Visa policy of Canada
A foreign national wishing to enter Canada must obtain a temporary resident visa unless he or she is a citizen of one of the 51 eligible visa exempt countries and territories. Every year, more than 35 million people visit Canada.
Visa policy map
The citizens of the following countries and territories are able to visit or transit through Canada with a valid passport and without obtaining a visa for a period of up to six months. Visitors are eligible if they are in good health, can convince an immigration officer that they have ties (job, home, financial assets or family) that will take them back to their home country and have enough money for their stay. In some cases a medical exam and letter of invitation may be required.
- Allowed stay
On entry, Canada Border Services Officer (BSO) stamp passports or travel documents and record the date by which a traveller must leave Canada. Visitors wishing to extend their status date must apply 30 days before it expires.
- Inclusion criteria
In order to be added to the visa waiver list a country has to fulfill about 40 conditions, grouped into seven categories:
- socio-economic conditions
- immigration issues
- travel document integrity
- safety and security issues
- border management
- human rights issues
- bilateral considerations.
The decision is made by analyzing all of the criteria in an overall review instead of a checklist so there is a certain level of flexibility.
Transit without a visa
In addition to visa exempt nationals, the Transit Without Visa (TWOV) program and the China Transit Program (CTP) allow certain foreign nationals to transit through Canada on their way to and from the United States without a Canadian transit visa. They also must hold a valid US visa, travel on an approved airline (either Air Canada, Air China, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Jazz Air, Sky Regional Airlines, and Air Georgian) and transit through a participating Canadian international airport (either Vancouver International Airport or Toronto Pearson International Airport, Terminal 1 only).
For Transit Without Visa those are the nationals of the following countries:
Citizens of the majority of countries need a temporary resident visa to visit Canada. They need to apply at one of the consular offices of Canada or at one of the Canadian Visa application centers (run by VFS Global). There is no separate application for business visitors. The temporary resident visa covers all visitors, including those in Canada on business. Some visitors are eligible to apply entirely online. Parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents can apply for the parent and grandparent super visa which allows them to stay for up to two years in Canada without renewing their status.
Citizens of the following 29 countries, as of September and December 2013, also must provide biometrics (fingerprints and photograph):
Citizens of Somalia are banned from entering Canada or undergoing Transit in Canada. Exempt are those holding a Temporary Resident Permit issued by a Canadian mission, entry is allowed if holding a visa. 
Number of tourist visas issued:
Changes to the list of visa-exempt countries and territories
On 5 September 2002, visa restrictions were reintroduced for Saudi Arabian citizens travelling to Canada because 'Saudi Arabia has not demonstrated the necessary will nor that it possesses the infrastructure to deny the use of its passports to terrorists, criminals or other inadmissible persons'.
On 11 May 2004, visa restrictions were reintroduced for Costa Rican citizens travelling to Canada because the 'number of Costa Rican nationals travelling to Canada to claim refugee protection or to enter the United States illegally, using Canada as a transit point, continues to grow' and also because there is 'a growing incidence of Costa Rican document abuse by nationals of neighbouring countries'.
On 26 March 2009, visa requirements were lifted for Croatian citizens travelling to Canada because 'immigration violation and visa application refusal rates for Croatian nationals have steadily decreased over the past five years, while the number of refugee claims and removals has remained low'.
On 13 July 2009, visa restrictions were reintroduced for Mexican citizens travelling to Canada because of three main factors: the number of refugee claims for Mexican nationals has substantially increased from less than 3 500 in 2005 to almost 9 500 in 2008, the immigration violation rate has steadily increased over the past three years and the risks related to travel documents, organised crime and corruption.
Canadian citizens enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen Area, which includes the Czech Republic. When the Czech Republic joined the European Union with 9 other countries in 2004, the European Union started a dialogue with the Canadian government to lift visa requirements for citizens of these countries to receive visa reciprocity between the all Schengen countries and Canada. The result was the lifting of visa requirements for Czech citizens in October 2007. However, on 16 July 2009, Canada reintroduced visa requirements for Czech citizens as the overstay percentage was very high because many Roma filed for asylum. The EU urged Canada that "This highly regrettable situation should be brought to an end as soon as possible." In October 2013, following a contentious reform of the refugee determination system that significantly brought down the number of false asylum claims, Canada lifted visa requirement for Czech citizens effective immediately on November 14, 2013.
Starting from 22 November 2010, holders of an ordinary Taiwan passport with a personal identification number were able to enter Canada without a visa because 'TRV refusal rates and the number of immigration violations, removals, and asylum claims by Taiwan passport holders are low'.
On 13 September 2012, Botswana, Namibia, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Swaziland were removed from the list of exempted nations. As a result, citizens of these five countries were required to obtain visas in advance to travel to or transit through Canada. Botswana, Namibia, and Swaziland were removed primarily due to concerns relating to human trafficking (especially of minors) and the use of fraudulent documents. Also, Namibia had the highest immigration violation rate, with 81% of its citizens in Canada committing immigration violations, and 71% of Namibian travellers made asylum claims in 2011 in Canada. Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were removed mainly because of unreliable travel documents, in particular because 'criminals from these countries can legally change their names and acquire new passports'. In certain cases, citizens of these two countries 'who were removed from Canada as security risks later returned using different passports'. In addition, the removal of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was prompted by the 'unacceptably high number of asylum claims from St. Lucia and St. Vincent, with about one and a half percent and three percent of the population of these countries making asylum claims in Canada over the past five years'.
On 12 May 2014, Canadian government sources announced a possible removal of visa requirements for Chilean citizens, following its participation as the 38th member of the Visa Waiver Program. Visa requirements were finally lifted on 22 November 2014.
In October 2014, it was reported that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union might not be ratified by Bulgaria and Romania unless the visa requirement was lifted for their citizens by Canada. Under Canadian legislation, for a country to be added to the visa waiver list there should be less than 3% immigration violations and visa refusal rate of less than 3% over 3 years. For Bulgarians the immigration violation rate was 4.4% in 2013 and the average 3 year visa refusal rate was 15.76%. For Romanians the immigration violation rate was 2.7% in 2013 and the average 3 year visa refusal rate was 15%. Even though the thresholds are not absolute, Canadian authorities notified the EU that political manoeuvre is not possible when the difference between the threshold and rates is too big.
As of 22 November 2014, holders of Saint Kitts and Nevis passports need a visa to enter Canada due to national security concerns.
In December 2014 the Canadian Foreign Minister announced changes in legislation that would allow a visa-free regime for all EU citizens.
In April 2015, the Prime Minister of Canada announced that Bulgarian, Romanian and Mexican citizens who have recently visited Canada or who have a US non-immigrant visa will be able to visit Canada without a visa but with an electronic authorization from 2016.
In December 2013, the Canadian government announced intention to introduce an electronic travel authorization system (eTA) similar to the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization as part of an action plan to establish a common approach to screening visa-exempt foreign nationals.
Visitors will apply through Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada website and will be required to pay a cost recovery fee. Visitors will have to provide biographic details, passport and background information that is now required in visa applications. Following a risk assessment of the applicant, an eTA valid for multiple entries to Canada over a period of up to five years should be issued. Privacy Commissioner of Canada expressed concern over the plan.
- "Visa Information - Canada". Timatic. IATA. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
- Explore Canada
- Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
- Countries and territories whose citizens do not need a visa (visa exemptions). Citizenship and Immigration Canada
- Find out if you need a medical exam
- Determine your eligibility–Visit Canada as a tourist
- Information for British Passport Holders
- Extend your stay – Visit Canada
- Determine your eligibility – Transit without a visa
- Determine your eligibility – China Transit Program
- YVR likely to get approval for transit-without-visa program before April
- Visit as a tourist
- Determine your eligibility – Visit on business
- Getting Started
- Visit your children or grandchildren
- Find out if you need to give biometrics
- Visitor Visas (V-1 Counterfoil Only) Issued Overseas (in Persons), 2009 - 2014 Q2
- "Canada Gazette". Gazette.gc.ca. 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- "Canada Gazette". Canada Gazette. 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- "Canada imposes visa requirements on Malaysians". Malaysiakini. 2002-09-23. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- "Canada Gazette". Gazette.gc.ca. 2010-07-08. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- "ARCHIVED — Canada Gazette – Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (temporary resident visa exemption for nationals of Croatia)". Gazette.gc.ca. 2012-11-09. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- [dead link]
- Fourth Visa reciprocity report European Union
- "News Release – Canada imposes a visa on the Czech Republic". Cic.gc.ca. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- MEPs ask Canada to lift visa requirements for all EU citizen Euractive.com
- Fifth visa reciprocity report European Union
- Canada abolishes visas for Czechs
- "ARCHIVED — Canada Gazette – Regulations; Parliament; Law; Instruments; Media; Regulation; Governor General; Cabinet; Information". Gazette.gc.ca. 2012-11-09. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- "Citizenship and Immigration Canada: News Release — Canada imposes visas on St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland". Cic.gc.ca. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- Notice – Canada lifts the visa requirement for visitors from Chile
- Canada-EU trade: Ambassador confident visa concerns from Romania, Bulgaria will be resolved
- Visa snag looms as Harper heralds end of Canada-EU deal
- John Baird: Canada Is Preparing To Lift Visas for EU Citizens
- Notice requesting comments on a proposal to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to establish the electronic travel authorization (eTA) program
- Tourists to pay new fee under Canada’s proposed online screening plan
- Canada To Introduce Pre-Approval System For Visa-Exempt Visitors