Community Explorer

SIS Import - UTF8 and "Couldn't find Canvas CSV import headers" errors

I had a frustrating day trying to import data into Canvas via an upload of CSV data on the admin SIS Import page.

I was building the data using Excel, and saving it to CSV with UTF8 format via the "Save As" option.

When I did this, I found I was getting the error message "Couldn't find Canvas CSV import headers" when I tried to upload it on the SIS Import page

When I inspected the file using a text editor, the headers looked fine.

However, when I inspected them using a command line tool (for me this was the `less` command on a Terminal window of my Mac) I could see that there was a character at the start of my file with the representation <U+FEFF>

This turns out to be the BOM character (Byte order mark) and is added by Excel to files in UTF8 format even though it is not strictly needed for UTF-8 (possibly this is a mac issue) 

I found this was a reliable way to get rid of it from my file:

1. In the terminal window, open the file with the editor `vim`:


2. Hit the colon key (":") and enter the command "nobomb"

3. Now save your file. To do this, hit the colon key again, and enter the command wq which writes your file and then quits

character showing up in files. How to remove them? · GitHub 

I hope this might help someone else having the same headaches as me!

Labels (1)
7 Replies
Community Participant

Hi Carol, 

Thanks for sharing. I have had a day like that. We do not use a SIS so all users and enrollments must be done manually. Initially, I was saving the files as a CSV-UTF 8 and had the same problem, no headers were found. So, I went to the guides and found the templates for users and enrollments. When I updated my users and enrollments using the templates and saved them as just CSV files all was wonderful. 

Hi Tina

Thanks for sharing this useful solution!

Community Member

Hi, I have had the same problem with the csv file. My solution was very simple. I opened the xls file in Numbers and exported as a csv file. The csv file generated works fine. So this appears to be a problem that is generated by excel.

Community Contributor

Thank you so much.  I spent an hour on this before I found this simple and accurate response.  

0 Kudos
Community Member

Hi  @carols ‌ I used to have the exact same problem and the common issues where:

  • When I save the CSV file, it is saved using semicolons. So, I just open the file with the NotePad to check it if using semicolons and replaced it with commas (you can also change the configuration on the PC so it will always be saving the CSV files with commas)
  • If any of the ID rows got a blank space before or after the cell it will also didn't work.
  • Any kind of symbol is an issue too... we got some students with weird symbol in their names so I just need to replace it everytime...


0 Kudos
Community Member

You sir, are my hero. I was ready to throw something. I dropped it into Numbers and saved it as a CSV and it uploaded just fine.

0 Kudos
Community Member

Good afternoon, everyone.

Our organisation were having issues with this when generating a CSV file in C#. We have managed to solve it by ensuring that BOM was not being used in the import file with: new UTF8Encoding(false). 

You can also quickly switch the encoding in Notepad++ with the encoding tab at the top. 



0 Kudos