Area of Law: Immigration Law
Answer # 660
Coming to Canada as a visitor, student, or transit throughRegion: Ontario Answer # 660
Canada generally welcomes visitors and makes entering Canada relatively simple for them. Visitors (known as “temporary residents”) are people who enter Canada for a temporary purpose and do not intend to remain in Canada or become a permanent resident. Tourists, students, and temporary workers are all considered temporary residents.
Some of the requirements to enter Canada will depend on the citizenship of the visitors. Citizens of the United States, Australia and most countries in Western Europe do not require visas, while visitors from most other countries do require a visa. A temporary resident visa is an official document that is placed in your passport. It shows that you are allowed to enter Canada as a visitor. A Canadian Consulate or Embassy can tell you whether you will need a visa to visit Canada. You may also refer to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website to find out if you need a visa to visit Canada.
Generally, visitors are not allowed to work or study in Canada unless they obtain authorization from IRCC. In many cases, a work or study permit will be required.
Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
Beginning March 15, 2016, Foreign nationals from visa-exempt countries entering Canada by air, including those transiting through Canada, will require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travellers with a valid visa. Entry requirements for those coming to Canada by land and sea have not changed.
An eTA is electronically linked to the traveller’s passport and is valid for five years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first. Applications for eTA’s are done online on the IRCC website, and in most cases the authorization will be issued immediately after submitting the online form.
If you need an eTA, it is recommended that you apply for it when you plan your trip, as opposed to waiting until you are ready to travel. As well, you must travel to Canada with the passport you used to get your eTA. If you require an eTA, you can only apply for one person at a time. For example, for a family of three, you must complete and submit the form three times.
Applicants who receive their study or work permit on or after August 1, 2015 will automatically be issued an eTA along with their permit, while those who received their permit before that date will have to apply for an eTA.
Basic requirements to enter Canada
All visitors, even those who do not need a visa to enter Canada, must meet the following basic requirements:
- have a valid travel document, such as a passport;
- be in good health;
- satisfy an Immigration Officer that you have ties, such as a job, home, financial assets and family, that will take you back to your country of origin;
- satisfy an Immigration Officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your visit; and
- have enough money for your stay. The amount of money you will need can vary with the circumstances of the visit, how long you will stay and whether you will stay in a hotel or with friends or relatives.
Visitors may also be required to undergo a medical exam, or provide a letter of invitation from someone who lives in Canada.
Temporary resident visas
Visitors to Canada who need a visa are required to have a temporary resident visa to enter Canada. However, a valid temporary resident visa is not a guarantee of entry into Canada. Even if you have a visa, an Officer at the port of entry will decide if you still meet the requirements for admission when you arrive in Canada.
Temporary resident visas must be obtained from outside Canada. Applications should be made at least one month before you intend to visit Canada. The application can be submitted by mail or in person to a visa office. You must provide a valid passport or travel document, and two recent passport sized photos of you and your accompanying family members, together with other documents or forms that are specific in your country of origin. Your nearest Canadian Embassy or Consulate can provide you with the information required to apply for a temporary resident visa.
You must also:
- satisfy an Officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your stay,
- show that you have enough money to maintain yourself and your family members in Canada and to return home,
- not intend to work or study in Canada unless authorized to do so,
- be law abiding and have no record of criminal activity,
- not be a risk to the security of Canada,
- provide any additional document requested by the Officer to establish your admissibility, and
- be in good health (complete a medical examination if required).
The date of expiry for visitor status is either stamped in your passport or on the document of visitor record. The stamp is valid for six months unless otherwise amended by an Officer. If there is no stamp or documented date of expiry, then your visitor status will expire six months after your date of arrival.
A single entry visa allows you to enter Canada only once, while a multiple entry visa allows you to enter Canada from any country multiple times during the validity of the visa.
You must submit your application to the Canadian visa office or Visa Application Centre (VAC) responsible for your area. For a list of visa offices, visit IRCC.
Extending your visit
If you want to extend your stay in Canada, you can apply in writing while your visitor status is still valid. You should allow approximately one month for the processing of this extension. It is an offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to remain in Canada once your visitor status has expired. Therefore, it is extremely important that you submit your application well before your status expires.
You must submit your application to extend stay at the responsible Canadian immigration office. Details can be found from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
If you intend to study or work in Canada during your visit, you must include full details of the proposed work or study in your application. A study permit is not needed for any program of study that is six months or less, courses that are not academic, professional or vocational in nature, courses included in tour packages as a secondary activity for tourists, and nursery schools or kindergartens.
For all other studies, students must obtain a study permit before coming to Canada. Students can apply at a Canadian Consulate, Embassy, or High Commission. A study permit is valid for the duration of the course of studies. To apply for a study permit, you must show a letter of acceptance from the school you plan to attend in Canada. The school must be a designated learning institution (DLI). You must also prove that you can support yourself while you are in Canada and that you have enough money to return home.
Note that a study permit or work permit is not a visa. The Government of Canada will not automatically issue a visitor visa if you extend your work or study permit. If you require a new visitor visa, you may need to submit a separate application. You should apply at least 2 months before you plan to leave Canada.
You can apply for a visitor visa from inside Canada if you meet all the conditions:
- you’re already in Canada
- you hold a valid study or work permit
- you want to leave and return to Canada in the near future
- your existing visitor visa is expired or was valid for only one entry
Students may only study at the school named on the study permit. If you want to change academic institutions, you must apply for a change to the conditions of your study permit. However, foreign students in post-secondary studies in Canada can transfer between programs of study and institutions without applying for a change to the conditions of their study permit. Students may extend their study permits by applying before their current permits expire.
Generally, foreign students are not allowed to work while studying in Canada. However, there are some exceptions for full-time students at publicly funded or degree granting institutions who may apply for work permits. A full-time student is a person whose program of study is normally at least 15 hours of instruction per week, leading to a diploma or certificate unless otherwise defined by an educational institution. Also, the post-graduation work program now allows certain students to obtain a work permit and work in their area of study for up-to three years in Canada.
For more information on coming to Canada as a visitor or student, including application processing fees, contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. To find foreign consulates and embassies in your province, click here.
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