Planning a trip to Canada? Not so fast! You can’t just waltz over the border and let your nose guide you to the nearest spot serving poutine fries. You have to get the proper travel authorisation first.
For many travellers, the document you need is a Temporary Resident Visa, also known as a Visitor Visa. This will allow you to travel to Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver, and wherever else you’re headed within the country for up to 6 months at a time.
It takes a good amount of time and effort to get your hands on this permit. Read on to learn what the requirements are, how to apply, and pitfalls to avoid during the process.
Canada Visitor Visa Requirements
First things first: are you eligible for this type of travel authorisation?
To be eligible, you must be able to meet the following visa requirements:
- You have a valid passport or travel document with at least 1 blank page.
- You must be in good health. (Meaning: you will be asked if you have any physical or mental conditions for which you will need treatment other than medicine during your stay. This is to make sure you will not be a burden on the Canadian healthcare system.)
- You must have sufficient funds to cover your stay in the country and your return home. (The amount of money required depends on how long your trip will last and whether you will stay in a hotel or in a private home with friends or relatives.)
- You must not have any criminal convictions nor convictions related to immigration.
- You must convince an immigration official that you plan to return to your country. You can do this by showing ties related to your family, home, job or financial assets.
- You must not intend to work or study in the country unless explicitly authorised to do so.
- In some cases, you may need to have a medical exam and present a letter of invitation from somebody who lives in Canada.
Canada Visitor Visa Application
There are 2 ways to apply: online or with a paper application.
Why apply online?
- It’s faster. You don’t have to wait for the mail to be delivered, and the processing times for online applications are often quicker.
- It’s more convenient. If you are asked to submit additional documents, you can quickly do so online.
- You can hold onto your passport until you are asked to submit it.
- You can get updates on your application status through your online account with your Canada Visitor Visa login.
Why apply on paper?
Some individuals must submit a paper application. This is true if you plan to enter the country using 1 of the following types of travel documents issued by a visa-exempt country:
- A certificate of identity (also known as an alien’s passport).
- Another refugee travel document for non-citizens.
The Canada Visitor Visa Application form is available online. To apply on paper, download the form and print it out.
Documents Required With Your Application
The documents you need as part of your application will depend on a few factors:
- What country you are from.
- Whether you’re applying online or on paper.
- Whether you’re applying from inside Canada or from outside the country.
Since these requirements vary widely depending on your personal situation, please find more information on the government website here.
Keep in mind that any documents you provide that are not in English or French must be translated. If you have documents in other languages, you will need to supply:
- A certified copy of the original document.
- An English or French translation of the document.
- An affidavit from the person who did the translation. The translation cannot be done by you or by a family member, so tap into your network of friends and colleagues.
An affidavit is a document where the translator swears that their translation is a true translation that accurately represents the original document. This must be done in the presence of an individual who is authorised to administer oaths in the translator’s country of residence.
Canada Visitor Visa Processing Time
Most applications are processed within a few weeks or less, although it depends on the visa office in your country and if you are asked to provide any additional documents after submitting your application.
You can check the usual processing times online based on what country you are applying from.
If you apply online, you can also track your application status.
Canada Visitor Visa Fees
The processing fee for the Visitor Visa is 100 Canadian dollars.
Most people need to submit biometrics (fingerprints and photo) after applying. The cost for the biometrics appointment is 85 Canadian dollars.
There may be additional third-party costs if you need more documents, such as a police report or medical exam.
All fees are nonrefundable. If your application is denied, your money will not be refunded.
Duration of Stay
Wondering how long you will be able to visit the Great White North?
Most visitors can stay in Canada for up to 6 months. When you arrive, the border services officer will determine how long you can stay. If they decide to permit you to stay for less or more than 6 months, they will put the date you must leave by in your passport. If you do not receive a stamp in your passport, you will be permitted to stay for 6 months or until your passport reaches its expiration date, whichever comes first.
That covers the basics, but if you’re still unsure about certain aspects of the programme, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions below.
Can I Extend My Visitor Visa to Canada?
Yes, you can. If you want to extend your authorisation, you must apply for what’s called a visitor record at least 30 calendar days before the authorised end of your stay. (In most cases, the end of your stay would be 6 months after the day you arrive in the country.) You can apply for the extension online.
What Are the Photo Requirements?
Most applicants have to attend a biometrics appointment and will have their photo taken there. If you get your biometrics taken, no additional photos are required.
However, if you do not go to a biometrics appointment, you must provide 2 identical photographs of yourself with the following guidelines:
- Taken within the last 6 months.
- Clear images printed on quality photographic paper, plain white or light-coloured background.
- Frame size at least 35 mm x 45 mm, size of head must be between 31 mm and 36 mm.
- Full head and tops of the shoulders must be visible, with the face centred and looking at the camera head-on with a neutral expression (no smiling or frowning!) and mouth closed.
- Digital photos must not be altered in any way.
- Black and white or colour photos are acceptable.
- Non-tinted prescription glasses are permitted, but the frame must not cover any part of your eyes. No sunglasses.
- Religious head coverings are permitted but must not cover facial features.
- Write your full name and date of birth on the back of both photos.
Do I Need a Visa If I’m in Transit?
Yes. If you are from a visa-required country, you must get the appropriate travel authorisation.
You can get a special transit visa if:
- Your international flight stops in Canada on its way to another country.
- You connect between 2 international flights at a Canadian airport.
- You transit through the airport in 48 hours or less.
- *You must not leave the airport in any of these cases.
You need the Temporary Resident Visa if:
- You leave the airport and enter the country, even if it’s for less than 48 hours.
- You transit through the country for more than 48 hours.
- You cross the border by any means other than air (i.e., land or sea).
Remember that if you are from a country eligible for the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), you can use that instead.
Canada Visitor Visa Rejection Reasons
The main concern immigration officials have when assessing visitor applications is whether or not the applicant (that’s you!) will return to the home country after the visit. You must provide all the evidence possible to show that you have every intention of going home, especially if you are from a developing or underdeveloped country.
These could be documents or affidavits related to your:
- property or assets (land deeds, vehicle titles, bank accounts).
- job (pay slips, permission letter for taking vacation time, letter of employment stating your responsibilities, salary and date expected back from vacation).
- good financial standing (bank account balance).
- family ties (birth certificates, marriage certificates, photos).
The documents marked as required in the application instructions are just the minimum. It’s a good idea to go above and beyond to make your case as strong as possible.
Please keep in mind that citizens of many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and EU Member States, are able to apply for Canada’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) instead of a tourist visa. This is a much simpler process.