Visa policy of Canada

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Entry passport stamp for Canada issued to a citizen of Singapore at Toronto Pearson International Airport
Entry passport stamp for Canada issued to a citizen of Colombia by the Canada Border Services Agency at Lewiston–Queenston Border Crossing in 2014.
Entry passport stamp for Canada in French language issued to a citizen of Slovakia at Overton Corners–Lacolle 221 Border Crossing in 2017.

A foreign national wishing to enter Canada must obtain a temporary resident visa from one of the Canadian diplomatic missions unless he or she holds a passport issued by one of the 54 eligible visa exempt countries and territories or proof of permanent residence in the United States.[1]

All visa-exempt travelers to Canada (except United States citizens) have been required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) when arriving in Canada by air since 10 November 2016.[2][3] Travelers were able to apply early as of 1 August 2015.[4]

Applications of visitor visas, work permits, study permits and certain types of permanent residency can be lodged online.[5] From the latter half of 2018, however, such applicants must provide their biometrics as a part of their application process.

Visa policy map[edit]

  Canada
  Countries with visa-free access to Canada
(eTA required when arriving by air, except for United States nationals)
  Electronic Travel Authorization required
(eTA available for citizens who have held a Canadian visa in the last 10 years or who hold a valid United States non-immigrant visa when arriving by air)
  Visa required for entry to Canada

Visa exemptions[edit]

Holders of passports issued by the following countries and territories are able to visit Canada without obtaining a visa for a period of up to six months. They are required to obtain an eTA if they arrive by air, except for U.S. nationals and citizens of France residing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon arriving directly from the territory, who are exempt from the eTA requirement. Nationals of certain countries must arrive by air when not holding a Canadian visa.[6]

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.[7] In some cases a medical exam or a letter of invitation may be required.[8]

Allowed stay

On entry, Canada Border Services Officer (BSO) stamp passports or travel documents and visitors are granted a stay of 6 months from the date of entry. If a specific date was written on the stamp, however, the visitor must leave Canada before that date.[72][73] Visitors wishing to extend their status date must apply 30 days before it expires.[74]

Inclusion criteria

In order to be added to the visa waiver list a country has to fulfill about 40 conditions, grouped into seven categories:[75]

  • 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.

Electronic Travel Authorization[edit]

In December 2013, the Canadian government announced intention to introduce a system named Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), similar to the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), as part of an action plan to establish a common approach to screening visa-exempt foreign nationals.[76] The Privacy Commissioner of Canada expressed concern over the plan.[77]

An eTA is mandatory for all visa-free eligible nationals except Americans arriving by air since 10 November 2016. Travellers were able to apply early as of August 1, 2015. An eTA is not necessary for overland entry or entry by sea, but solely for arriving by air.[78]

Visitors can apply through the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website and are required to pay a cost recovery fee of C$7.[79] Visitors have to provide biographic details, passport and background information that is otherwise required in visa applications. Other required data includes information on additional citizenship, available funds, employment information and contact details including residential address. Applicants also have to answer questions about their health, immigration history and on any convictions they may have. There are no questions on travel plans in Canada.[80] Following a risk assessment of the applicant, an eTA valid for multiple entries to Canada over a period of up to five years or until the passport's expiration date should be issued.

Citizens of  Brazil who hold a valid non-immigrant U.S. visa or who have held a Canadian visa in the past 10 years can apply for eTA when arriving by air.[81] They may not enter Canada by land or sea unless holding a valid visa.

Exemptions[edit]

The following persons are exempted from obtaining the eTA:[6]

  • France French citizens who reside in Saint Pierre and Miquelon and enter Canada directly from the territory;
  • holders of Canadian visas;
  • visitors, students or workers who only visit the United States or St. Pierre and Miquelon, provided that they return to Canada before the period of their authorized stay expires;
  • crew members;
  • visiting armed force members from a designated state;
  • holders of diplomatic acceptances;
  • members of the Royal Family;
  • persons who are conducting inspections of the flight operation procedures or cabin safety of a commercial air carrier operating international flights and holding valid documentations.

In addition, persons on a flight that originates from or travels to the United States and stops in Canada for refuelling do not need an eTA, nor do those on a flight that has made an emergency landing in Canada.

The following persons do not require an eTA to enter Canada by air, and are in fact barred from applying the eTA:

Dual citizens and permanent residents[edit]

A Canadian citizen who also has citizenship or nationality of a visa-exempt country (except United States) and does not have a valid Canadian passport are barred from applying for an eTA and are required to enter Canada with a Canadian passport when arriving in Canada by air. However, those who have a flight to Canada in 10 days and meet the requirements can apply for a one-time special authorization online, which is valid for a maximum of 4 days from the applicants' travel starting date and a single entry to Canada. To be eligible, the person must meet one of the following requirements:[83]

  • have previously held a Canadian passport;
  • have received a certificate of Canadian citizenship; or,
  • have been granted Canadian citizenship after becoming a permanent resident.

The special authorization does not apply to Canadian citizens who do not meet the requirements, or those who are entering Canada by land or sea. As U.S. passport holders are not required to apply for an eTA under any circumstances, this measure also does not apply to them, and they can continue to travel to Canada with their U.S. passports by air even if they do not have a Canadian passport.[83]

Permanent residents of Canada from visa-exempt countries are also barred from applying for an eTA and must travel with their valid PR card or a one-time permanent resident travel document (PRTD) when travelling to Canada by air unless holding a U.S. passport.[84] Those without valid PR cards or PRTDs are not allowed to board a flight to Canada and, if they no longer wish to maintain their PR status of Canada, must renounce the status in order to be eligible for an eTA.[82] Alternatively, they may enter Canada by land or sea.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ – including British citizens holding Guernsey passport, Manx passport or Jersey passport; British Overseas Territories citizens holding Anguillan passport, Bermudian passport, British Virgin Islands passport, Caymanian passport, Gibraltar passport, Montserratian passport, Pitcairn Islands passport, Saint Helena passport or Turks and Caicos Islands passport; British National (Overseas) holding British National (Overseas) passport; and if stating the holder's right of abode in the UKBritish Overseas citizens holding British Overseas citizen passport and British subjects holding British subject passport. Visa-free travel is not applicable to British Overseas citizens and British subjects with indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom; British protected persons; and British subjects and British Overseas citizens who are subject to immigration control in the United Kingdom.[85]
  2. ^ – for Romanian citizens, visa free travel is only applicable to holders of biometric passports.[86]
  3. ^ – visa free travel for holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports only.
  4. ^ – visa free travel for holders of national Israeli passports only.
  5. ^ – visa free travel only for holders of the ordinary passport issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan that includes their national identification number.
  6. ^ – Including persons lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence who are in possession of their valid U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green card) or a valid Alien Documentation Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp. U.S. nationals can enter with any proof of citizenship or nationality. U.S permanent residents, however, are required to have an eTA with proof of permanent residence and a valid passport, U.S. Re-entry Permit or U.S. Refugee Travel Document.[87]

Transit[edit]

In general, a foreign national who needs to transit through Canada to reach his or her final destination needs a transit visa, unless they fulfill one of the conditions listed below.[88]

A plan was announced in 2015 to allow all passengers to transit without a visa through the Vancouver International Airport.[89] It is unknown whether or when this plan will be implemented.

Visa-exempt nationals[edit]

Nationals of visa-exempt countries and U.S. permanent residents are eligible to transit through Canada without a visa regardless of final destination and modes of transport, however all visa-exempt nationals except Americans are required to have an eTA for transit if arriving by air.[2]

Brazilian citizens may transit through Canada without a visa only when holding a valid eTA and arriving by air if they meet the requirements for an eTA.[81]

Special waivers for travellers to and from the United States[edit]

The Transit Without Visa Program (TWOV) and the China Transit Program (CTP) allow certain non-visa-exempt nationals to transit through Canada on their way to and from the United States without a Canadian transit visa. To be eligible, they must fulfill the following criteria:[1][90]

In addition, passengers must remain in the sterile international transit area when arriving from the U.S., or the post-preclearance area when arriving from a third country and have cleared U.S. immigration and customs. Leaving the designated area is not permitted.

When travelling to the U.S., the passenger must hold a valid, unexpired U.S. visa in order to clear U.S. immigration and customs. However, an expired U.S. visa is acceptable for transit when travelling from the U.S. to a third country if the passenger has not overstayed the authorized period in the U.S. and is not under a removal or deportation order.

Nationals of the following countries are eligible for TWOV:[91]

For CTP, the travellers must hold the China Chinese passport and leave from airports of one of the following cities as last points of embarkation when travelling to the U.S.: Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Manila, Seoul Incheon, Taipei, Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo Haneda, Tokyo Narita, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang and Harbin. There are no point of embarkation restrictions when the passenger is travelling from the U.S. to a third country.[92]

Types of temporary residents and Canadian visas[edit]

Types of temporary residents[edit]

Under Canadian government definitions, a temporary resident, as opposed to a permanent resident, is "a foreign national who is legally authorized to enter Canada for temporary purposes".[93] Temporary residents are subjected to a number of conditions, such as the length of stay, and the ability to work or study while in Canada.

There are four types of temporary residents:

  • Visitors,
  • Students,
  • Temporary foreign workers (TFWs),
  • Temporary resident permit (TRP) holders.

Except for visitors who may enter Canada with proof of citizenship, an eTA or a temporary resident visa depending on their nationality, all other temporary residents must hold valid permits while in Canada, which must be applied before arrival, on arrival or after arrival. They may also need an eTA or a temporary resident visa in order to re-enter Canada.[94]

Persons with temporary resident status in Canada can apply to extend their stay by filling an application at least 30 days before their authorized periods of stay expire.[95][96][74]

Study permit on arrival[edit]

Holders of passports issued by Greenland and the United States, permanent residents of the United States, and French citizens residing in St. Pierre and Miquelon are eligible to apply for a study permit on arrival if holding sufficient documentations.[97]

NAFTA professionals[edit]

Nationals of Mexico and the United States whose professions are covered under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are able to apply for a work permit on arrival.[98]

Working holiday[edit]

Canada's working holiday scheme, International Experience Canada (IEC), provides non-Canadian citizens the opportunity to work in Canada as TFWs on an IEC work permit.[99] IEC is divided into three tiers:[100]

  • Working Holiday,
  • Young Professionals,
  • International Co-op Internship.

Depending on the agreements with the respective countries, non-Canadian citizens may be eligible to participate in all three tiers, or one or two tiers out of the three. To be eligible, they have to be a citizen of the following countries within the age limit:

Nationals other than those countries can still participate through a Recognized Organization (RO).[101]

Temporary resident visa[edit]

Citizens of the majority of countries need a temporary resident visa to enter Canada. They need to apply either online or on paper at one of the Canadian Visa application centres (run by VFS Global) or a consular office.[102][103] There are no separate application forums for business visitors.[104][105]

Canada has introduced a program known as CAN+ for visitors of some countries who have been to Canada in the last 10 years or who possess a valid U.S. visa. When applying through CAN+, the applicant only needs to submit his or her proof of travel to U.S. or Canada and can submit fewer proof of financial support. The program is only available at certain visa offices or for nationals of certain countries.[105][106][107][108][109][110]

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.[111]

Biometrics collection[edit]

Canada is expanding its biometrics (fingerprint and photograph) requirements on 31 July 2018 and 31 December 2018. Applicants for a visitor visa, a study permit, a work permit or permanent residence outside Canada on or after that date must submit their biometrics at one of the visa application centres (VACs) if outside the United States, or at one of the Application Support Centers (ASCs) manned by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if in the United States. For persons eligible to receive a work permit or a study permit on arrival and those seeking asylum, biometrics will be collected at a port of entry. Applicants in Canada are exempted until the in-Canada facilities are established in 2019.[112]

Biometrics collection expansion is done in two stages. From 31 July 2018, applicants with citizenship in a country in Europe, Middle East and Africa must provide biometrics. On 31 December 2018, the requirement will be expanded to the remaining countries' citizens in the world except for persons located in Canada. Biometrics are collected once every 10 years and will be shared with governments of other Five Eyes countries. Applicants must pay a fee as a part of their application.[113]

Canadian citizens and persons who have been granted permanent residency (unless they have formally lost their permanent residence) are exempted from biometrics collection. The following categories of persons are also exempted:[113]

  • U.S. citizens and nationals (not exempt if applying for permanent residence);
  • Citizens of a visa-exempt nationality and U.S. lawful permanent residents visiting Canada and holding a valid eTA;
  • Persons under 14 or over 79 years of age (not exempt for asylum applicants over 79);
  • Diplomats, cabinet ministers and heads of state;
  • Eligible persons transiting through Canada under the TWOV or CTP and holding a U.S. visa.

The following persons are no longer required to have their biometrics recollected, providing that their biometrics have already been submitted as a part of their application:[113]

  • Asylum seekers applying for a work or study permit;
  • Permanent residence applicants applying for any form of temporary residence while their permanent residence application is in process.
Countries whose citizens have to undergo a mandatory biometrics collection for a Canadian visa prior to the worldwide implementation date.

Before 31 July 2018 or 31 December 2018, applicants from the following 29 countries must continue to provide biometrics:[114]

Statistics[edit]

Number of tourist visas issued:[115]

Year Number of
visas
2012 663,911
2013 685,923
2014 834,362
2015 919,761
2016 1,028,834

Most visitor visas in 2016 were issued to the nationals of following countries:[115]

Application from Issued visas
 China 350,940
 India 148,193
 Mexico 74,767
 Brazil 61,571
 Philippines 34,889
 Iran 16,752
 Pakistan 15,638
 Nigeria 15,529
 Vietnam 15,013
 Indonesia 14,555
Arrival statistics

Most visitors arriving to Canada were from the following countries of nationality:[116][117][118][119]

Visa policy changes[edit]

Canada's visa policy has gone through a number of changes in the recent years. In 1984, citizens of 76 countries could travel to Canada without a visa.[120] The number of countries has now dropped to 54.

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".[121]

On 24 September 2002, visa restrictions were reintroduced for Malaysian citizens travelling to Canada because "the Malaysian passport and passport issuing system are vulnerable to abuse".[122][123]

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".[124]

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".[125]

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.[126]

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 all Schengen countries and Canada. The result was the lifting of visa requirements for Czech citizens in October 2007.[127] 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.[128][129] The EU urged Canada that "This highly regrettable situation should be brought to an end as soon as possible."[130] In October 2013, following a contentious reform of the refugee determination system that significantly brought down the number of false asylum claims,[131] Canada lifted visa requirement for Czech citizens effective immediately on November 14, 2013.[132]

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".[133]

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.[134] 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.[135] Visa requirements were finally lifted on 22 November 2014.[136]

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.[137][138] 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.[75]

As of 22 November 2014, holders of Saint Kitts and Nevis passports need a visa to enter Canada due to national security concerns.[139]

In December 2014, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird announced changes in legislation that would allow a visa-free regime for all EU citizens.[140]

In April 2015, the previous Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, announced that Brazilian, Bulgarian, Mexican and Romanian citizens who have recently visited Canada or who have a valid U.S. non-immigrant visa will be able to visit Canada without a visa but with an electronic authorization from 2016.[141][142][143]

Incumbent Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has committed to abolish visa requirements for Mexicans visiting Canada.[144][145] On 28 June 2016, Trudeau announced that the visa requirements for Mexican nationals will be lifted on 1 December 2016, although many government officials were critical of the plan and advised against it. The risks identified include Mexico's weak passport controls, a potential rise in fake asylum claims, the increase of human and illegal drug trafficking, and the involvement of organized crime of some travelers. In addition, the U.S. can potentially tighten border controls which may slow the cross-border trades between the two countries and harm Canada's economy.[146] Opposition parties criticized that the move was "a completely political quid pro quo" in exchange for the Mexican government to lift the ban on Canadian beef since 2003.[147]

On 31 October 2016, the Canadian government announced that Canada intends to lift visa requirement for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens on 1 December 2017.

According to CBC News, sources confirmed that after Donald Trump had been elected to the U.S. presidency on 8 November 2016, high-level meetings took place between officials at IRCC and other departments in order to prepare for a potential surge of asylum seekers and overstayers from Mexico, although the visa requirements will still be dropped on 1 December as planned. Some officials did state that Canada will reintroduce visa requirements if the number of asylum seekers is too high.[148]

On 24 November 2016, the Canadian government announced that starting from 25 November 2016, Mexican nationals can apply for the eTA online. However, Mexicans entering Canada before 1 December would continue to need a visa. On the same day, Mexican nationals could no longer apply for a visa online and had to apply on paper through a visa application centre.[149] The visa requirement was lifted on 1 December as planned and the issuance of visas to Mexican nationals ceased, although Statistics Canada predicts that the net cost of lifting the visa requirement is over C$262 million in the next decade, which includes the additional immigration enforcement resources and the extra costs of processing asylum claims.[150]

From 1 May 2017, Brazilian, Bulgarian and Romanian citizens who have had a Canadian visa in the last 10 years or who hold a valid U.S. non-immigrant visa can fly to or transit through Canada without a Canadian visa.

As of 27 June 2017, holders of Antigua and Barbuda passports need a visa to enter Canada due to concerns regarding the integrity of Antigua and Barbuda’s travel documents.[151]

On 1 December 2017, visa requirements were lifted for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens travelling to Canada.

On 5 June 2018, visa requirements were lifted for Emirati citizens travelling to Canada.[152]

On 5 June 2018, the Canadian government announced that due to "a substantial increase in asylum claims and non-bona fide travel from Romania, with a concerning number of travellers using temporary and other non-electronic passports", Canada has immediately imposed visa restrictions on Romanian citizens who do not hold biometric passports and who did not obtain an eTA prior to 1 December 2017.[153] These people's eTAs, if issued on or after 1 December 2017, are cancelled, and they must apply for a visa at their nearest Canadian visa application centres (VACs) or, if holding booking confirmation for travels booked prior to 5 June 2018 and depart before or on 18 June 2018, in person at a Canadian embassy in Bucharest, London, Rome or Vienna for same-day visa processing. Persons whose eTA was issued prior to 1 December 2017 or those who hold Romanian biometric passports are not affected by this restriction.[86]

See also[edit]

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  102. ^ Branch, Government of Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Communications. "Visit as a tourist". 
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  109. ^ "Temporary Resident Visa: Bucharest Visa Office Instructions" (PDF). cic.gc.ca. 
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  147. ^ "Trudeau, Pena Nieto reach 'concrete results' ahead of Three Amigos summit". 
  148. ^ "Canadian officials preparing for potential flood of Mexican migrants after Trump wins presidency". 
  149. ^ Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada. "Canada provides early eTA enrolment for Mexican citizens". 
  150. ^ "Mexican visa lift kicking in today expected to cost Canada $262M over a decade". 
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  152. ^ "Canada is changing its entry rules for citizens of the United Arab Emirates". Canada.ca. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. 
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External links[edit]