Skip to content


So, you’re thinking about studying in Canada? Canada is known for its high quality of education and post-graduation job opportunities and immigration pathways, making it a popular choice for international students. But, student banking in Canada can be complicated, especially when your banking decisions can impact whether your study permit application is successful.

Opening a student bank in Canada before arriving is generally a good idea, regardless of which type of study permit you apply for (and in some cases it is a requirement). To help you overcome some common hurdles, we’re digging into the details about how to open an international student bank account in Canada before you arrive.

Pre-Arrival Checklist: Banking for International Students Before You Come To Canada

As an international student, your Canadian banking needs can start even before you submit your study permit application. To study in Canada, you will need to provide documents showing you can afford to live and study in Canada. Having certain Canadian bank accounts can make this easier.  

Open a Canadian Bank Account Before You Arrive in Canada

Before you arrive in Canada, apply through Scotiabank’s Student GIC Program. The program can help you meet IRCC’s proof of financial support requirement and transition to life in Canada smoothly. It also means you don’t need to travel with large amounts of cash or wait for funds to arrive after you do, which is safer and more convenient. 

A Scotiabank International Account, which is a Scotiabank Investment Account that’s opened from outside of Canada, allows you to transfer up to $50,000 CAD securely before you arrive in Canada. 

Once you arrive, you then book an appointment at a Scotiabank brand to set up a student chequing account. At this appointment, you can transfer some or all of the funds in your Scotiabank International Account into your new student chequing account

How To Open a GIC Bank Account as an International Student: SDS Countries

Canada’s Student Direct Stream (SDS) offers faster processing of study permits for students living in certain countries. But, to apply through this stream, you need a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) for at least $20,635.  

If you live in any of the following countries, you may be eligible for Canada’s SDS (those in countries listed in bold are also eligible to open an International Bank Account with Scotiabank): 

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • India
  • Morocco
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Senegal
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Vietnam

Note that you are required to live in these countries. If you are a citizen of one of these countries but you live in a non-SDS country, you will need to apply for a non-SDS study permit. 

How Does the GIC Program Work for International Students?

Here’s how the Scotiabank International Student GIC program works: 

Step 1: Apply for the Scotiabank Student GIC Program. This is an online application form. 

Step 2: Once approved, wire transfer at least $20,835 CAD to Scotiabank in Canada. $20,635 will be credited to your GIC and $200 will pay the program fee. 

Step 3: Apply for your study permit. 

Step 4: Once you arrive in Canada, open a student bank account with Scotiabank and $4,127 + interest will be deposited into your account. You will need to bring certain documents with you when you open your account, including your Temporary Resident Visa, SIN, passport, and your student ID card or other proof of enrollment.

Step 5: Every month, a portion of your investment will be deposited into your account. This is usually around $1,376 each month. 

Step 6: Receive your full investment back, plus interest. Over the 12 months, you will receive your $20,635 CAD investment back, plus interest.  

Applicants who intend to study in Québec will need to deposit $15,278 CAD into a Scotiabank Investment Account and $200 CAD will pay for the program fee.

How To Open An International Student Bank Account: Non-SDS Countries

If you’re not residing in one of the SDS countries listed above, you’ll need to apply for a regular study permit outside the SDS.

International students who plan to apply for a study permit will need to show that they have enough funds to support themselves during their stay in Canada. This is called the ‘proof of financial support’ requirement, and it’s a common reason that study permits are denied. So, it’s something you want to get right to succeed. 

IRCC requires study permit applicants to show that they have access to at least $20,635. The following documents are acceptable for applicants to show proof of financial support requirement: 

  • A Canadian bank account in your name. 
  • A GIC, as outlined above. 
  • Proof of a student or education loan. 
  • Bank statements for the past four months. 
  • A bank draft that’s convertible to Canadian dollars. 
  • Proof of payment for tuition and housing. 
  • A letter of financial support from family or any other person. 
  • Proof of funding paid from within Canada, such as a scholarship.  

Banking for International Students After You Arrive in Canada

It’s important to manage your banking as soon as you can after you arrive in Canada. Having a Canadian chequing account allows you to more easily adapt to life in Canada, since you don’t need to be concerned about your bank freezing your account or mounting currency conversion fees. It will also help with getting a phone plan, organizing accommodation, and a bunch of other first-month to-dos in Canada. 

Opening a No-Fee Chequing Account for International Students

A student chequing account is usually used for everyday activities, like withdrawing cash, paying bills, and sending money. Students may be eligible for no-fee chequing accounts, so we recommend looking for an account with no monthly account fees while you’re studying. 

Scotiabank, for example, offers the Student Banking Advantage® Plan. This account does not have a monthly account fee and allows unlimited debit and Interac e-transfer transactions, and international money transfers. Students can also apply for an unsecured credit card through this plan, even without a credit history in Canada. 

What You Need to Open an International Student Bank Account in Canada

Here are the documents you need to open a Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan® account in Canada as an international student: 

  • Your passport or Canadian driver’s licence.  
  • Your Study Permit or Temporary Resident Visa.
  • Proof of enrolment from your Canadian Educational Institution.

Your Financial Goals As An International Student

Once you’ve settled in, it’s time to start thinking about your financial goals. Maybe you want to buy a car, or rent an apartment instead of sharing with roommates, or even start saving for a home. To do any of these things, you will need to start building your credit score

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is a number from 300-900. The higher your score, the more trustworthy you are seen to be by Canadian lenders. The problem (or opportunity) for international students is that you will start without a credit score when you move to Canada. Your credit history from your home country does not transfer, so your initial credit score will be very low, and you will need to work to build trust with Canada’s banks and lenders. 

Building Your Credit as an International Student

Failing to build your credit score can have practical impacts on your life in Canada. If you have a low credit score, it may be challenging to rent an apartment, get a phone plan, or buy a car with financing, for example.

Our best tip for building your credit score as an international student in Canada is to apply for a credit card and pay off your balance every month. Responsible credit card usage proves your ability to manage debt. It shows that you’re able to pay off your debt in a timely manner, which is important for lenders, and helps to improve your credit score. 

Scotiabank offers a specialized program for international students to access a credit card, even without a credit card history. It’s called the Scotiabank®SceneTM Visa Card, and it even comes with free movie rewards. Helpfully, getting and responsibly using this credit card can help you build your credit score in Canada. 

Legal Disclaimer


® Registered trademarks of The Bank of Nova Scotia

* Visa Int./Licensed User

™ Scene+ and the Icon Design are trademarks of Scene Plus IP Corporation, used under license.

Citation "How To Open An International Student Bank Account Before Moving To Canada." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation