to find off-campus accommodation.

International Students Wishing to come to Guelph as Visiting Research Students

You must be enrolled full-time in a degree-seeking program at a University outside of Canada and have confirmation from a University of Guelph faculty member willing to supervise you during your time in Canada before you can register as a VIRS.

Your first step is to locate a willing faculty supervisor and determine a plan for you to study, training or research. This cannot be part of any existing academic program at Guelph and cannot be used as credit toward a formal degree or training program at Guelph. Once you have confirmation from a Guelph faculty member, you will receive a letter of invitation which must be signed by you and your home institution supervisor. You will then receive a link to the VIRS registration page and be required to register, upload a copy of the signed letter of invitation and pay the required fees. For questions about the VIRS process contact the Centre for International Programs at

Please note: When you apply for your visa to come to Canada as a Visiting International Research Student, please be clear with immigration officers that you will be a registered student at Guelph pursuing your research as part of your degree requirements at your home institution. You will not be an employee of the University of Guelph and are not coming to work in Canada. 

You will not be required to pay tuition fees to the University of Guelph but you will be required to pay an application fee of $200 and an additional $85/month for services including mandatory health insurance, I.D. card, and library access. Fees must be paid in full 2 weeks before the international student's arrival date. Whenever possible, visits should be timed to correspond with the start and end of a month in order to avoid incurring extra fees, especially for stays which straddle two months. 

Also Note: VIRS students are not normally eligible for on-campus housing, however, if you are coming to Guelph between May and August you can apply for summer hostel accommodation but otherwise will need to find off-campus accommodation. The housing market in Guelph is difficult and it is suggested that you begin searching for housing well in advance of arriving in Canada. You can view listings in Guelph at For more resources and questions concerning living off-campus and landlord-tenant issues, visit the Off-Campus Living Website. Please beware of rental scams that often target those looking for housing from outside Canada.