In recognizing the economic value of tourism, Canada has increased its efforts to attract more visitors in recent years. If you are interested in visiting Canada, from exploring the natural beauty of the islands on the East Coast to whale watching on the West Coast, there is something to captivate any visitor. So how can you travel to Canada?
Unless you are a citizen of the U.S. or a Green Card holder, in order to travel to Canada you must first apply for either an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or a visitor visa. A visitor is someone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident but is legally authorized to enter Canada to visit as a tourist or to visit family or to conduct business.
If you are from a visa exempt country, you will need to apply to obtain an eTA before you can travel. However, if you are from a visa requiring country you must make an application for a visitor visa and satisfy the visa officer that:
- You will leave Canada at the end of your stay;
- You have sufficient money to cover the expenses related to your trip and your return to your home country;
- You do not intend to work or study in Canada with your visitor visa; and
- You have no criminal history and will not be a risk to the security of Canada.
In some cases, when you submit your visitor visa application, the visa officer may ask you to provide additional documents and even require you to undertake medical examinations. Almost all applicants from around the world who apply for visitor visas are also now required to provide biometrics at a local Visa Application Centre (VAC).
When we assist our clients in preparing their visitor visa applications, we provide as many documents as possible to demonstrate your eligibility and your ties to your home country to ensure the visa officer that your intention is to only visit Canada and that you will not overstay your visa.
Once approved for a visitor visa you will be issued with an official visa sticker that is affixed to your passport. And while you may request a multiple-entry or single-entry visa and indicate the dates for your planned trip, it is up to the visa officer that approves your application to determine the duration of your visa.
You are typically allowed to remain in Canada for up to 6 months when you enter Canada. Sometimes your passport may be stamped with the date of your entry but even if it is not stamped you can stay for up to 6 months from the date you entered Canada or until your passport expires. However, if a border services officer determines that you are only permitted to remain for a shorter period of time then they will make a notation in your passport and sometimes issue you with a visitor record that indicates the date by which you must leave Canada.
It is important to note that while the visitor visa issued to you indicates that you met the requirements at the time of application, every time you use the visitor visa to enter Canada the border services officer may assess your situation to ensure you still continue to be eligible and that you have not breached any of the conditions of a visitor visa.
It is extremely important to abide by the conditions of your visitor visa as it could impact your ability to re-enter Canada on future trips or even obtain visitor visas or other types of visas in the future.
In the coming weeks I will be writing about the conditions of visitor visas, what you can do if your visitor visa application is refused, and answer some of the most frequently asked questions from my clients on this topic.
Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.