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Getting a Tourist/Visitor Visa in Canada

tourist visa visitor visa Nov 24, 2021

A Visitor Visa (or a TRV – Temporary Resident Visa, as it is officially called) gives you permission to enter the country before you arrive. In other words, it means you meet the basic eligibility requirements to enter the country. However, this does not guarantee you will be permitted into the country because that is up to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer who will interview you at the border once you arrive.

Not everyone requires a visitor visa to come to Canada as others will need to have an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) if they are TRV exempt, but rest assured as confusing as this all may seem, by the end of this post you will have a good idea of what this all means, so hang in there and keep reading!

When Do I Need a Visitor Visa?

In most instances, you are required to travel to Canada with a visitor visa. You may also need a visitor visa if you are planning to go through a Canadian airport during your travel to another destination, even if you are just switching planes.

Whether you need a visitor visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) or just your passport, will depend on a number of factors. Some factors include the type of travel document you are using, your nationality, and your method of travel to Canada. Check to see if you need a visa to travel to Canada. In some circumstances, you may need an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) instead, which we will discuss later in the blog.

Requirements for a Visitor Visa

It is important to note that while applying for a visitor visa may seem easy, these types of visas are highly discretionary and must not only “check all the boxes” for the immigration officer but you must show that you will meet the requirements. Also, you should make sure that you prepare a very solid file for submission as in many busy Visa posts, the officers get a very short amount of time to look at a file before rendering a decision. You must show him/her that you meet the requirements and make it easy for them to say “Yes.”

To be eligible, you must:

  • Have a valid travel document (ie: a Passport)
  • Show that you will leave Canada once your authorized period of stay is over
  • Have sufficient funds to cover your stay in Canada
  • Pay the required fees if applicable
  • Not be criminally or medically inadmissible to Canada (in some cases)

To apply for a visitor visa, you would need to provide biometrics as part of your application. Depending on where you are applying from and the application process, you may be required to give your biometrics after applying online or through a paper-based application. You can also give your biometrics at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) if you are applying from outside of Canada.

You may be required to give your biometrics, including a fingerprint and photo, in order to confirm your identity. It also makes it easier to process your application if you decide to re-enter Canada in the future as this will not be required and they are kept on the system for 10 years.

Medical Exam
Generally, if you are traveling to Canada for less than six months, you are not required to submit a medical exam. The exception to that is if you’re working or studying in a certain field of work that requires an exam, such as the health profession, or are a medical student. Click here to see if you require a medical exam for your visit to Canada.

Letter of Invitation
It is possible that the Immigration Department will ask you for a letter of invitation when you have applied for your visitor visa. A letter of invitation is used to verify the person applying for the visitor visa by someone in Canada.

The letter must include the following about the applicant:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Address and phone number
  • Your relationship with the inviter
  • The purpose of their visit
  • Length of stay
  • Where the applicant will stay
  • When the applicant plans to leave Canada

The letter must include the following about the person writing the letter:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Canadian address and phone number
  • Job title
  • Status in Canada and documents to prove your status
  • Details of your family (ie. names and dates of birth of your spouse and dependents)
  • The number of people living in your household

With all of this said, each application needs to be unique to your situation and you need to add in the required documentation, which is tricky as most of it is not listed on the application checklist. You should also not limit your documentation solely to what is on the checklist.

Remember you are making the application and you do not need to be concerned with only the things that are listed on the checklist. While it is true that you must include everything so that you can meet the minimums of what is required and not have your application returned for not meeting the application requirements, the checklist simply exists as a guide. This checklist gives the officer what they need AT A MINIMUM to make a decision while being able to facilitate processing of applications in a bureaucratic and expedient manner. This is what you are not told, and many are shocked about getting a refusal and bewildered as they did not know something.

Visitor Visa Fees

The fees for a visitor visa depend on a few factors, including whether you’re restoring your status, extending your status, and if you have dependents. Generally, if you are traveling by yourself, the application fee for a visitor visa is CAD $100. If you are applying for a family, it would be $100 per family member but there is a maximum fee of CAD $500.

Processing Times

At the time of writing, due to COVID-19, the federal government has put in place travel restrictions to limit travel in and out of Canada. On top of that, individuals who are allowed to travel during this time are facing delays in their application processes during this time. Check processing times for an estimate on your visitor visa application status.

Visitor Visa Length of Stay

Generally, visitors are permitted to stay in Canada for a period of up to six months (180 days). The date you need to arrive in Canada is usually stamped onto your passport when you receive your Temporary Resident Visa (TRV). This is the date you must arrive in Canada. Remember, if you do not enter on or before the date indicated on your passport, your TRV will no longer be valid.

When you arrive in Canada, CBSA officers will interview you to determine if you could enter Canada. If the officer decides that you are permitted to stay in Canada for a period of fewer than six months, they will specify the date you should leave in your passport and/or visitor record. If you do not get a specific date for your stay in Canada, you are supposed to leave by the six-month mark or when your passport expires, whichever comes first.

Did You Know… Each time you leave Canada and then re-enter Canada, the six-month validity restarts?

What is a Visitor Record?

A visitor record is a document issued by a CBSA officer or IRCC outlining the details of your stay in Canada. You can apply for a visitor record from within Canada or at the port of entry when you arrive.

If you are planning to extend your stay in Canada beyond the authorized six-month period, you would need to apply for approval at least 30 days before your visitor record expires (however there are some exemptions depending on the strategy that you wish to employ for your individual situation).

If you are at the port of entry, you would need to let the CBSA officer know you are planning to stay longer than six months and make sure that you have a valid reason with documentation if required. With that said I would tread carefully on this as they could reject and then question you as to why you are coming in, in the first place and possible turn you around and send you home. Again, this is the most extreme case but it is still something you need to be aware of. If they approve your Visitor Record, then you will be provided a date by which you have to leave Canada. This date is the expiry date of your authorized stay in Canada. Generally, it is stamped onto your passport, or you will be issued a visitor record with the new date.

You may also be issued a visitor record if your application to restore your status has been approved. For instance, if you were studying in Canada under a study permit but lost your status and you wish to restore it, you can apply to restore your status. If approved, you will be issued a visitor visa outlining the details of your updated visa status. A visitor record may include conditions that must be followed during your period of stay in Canada. Some conditions are implied. For instance, you are not allowed to study or work while in Canada, unless you have a valid permit to do so. In addition, it is implied that you will leave Canada once your authorized stay is over. Everyone who is issued a TRV and/or Visitor Record must strictly adhere to all the conditions of their stay.

TRV Refusals

There are several reasons why an officer reviewing your application may refuse you. For instance, you may get refused if your application does not meet the basic eligibility requirements, you are inadmissible on any grounds listed under the IRPR, or simply if the officer is not satisfied that you will leave Canada at the end of your stay, have another intention to come or do not have the funds to support your trip.

Can I appeal the refusal of a Temporary Resident Visa application?
Unfortunately, there is no right to appeal the refusal of an application for a TRV. However, you can seek leave for judicial review at the Federal Court or ask for reconsideration in some instances. With that being said, this is reserved for extreme cases and there is no guarantee that the Federal Court will hear your case. If you believe that refusal of your application was discriminatory, you can bring forward a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

If you would like to re-submit your application for the TRV, you have the ability to do this, but it will only be considered if there were changes to your application or new information for the officer to consider.

TRVs and Inadmissibility

In very rare circumstances, if you do not meet the basic eligibility and/or admissibility requirements to enter Canada, you may be granted a Temporary Resident Permit. See our blog comparing TRVs, TRPs, and Visitor Records here.

This is an option reserved for extreme cases in which admission is justified on certain grounds. This includes any circumstance in which the foreign nationals’ presence in Canada would outweigh any risks to Canadian society. Factors such as the health and safety of Canadian citizens are very important to take into consideration when deciding whether to allow an individual who is found to be inadmissible, into the country. The officer reviewing your application must be satisfied that your visit to Canada is justified.

Note: A Temporary Resident Permit can be cancelled at any time and are 100% discretionary.

Electronic Travel Authorization

An Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) authorizes a foreign national to travel to or transit through Canada. Successfully obtaining an ETA means you can travel to Canada as many times as you would like, as long as they are for a period of fewer than six months and your passport is valid.

An ETA is electronically linked to your passport and is valid for up to five years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. If your passport expires, you will need to apply for a new ETA. At the time of writing, an ETA only costs CAD $7 and you could simply apply online.

Note: If you are planning a trip to Canada, it is advised that you apply for an ETA before booking your travel ticket. This is to ensure that you are authorized to enter Canada and that you are not spending money on a trip to a country that you cannot enter.

You may need an ETA if you are travelling to or through Canada from a visa-exempt country. In addition to an ETA, you would still need to provide other travel documents and convince the officer that you are admissible into the country. In other words, an ETA does not mean you are admissible. It simply means you have the required authorization. It is still up to the CBSA officer whether you should be permitted to enter or not.

Visa-Exempt Countries

A TRV may not be necessary if you are travelling from certain countries that do not require a visitor visa. Visa-exempt countries are stated under s.190 of the Immigration Refugee Protection Regulations. Here are some examples of visa-exempt countries:

  • United States of America
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • United Kingdom
  • Singapore

With that being said, the list of visa-exempt countries is always changing so be sure to stay updated if you are planning to travel to or through Canada. If you are travelling from a visa-exempt country, you are required to obtain an ETA, as noted above.

Effects of COVID-19

There are many changes to immigration due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and this includes eligibility for applying for a visitor visa. Make sure that you are constantly checking these regulations and be sure to ensure that you are meeting/falling into the proper exemption. Again, these rules are always changing, and you should be aware of these, as even if you have a valid TRV or ETA you might find that the airline will not board you on the plane as airlines face big fines should they board you and you are not found to be admissible to Canada, so thus they will err on the side of caution.

Final Thoughts

While a TRV seems on the surface to be quite an easy application to make it is/can be very deceptive. There are countless people who apply only to be refused and say, “Wow if they needed that, why didn’t they ask?” Like any application you need to treat this seriously and make sure that you a very tactical in what you are putting into your application.

If you want to learn more about a visitor or tourist visa, have a look at our DIY Tourist Visa Course to learn all of the secrets that professionals use so that you can have a fair advantage and put forth the best application you can to maximize your chances of success.

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