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What is Canada's Visa Policy?

While there are currently 54 eligible visa exempt countries for visiting Canada, citizens from elsewhere in the world will need to ensure they obtain a temporary visa from a Canadian diplomatic mission before traveling to Canada.

For those who come from a visa exempt country, they will take part in the Electronic Travel Authorization program, which has been in place since 2016.

Depending on where you are from in the world, you can either apply for your visa online or you may have to travel to a Canadian diplomatic mission. Keep reading to learn more about the visa application process for Canada.

The History of the Canadian Visa

In the year 1984, 76 countries were able to travel into Canada without a visa. However, over the years, procedures have been tightened up, and now only 54 countries can enter Canada without a visa.

In 2013, the government first announced their intention for the Canadian eTA procedure to fall in line with the ESTA policy in the US. Applications opened in 2015, and visitors had to use this system for any entries starting in November 2016.

Since 2018 and 2019, Canada has expanded its requirements for photographs and fingerprints to enter the country. If you are applying for a visitor visa, work permit, study permit, or to become a permanent resident, these can be provided at a center in your local country before your visit.

For anyone who can enter the country and receive their permit at that time, your biometrics are collected at this point.

If you are entering the country for an extended period of time, these biometrics are collected every ten years, and applicants are required to pay a fee for this process. Certain exemptions do apply, such as for permanent residents of the country.

Visa Types for Canada

When it comes to the Canadian visa options, they generally fall under four categories for temporary residents. These include visitors, students, temporary foreign workers, and temporary resident permit holders.

Unless you are eligible for the Electronic Travel Authorization or are a citizen or temporary resident, you'll need to hold a valid visa every time you enter Canada. Depending on the visa you are choosing, or where you are from, these may need to be applied for before, during, or after your arrival.

However, US citizens and resident are the exemption; they only need a valid passport to enter Canada for tourism.

A popular visa option in Canada is the working holiday visa, which is split into three different categories: working holiday, young professionals, and international co-op internships.

There are specific age limits and citizenship requirements for these visas, but if you don't fall under those categories, there may be other work options available if you are sponsored by a company.

Temporary Visas

Temporary visas allow people to enter Canada for a wide variety of reasons. Most of them allow for stays of up to 6 months, though some permit people to stay longer.

These visas may be single or multiple entry, depending on the type of visa and the applicant’s nationality. The purpose of travel may help determine the number of entries, as well. 

Types of available temporary visas for Canada are listed below.

Tourist Visas

Travelers who do not qualify for an ETA will need to get a tourist visa before they take a holiday or visit family in Canada.

Travelers will need to submit information proving that they qualify for this visa. This includes a summary of a trip itinerary or a letter from family or friends inviting the traveler to Canada.

Applicants may also need to submit proof of their relationship, if they are visiting family, and proof that they have sufficient funds to cover their stay in Canada.

If there is confusion, applicants may need to submit documentation proving that they have a clear criminal record and information about their employment or student status at home. 

Finally, Canada may require proof that the traveler plans to leave Canada within a certain period of time. 

Every tourist visa is evaluated independently and is issued with a certain length of stay. This is usually not more than six months.

Tourist visas can be extended while in Canada by applying for a Visitor Record. This is a separate document and permits stays of various lengths.

Student Visas

Applicants who want to study in Canada will need to be accepted by a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). All primary and secondary schools qualify.

However, many universities do not have this official designation. Students will need to check on this before they apply for entry and for their visa.

Students will need to submit a letter of acceptance from a DLI where they plan to study. Most schools are experienced in producing these and will help with the application process.

They will also need to prove that they have funds to pay for their education in Canada and that they plan to return home after their studies are over.

Students who plan to bring family with them while they study will need to show that they have money to support themselves and their family while in Canada

Student visas are usually valid for the length of the study program plus 90 days. If the program takes longer than planned, the visa can be extended.

Students will need to show proof that they finished their study program. This can be a copy of their diploma, certificate, etc.

Student visas usually allow people to leave Canada and return while they are in their academic program. 

Certain limited types of work are available for international students, as well as Post Graduate Work Permits that allow for work after a course of study is completed.

Diplomatic/Official Visas

This visa is for people visiting Canada on official diplomatic business for their home country. Applicants must hold diplomatic passports and be from a country that requires a visa to Canada.

Diplomats can enter Canada without going through Customs or Immigration, but they can only stay for the duration of their diplomatic itinerary.

If they want to stay longer, they will need to get a different type of visa for the second part of their stay.

Most of the time, a diplomat’s home government will take care of obtaining the necessary permission for them to travel to Canada.

Courtesy Visas

Courtesy visas are for people traveling on diplomatic or official business who do not, for some reason, qualify for a diplomatic or official visa. 

Other than that, it is almost identical to the diplomatic visa.

Travelers will need to make a case for why they should get this visa when their position does not qualify them for it. Their government may do this for them when they obtain their visa for travel.

Super Visas

Canada’s super visa is for parents and grandparents of people who are citizens of Canada or permanent residents there. It permits extended stays of up to two years in the country.

People on super visas cannot work or attend school in Canada, and they cannot apply for or use benefits (like health coverage) while in the country.

Super visa applicants will need to undergo a medical screening to make sure they are healthy enough for a long-term visit in Canada.

They will also need a letter from their child or grandchild inviting them to stay, along with information about that person’s immigration status and financial status in Canada.

Proof of health insurance for their stay in Canada and documents showing that the traveler intends to return home are also required (these may be a house deed, etc.).

Super visas can be extended for another two years. Applicants must begin the application process at least 6 months before their current super visa expires.

Visa to Give Birth in Canada

Babies who are born in Canada are automatically Canadian citizens. Canada will not prevent women from crossing the border to give birth there. 

However, the woman will need to cover all the costs of her birth care and process in Canada, and will need to show that she has the necessary funds to do that.

She may also need to undergo a medical examination, if she has a high-risk pregnancy.

Note that the women who give birth cannot apply for Canadian citizenship and they are not eligible for healthcare coverage in Canada.

These visas are usually good for up to 6 months. Some may permit multiple entries.

Intended Organ Donor Visa

This visa is for people who are proven qualified organ donors for recipients in Canada. Most of the time, recipients and donors are matched through a program. 

To get this visa, applicants will need a letter from a physician at a qualified transplant center. The letter will need to state that the donor is a match for the recipient.

It will also need to state that medical costs for the donor are covered by the recipient’s health insurance.

Additionally, donors will need to show that their home country has medical facilities sufficient to help them if they suffer complications from the donation later on. 

This ensures that they will not need to return to Canada for medical treatment because their country cannot help them.

These visas are generally issued for 6 months, though they can be extended if there is a transplant-related medical reason to do so.

Facilitation Visa

This is a specialty visa for citizens of CAN who do not currently hold a passport from the country. Most of the time, these are dual citizens who have struggled to get a CAN passport.

Facilitation visas are usually used by people who need to enter Canada for an emergency and cannot get a passport before that time.

Applicants will need to prove their Canadian citizenship, as well as the reason why they do not currently have a Canadian passport. 

Most of the time, applicants will need to go to a Canadian embassy or consulate and have an interview to get a facilitation visa. This allows them to explain their situation in person. 

When applying, people will need to state the nature of the emergency that requires them to enter Canada. This will determine the length of stay permitted on their visa.

Business Visa

The business visa is for travelers who are representing foreign companies who want to do business with companies in Canada. 

It does not permit people to work for companies in Canada. Instead, it permits people to attend meetings, sign contracts or agreements, participate in conferences, etc.

Travelers applying for a business visa to Canada will need to show that they are owners or employees of a business situated outside of Canada.

They will also need to show that they are in the process of developing business relationships in Canada and, preferably, that they have done this type of work before in other countries.

They may also need to prove that they have a source of income that comes from outside Canada.

This visa permits only short stays in Canada. However, the visa may permit multiple stays over 3, 5, or even 10 years.

Temporary Work Visa

A temporary work visa allows people to work in Canada for up to 6 months at a time. It can be extended for up to 4 years, but that is the maximum time allowed.

Applicants will need to show that they have a job in Canada or that they have recently graduated in Canada and have been hired there.

They will need to show that they are working for a qualified company in Canada. This list is subject to change, but most companies that are not on it will simply not hire foreign workers. 

If it is relevant, people getting these visas will need to show that they are qualified to do the job they have been hired to do.

In some cases, people may need to undergo a medical examination before they apply for a temporary work visa. This will prove that they are able to do the job they’ve been hired for.

An interview may also be necessary to ensure that people plan to return home after their time in Canada, or to verify information. 

People on Temporary Work Visas can apply for certain types of permanent residence in Canada. They will need to prove that they qualify for this.

Working Holiday Visa

The working holiday visa is for young people who want to travel in Canada and plan to work while they do so.

These visas are issued on a random basis, meaning that applicants should apply, then wait for their turn to enter Canada.

Once they have been selected, they will have 10 days to decline the invitation. Otherwise, they must complete the application process ASAP.

Working holiday visas permit stays in Canada for 1 year. After that, people must return home.

Temporary Residence Permit

A temporary residence permit allows people to enter Canada for specific reasons that are not covered by these other types of temporary visas.

People will need to demonstrate their need for the permit and the permit will only be issued for the time that they need to be in Canada.

Permanent Resident Visa

Permanent resident visas allow people to stay in Canada long-term.

Self-Employed Persons Visa

People who have the skills required to start their own business in Canada can apply for this visa.

They will need to show proof that they have the skills they need, as well as proof that their business idea has funding behind it.

Eligibility for this visa will be assessed based on a points scale. Applicants need to accrue at least 135 points to be eligible for the visa.

Points are assessed based on experience, education, age, adaptability, and language skill in either English or French.

Applicants will need to provide biometric information and may need to visit a Canadian embassy or consulate to do this.

Startup Visa

This visa is for people with new or innovative business ideas who want to open those businesses in Canada.

Applicants need to have a personal worth over CAD $300,000. They must also be planning to own and manage at least ⅓ of the new business they are starting in Canada.

Their business will need to create jobs (or maintain jobs already created) within three years of the person entering Canada.

The business also needs to have funding behind it. This can be angel investors, venture capitalists, or other investors.

Finally, the applicant needs to be proficient in either English or French and will need to provide biometric data when requested.

Immigrant Investor Visa

Immigrant investors are people willing to invest significant sums of money in Canada. To qualify, a person needs to have a net worth above CAD $800,000. 

Additionally, they need to invest at least CAD $400,000 in Canada. This will be returned, without interest, after 5 years.

Applicants will need to show that they qualify financially and will need to make the necessary contributions to Canada when asked. 

They will also need to submit biometric data whenever that is requested.

Live-In Caregiver Visa

Live-in caregivers are people qualified to give in-home medical care to elderly people, disabled people, or children.

They need to prove that they have these qualifications, and that they will be living in a private home in Canada.

This program is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but may open to international applicants again soon.

Quebec-Selected Skilled Worker Visa

The province of Quebec has a list of workers that they need in their area. Travelers who qualify for a job on this list can apply for this visa.

Workers will be prioritized based on a system involving their education, work experience, language proficiency, experience in Quebec, family in Quebec, and other factors. 

Applicants must first get a certificate from Quebec that invites them to apply for the visa. Then, they will receive an immigration package, which they must complete as quickly as possible.

After that, they may need to submit biometric data, have a medical exam, interview with officials, and more.

It takes a long time to get one of these visas and selection is not guaranteed. However, once selected, people can stay in Quebec as long as they want.

Family Sponsorship Visa

This visa is for people who have family members who are permanent residents or citizens in Canada. This family member must be willing to sponsor the applicant for the visa.

People can sponsor their children, parents, grandparents, spouses, and common law partners. Some other relatives may be allowed on a case by case basis.

The sponsor must complete paperwork as well as the applicant, and these must be submitted at the same time.

Express Entry Visas

The Express Entry program allows people from all over the world to apply to live in Canada. There are a few programs that people can submit applications for online.

If granted, these visas permit people to live and work in Canada permanently, unless special circumstances dictate otherwise.

All of these visa programs involve ranking candidates based on eligibility criteria, which are different for each type of application.

Only those who score the highest will be invited to apply to live and work in Canada. 

People who want to move to Canada should continue working in their home country.

If they are not selected, they can resubmit their profile when they have experience that will get them a higher score.

Federal Skilled Worker Program

Canada keeps a list of professions where there are more jobs than Canadians can fill. People who qualify for these jobs can apply for entry to Canada through this program.

Note that the list of professions needed is subject to change. People who want to immigrate to Canada should check it regularly to see if they qualify.

Federal Skilled Trades Program

This program is similar to the one above, but is for people who are skilled in trades rather than other jobs.

Trades include (but are not limited to): machinists, welders, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc.

As with the skilled worker program, the jobs needed in Canada are subject to change at any time.

Provincial Nomination Program

Different provinces have different needs. This visa is for medium- to low-skill jobs that are essential in Canada and that will contribute to the economy.

Applicants will be selected and located within Canada. They will not have a choice about where they will live or what their job will be. 

However, they can choose to only apply in certain provinces. It helps if they have skills that are specifically needed in that province.

Canadian Experience Visa

People in Canada on temporary work or student visas who want to become permanent residents can apply for this visa.

Applicants will need to show that they are proficient in either English or French and that they have been good citizens while in Canada.

They will submit a profile, which will be scored or ranked. Those that come in the highest will be invited to apply for permanent residence.

At that point, they will be directed to the correct documents, which they will need to fill out promptly. They will also need to pay the relevant fees.

Once accepted, people can make plans to move to Canada permanently (or to remain there if they are applying from inside the country).

Applying for a Canadian Visa

For anyone who needs to apply for a visa, you'll need to either apply online or with a physical application at a Visa Application Center. In recent years, Canada has also introduced a program called CAN+.

This program is in place for anyone who has entered Canada within the last ten years or who holds a visa for the US. This means they can supply proof of their past trips and then submit less financial support information.

If you are the parent or grandparent of a Canadian permanent resident or citizen, you can apply for a super visa which allows you to stay for two years in the country without having to renew your visa.

Documents Needed for a Canada Visa

When applying for a Canada visa, you will need to supply a wide variety of documents. You'll need your passport, the completed Canada visa application form, and proof of your visa feed payment. On top of that, you need to prove you have a clean criminal record and may also need to go through a medical exam. Photographs are required to be uploaded, and these will need to comply with the requirements.

You will need to share proof of your financial support for the trip, as well as showing you will return to the country following your visit. Finally, depending on the type of trip you are going on, you'll also need to provide a cover letter or a letter of support.

As we mentioned above, you'll also need to supply your biometrics. During this current time, this procedure may vary, so ensure you check the current requirements for biometrics.

If you are applying for a visa along with a minor of age 17 or under, the minors will be attached as dependents on the adult's application form. However, if the minor is traveling alone, you'll need to check the visa requirements for this process.

As you can see, the visa application process is incredibly in-depth for Canada, so you'll want to ensure you carry out the research and application well ahead of your entry into the country to avoid any delays or issues at the border.

Contact embassy to start the visa process.

Canada ETA

For those 54 countries that are visa-exempt for entering Canada, they must apply for the ETA before their trip. This is a quick and easy online process that requires you to pay a small fee of CA$7 for the application.

You'll have to share your personal details, passport information, citizenship information, proof of funds for your trip, contact details, and employment history.

You are also required to declare health information, immigration history, and any convictions. The ETA is valid for up to five years or until your passport expires and offers you multiple entries to the country. Upon completing your application, you won't have to add in any information about your trip at that time.

If you are traveling to Canada this year, ensure you check out the current requirements for entry into the country. At this time, some visas may require a different application process or support of your application to go through.

For those individuals who aren't eligible for the ETA, we encourage you to start your application as early as possible to avoid any delays to your trip. This will ensure you have no issues upon your entry and can enjoy your visit to Canada without worrying about your visa application.

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