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Policies and Requirements

General Requirements

To hold an award, you must accept the terms and conditions of the award, as set out in this guide, in the Notice of Award (including attachments), and in the program description found in the NSERC Program Guide for Students and Fellows.

Awards may be cancelled without notice if the conditions under which they are granted are violated. Any payment made for a period during which you were not eligible to hold the award must be reimbursed.

Academic Requirements

You must have successfully completed all requirements for your doctoral degree before reporting to the laboratory to take up your award. This includes the successful defence of your thesis, as well as any necessary revisions, if these are requirements for the conferral of your degree. A written confirmation from the Dean of Graduate Studies or the registrar's office at the university, or a copy of your PhD diploma, must be forwarded to NSERC before you can take up your fellowship (Completion of Doctoral Degree Requirements [Form E-2]).

Note: A certified translation must be provided for all documents not issued in English or French.

Immigration Requirements

If you are a foreign national, you must obtain an employment authorization from a Canadian Visa Officer before coming to Canada. You may also require a visitor's visa to enter Canada. You have to present the "Letter to the Canadian Visa Officer" provided with your offer in order to obtain a Canadian Work Permit. Immigration procedures can take from one to four months, depending on the country of residence and the time of year; you should, therefore, contact the nearest Canadian Visa Office (at the Canadian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate) as soon as possible.

You must renew your employment authorization before it expires. The same visa requirements (except for matters related to the award) apply to spouses and children who accompany fellows to Canada.

The costs of visas, employment authorizations or medical examinations are not refundable.

Security Clearance

Some departments require that you be accorded a security clearance before taking up your award. If a security clearance is required, you will be contacted directly.

Language Proficiency Exam

Selected candidates may have to pass a standardized language proficiency exam in English or French before being nominated by the host department.

Canadian Social Insurance Number

If you are a foreign national, you must apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) as soon as you arrive in Canada. These can be obtained through the local This link will take you to another Web site Service Canada centre. This number must be received at NSERC before payments can be issued.

Invention Agreement

You are required to sign an Invention Agreement (Form E-4), specifying that the rights to any intellectual property made during tenure of your fellowship shall be vested in the Government of Canada.

Start Date

You may take up your fellowship after you have received written confirmation of the award from NSERC and you have met all other requirements outlined in this guide. When you receive the award letter, you must complete and return the Acceptance/Refusal of the Fellowship – Part I (Form E-1) within one month. If you decide to accept the award, you must contact your immediate supervisor. Once all requirements are met and the travel arrangements are made, a Payment Activation – Part II (Form E-1), with the exact start date of your award, must be completed by the supervisor and forwarded to NSERC in order to initiate the payments.

Note: Appointments cannot be taken up between February 15 and March 31 because of fiscal year-end processes.

On arrival, you should report to your immediate supervisor. Two forms, the Confirmation of Commencement Date (Form E-3), and the Invention Agreement (Form E-4), must be completed, signed and returned to NSERC immediately. A copy of each form should be sent to your departmental coordinator.

Payments and Allowances

Fellows are advised that their stipends and any travel allowances are considered, by the Canada Revenue Agency, to be income for taxation purposes. See Income Tax.

The stipend is paid in monthly instalments with direct deposit payments issued by the 15th of every month.

Value of the Fellowship

The value of your fellowship is determined based on the salary scale of a scientific researcher in the Public Service of Canada. It may be adjusted each year on July 1. The present minimum value of a Visiting Fellowship is $53,077 per year. In exceptional cases, a higher stipend can be offered at the discretion of the host laboratory. A higher stipend must be justified by one (or more) of the following factors:

  • exceptional educational background or other training;
  • exceptional or highly specialized experience;
  • competitiveness of the field with respect to the labour market.
First Payment

The first payment of the fellowship will be issued upon receipt of the Confirmation of Commencement Date (Form E-3) and the Invention Agreement (Form E-4). You must provide NSERC with your Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN) on the Confirmation of Commencement Date (Form E-3) to receive the first instalment. If the Payment Activation – Part II (Form E-1 ) was received at least two weeks before your arrival to the laboratory, your payment will be deposited in your bank account for the first payment of your award within the next three to five weeks from the start date at the laboratory. If the Payment Activation – Part II ( Form E-1) was not submitted in time, your payment may be delayed. The first payment covers the period from the start date of the award to the end of the month in which the award was taken up.

Subsequent Payments

The second and subsequent instalments will be done by direct deposit to your bank account.

Direct Deposit

To set up direct deposit, complete the Direct Deposit form and submit it to NSERC by fax, by mail or by email. This method of payment guarantees that the funds will be deposited to your bank account by the 15th of every month. For more information, see Direct Deposit – Frequently Asked Questions. Note that NSERC does not provide a detailed pay stub.

Additional Allowances

This program does not provide any additional allowances for research costs, tuition fees or publication costs. Decisions on these matters rest with the host federal department or agency.

Travel Allowances

Incoming – You are entitled to reimbursement of the cost of travel from your place of residence at the time the offer was made to the host laboratory. The travel allowance will normally be reimbursed to you with a three-month delay. You are encouraged to take advantage of reduced air fares when available. The maximum amount payable is the cost of a one-way economy class air fare via the most direct route. You may purchase a round-trip ticket to take advantage of reduced air fares. However, for full reimbursement, the date of the return ticket should not be more than one month after the arrival date, and the return portion of the ticket must not be used and must be returned to NSERC with your travel claim. For electronic tickets, the invoice and boarding pass must be submitted. If you want to keep the return ticket, or the date of the return ticket is more than a month after the arrival date, you may claim only half of the price of the round-trip ticket. When you travel under a reduced fare plan, the allowance is based on the actual cost of the fare. You are expected to make your own travel arrangements and to pay the full cost yourself. NSERC will reimburse the cost of travel cancellation insurance if this is accompanied by the purchase of a more restrictive ticket of much lower price. Economy rail, bus fare or taxis from your home to the airport can also be claimed. There is no allowance for excess baggage or the storage and moving of personal belongings (including the rental of a moving truck such as Uhaul). If you intend to use frequent flyer points, such as AIR MILES®, please note that only the portion of your ticket purchased by cash will be refundable. Hotel accommodation, meals and other incidentals are not included for air travel. You may travel by any means, but reimbursement will not exceed the cost of one-way economy class air fare and associated connecting ground transportation.

For travel arrangements that are different from the above, NSERC will refer to Canadian governmental guidelines and regulations; This link will take you to another Web site PART III to determine a reasonable reimbursement for travel claims on a case-by-case basis. If you wish to claim refunds in these cases, you should provide a clear explanation of how you made the trip from your home to the host laboratory, the reason for choosing the alternate arrangement, an itemized list of actual costs of the trip, and an estimate of the cost of the direct flight if available (including associated ground transportation). Corroborative documentation from airline Web sites or other reputable sources should be provided wherever possible.

Upon arrival at the host laboratory, reimbursement must be requested by filling out and submitting to NSERC a Travel Claim (Form E-5), and by providing original receipts for air tickets and the cancelled portions of air tickets. Please note that travel which occurred before the offer of the award will not be reimbursed.

NSERC recognizes that travel costs may, in some cases, constitute a major financial obstacle. Fellows residing outside continental North America and Western Europe may request prepayment of air travel costs. Travel arrangements will be made by NSERC. In some cases, NSERC may prepay the travel costs through a recognized travel agency, if a pro forma invoice is received at least 15 working days before the payment due date.

In order to authorize prepayment of air fare, NSERC must have received confirmation that all requirements for the PhD have been completed. Reimbursement is also subject to approval by NSERC prior to making travel arrangements.

If you are accompanied by your spouse and/or dependent children for a period of at least six months, you may request reimbursement of travel costs for your family. The maximum amount payable for each dependent is the cost of a one-way economy class air fare and associated connecting ground transportation. You and your spouse and/or children are expected to travel together. If this is not possible, a request for separate travel allowances will be considered. If your spouse and/or dependant child(ren) do not stay in Canada for at least six months, a refund for their travel reimbursement will be required. If you marry between the time the award is made and the date when tenure of the award begins, you are eligible for the additional allowance.

Return Travel – You must complete at least one year of your fellowship to be entitled to reimbursement of your return travel costs. All rules apply as per incoming travel above. The maximum amount payable is the cost of a one-way economy air fare and associated connecting ground transportation from the location of the laboratory where the award was held to your place of residence at the time the fellowship was awarded. If you marry during the tenure of your fellowship, you may be eligible to receive a return travel allowance for your spouse, provided that your marriage occurred at least 30 days before termination of the award. A Return Travel Claim (Form E-8) should be used to apply for a refund of return travel costs.

The return trip must take place within three months after termination of the fellowship.

If you terminate your fellowship less than a year after starting, for any reason other than illness (which must be certified by a physician), you are not eligible for a return travel allowance. Moreover, you are required to refund one-twelfth of the incoming travel allowance for each month of tenure not completed.

All claims for travel reimbursement must be submitted to NSERC within four months following the travel.

Leave and Holidays

Leave of Absence

NSERC is to be notified if you are absent from the host laboratory for an extensive period of time. All leave must be approved by the host laboratory and NSERC.

Your fellowship will automatically be extended for the time period you take for this type of leave.

Paid Parental Leave

You are eligible for a four-month paid parental leave after your fellowship has been taken up.

If you are interrupting your fellowship within six months following the birth or adoption of a child in order to be the primary caregiver for the child, you may request a paid parental leave at your current stipend level for up to four months.

The maximum period of paid leave is four months, even in cases of multiple births or adoption of more than one child at the same time.

To request this leave, you must submit a letter to NSERC confirming that, during the parental leave, you:

  • will not be engaged in research activities or be employed;
  • will be the primary caregiver of the child;
  • are not eligible for, and will not receive, employment insurance or other maternity/parental benefits from other sources.

You should request the paid parental leave at least four months before the proposed start date of the leave.

As soon as possible after the birth/adoption of your child, you must submit a copy of the child's birth/adoption certificate to NSERC.

Your fellowship will automatically be extended for the time period you take for this type of leave.


No formal provision is made for annual holidays. You may take a maximum of three weeks of holidays for each period of 12 months of tenure. Arrangements must be made with your supervisor for all holidays taken. You do not receive credit for holidays not taken by the expiry date or termination date of your fellowship.

Renewal and Termination of Fellowship

Renewal of the Fellowship

Provided that satisfactory progress is made, and funding is available, your fellowship may be renewed for two further periods of 12 months each. NSERC will approve the renewal of your fellowship upon receipt of a Summary of Accomplishments/Renewal of the Fellowship (Form E-6). This form must be completed and signed by your supervisor and the departmental coordinator, then forwarded to NSERC three months prior to the expiry date of your fellowship.

Stipends may be increased only at the time your fellowship is renewed.

NSERC will send the fellow a letter confirming the renewal of your fellowship.

Termination of the Fellowship

A Termination of the Fellowship (Form E-7) must be completed and forwarded to NSERC immediately when you leave your position, with a copy sent to the departmental coordinator.

Any overpayment must be refunded to NSERC. If you leave prior to the expiry date of your fellowship, the total value of the award will be calculated on a prorated basis. You must refund any overpayment to NSERC.

A Fellow’s Feedback (Form E-10) and a Supervisor’s Feedback (Form E-11) should be completed and submitted directly to NSERC, with a copy to the departmental coordinator.


NSERC requires that all fellows be covered by health insurance. Fellows who are not covered by provincial health plans within Canada are required to secure their own medical insurance and provide proof of the same to NSERC and the host department or agency (Confirmation of Commencement Date [Form E-3]).

Canada has a national medical insurance system that covers the costs of medical care, including hospitalization, for all Canadians. The eligibility of foreigners and their families for provincial medical insurance varies from one province to another. If you and/or your family members are not eligible for provincial health insurance either temporarily or permanently, you are required to subscribe to a private insurance plan.

You may obtain information on private insurance companies by contacting the This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc.

Provincial health insurance is valid in the province of residence and, under certain conditions, elsewhere in Canada. You should consult the provincial health insurance office before travelling outside the province. It is generally advisable to subscribe to additional private insurance if travelling outside Canada, as provincial insurance schemes may not refund the full cost of health care in other countries, including the United States.

Web sites of the provincial health insurance offices are listed below. They will provide information on their registration requirements and specific rules and regulations.

Provincial Health Insurance Information
British Columbia
Medical Services Plan
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Alberta Health and Wellness
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Saskatchewan Health
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Manitoba Health
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Ontario Health Insurance Plan
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Régie de l'assurance-maladie du Québec
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New Brunswick
New Brunswick Medicare
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Nova Scotia
Medical Services Insurance 
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Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island Health and Wellness
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Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Care Plan
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Income Tax

Fellowships are subject to Canadian income tax (composed of federal and provincial income tax), the amount of which varies according to individual circumstances (such as province of residence, eligible deductions, etc.). NSERC is unable to dispense advice on income tax matters to individual students and fellows, given the uniqueness of each award recipient's personal financial situation. Consequently, you are encouraged to seek advice from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), or from a qualified income tax specialist. You are referred to the following document published by CRA: This link will take you to another Web site Income Tax Folio – S1-F2-C3: Scholarships, Research Grants and Other Education Assistance.

Since NSERC does not make deductions at source, you are responsible for payment of necessary income tax to the Canada Revenue Agency.

At the end of February, NSERC will issue a statement of income (T4A form) for the previous year for income tax purposes. Please note that travel reimbursement counts as income and will appear on the T4A form.

If you have left your host laboratory by the end of February, or you prefer to have your T4A form sent to another address, you should send an Address for Income Tax Form T4A (Form E-9) to NSERC.

Note: The deposit date of your payment in your bank account determines the year in which the amount of the instalment must be declared as income for tax purposes.

When leaving Canada, you are required to have a tax clearance before departure. It will be provided with a Statement of Earnings by NSERC upon termination of your fellowship.

Federal and Provincial Taxation Web Sites
Canada Revenue Agency
  • General Income Tax and Benefit Package
  • S1-F2-C3: Scholarships, Research Grants and Other Education Assistance
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Alberta This link will take you to another Web site
British Columbia This link will take you to another Web site
Manitoba This link will take you to another Web site
Newfoundland and Labrador This link will take you to another Web site
Quebec This link will take you to another Web site
Saskatchewan This link will take you to another Web site
Ontario This link will take you to another Web site
Prince Edward Island This link will take you to another Web site
Nova Scotia This link will take you to another Web site
New Brunswick This link will take you to another Web site

General Information

Cost of Living in Canada

The cost of living in Canada is moderate, relative to other industrialized countries. It may vary significantly, however, depending on the region of Canada and size of town. In cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, the cost of housing is high. The amount of the award is considered to be adequate for a modest standard of living for a single fellow. The spouse of a married fellow may be allowed to work in some cases, but such income cannot be relied on unless the spouse has received a firm offer of employment. Consult the This link will take you to another Web site Citizenship and Immigration Canada Web site for further information about spousal work permits.


NSERC does not make arrangements for living accommodation. Rooms and apartments are advertised in local newspapers. Laboratory staff are usually willing to provide assistance and advice to arriving fellows. In all cases, the cost of accommodation is the responsibility of the fellow.

Extensive information about housing in Canada can be found in This link will take you to another Web site The Newcomer's Guide to Canadian Housing.