VIRS fees and budget


Visiting International Research Students (VIRS) are required to pay two separate fees charged by UBC: the VIRS Program Fee and iMED Medical Insurance.

VIRS program fee

The VIRS Program Fee is $415 for up to one year. The fee must be renewed after one year, if you would like to extend your research period. Your iMED fee is additional and not part of the VIRS program fee. 

Occasionally, host faculty supervisors choose to pay this fee for the student. If this is the case, this should be noted on the VIRS Approval Form or the professor can contact Go Global to arrange payment.

Student Status

Depending on the student’s academic level at his/her home institution, a VIRS student will be registered in VURS 499 (Undergraduate), VGRD 500 (Master) or VGRD 600 (Ph.D.), a non-credit, non-tuition bearing course code which denotes full-time studies in academic research.

A VIRS student will have access to the UBC Library, email services, Go Global services, and, on an urgent need basis, health/counseling services. Use of other services and facilities, including but not limited to athletics and transcripts ordering, can be accessed on a fee paying basis, as available.

Withdrawal or extension

Refund of the VIRS program fee can be given if a VIRS applicant’s withdrawal is due to either rejection of legitimate immigration document application or rejection of research funding application (e.g., government/institution grants/scholarships/awards).

If you would like to extend your VIRS registration, please contact Go Global. The fee must be renewed after one year, if you wish to extend your research period. If your extension increases the total length of your stay at UBC to more than 12 months, you will be charged the fee.

Mandatory medical insurance (iMED and BC MSP)

A VIRS student will be automatically enrolled in the iMED insurance program at the time of registration. iMED is a temporary basic health insurance plan required for new international students, and will provide you with health insurance coverage during the three month waiting period for BC's Medical Services Plan (MSP) or the duration of your study period if you are not eligible for MSP.

iMED Fees are charged to your "tuition" account at UBC even though they are not tuition. You can pay these fees on the Student Service Centre (SSC) before you arrive in Canada.

iMED insurance costs

Costs will depend on the duration of a VIRS participant’s research period.

If the duration of your research is from 1 to 6 months, your costs are $75 per month in addition to a $9.74 direct billing fee. For example, students studying for 5 months will pay $384.74.

If the duration of your research is longer than 6 months, you are required to apply for a BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) for coverage of the remainder of your time. Your costs are $225 for the first three months in addition to a $9.74 direct billing fee for your iMED and the monthly premium for MSP for the following months. 

Coverage dates

The automatic iMED coverage dates coincide with a standard academic term at UBC as follows:

  • August 1 for Winter Session Term 1 (September – December)
  • December 1 for Winter Session Term 2 (January – April)
  • April 1 for Summer Session Term 1 (May – June)
  • June 1 for Summer Session Term 2 (July – August)

Most students' research dates are not aligned with UBC's academic terms, therefore most students will need to request to have their coverage dates updated. You can do so by completing and submitting the iMED Date Change Form (pdf) after arriving in Canada.

Opt-out options

Having coverage under a different private health insurance plan or a government health plan from your home country does not make you eligible to opt-out of iMED. See opt-out eligibility for more information.

Planning your budget

It is important to plan your budget when you travel to British Columbia (BC) and to be aware of the cost of living, the costs involved with travelling to Canada, paying for housing, food, tourism, personal items and other things that may come up.

Consider the following in your budget:

  • Return flight costs
  • Visa and study permit application costs
  • Clothing for each season in British Columbia (BC)
  • Costs of your accommodations which can vary depending on where you live, whether you'll live with roommates (flat-mates) or live on your own, and the quality of the housing
  • Food. Will you prepare your own meals or dine out?
  • If you're participating in tourism and entertainment, will you be visiting many places in the area? What will your social life be like?
  • Your transportation fees. A transit pass costs a minimum of $92/month.
  • Cell phone fees. Canada has amongst the most expensive phone plans in the world. Plan for at least $60/month.

We recommend planning on at least $2,000 (Canadian dollars) per month to live in Vancouver.

To get a clear financial picture during your studies at UBC, it is always wise to create a budget that considers both university and living costs. See the sample budget worksheet (pdf) that you can use to estimate your monthly expenses for exchange. Fill in the table with realistic amounts for each category that applies to you

If you have questions

For more information about the VIRS program, email the VIRS Advisor at