So you want to visit Canada, eh? Maybe you have family here, are planning to work in Canada or want to go to one of our best schools. Whatever the reason, chances are you’ll need a visa. A visa is official proof that you meet the requirements to visit Canada. With a valid visa, most international visitors can stay up to six months.
Who can get a visa?
Before you apply, check to see if you need a visa to visit Canada. If you do, then to apply, you must:
- Have a valid passport or equivalent travel document.
- Be in good health.
- Not have a criminal record.
- Demonstrate that you have strong ties to your home country.
- Make it clear that you intend to leave at the end of your visit.
- Have enough money for your stay.
Types of visas
Just as there are many reasons to come to Canada, there are many different types of visas available for international visitors. These four are probably the best known.
Visitor visa. Also known as a tourist visa or temporary resident visa, this is the visa to apply for if you want to visit family or friends in Canada or just tour around. You can get this type of visa for single-entry or multiple-entry.
Transit visa. This is what you need if you’re travelling to another country but have a layover (up to 48 hours) at a Canadian airport.
Study permit. If you’re coming to Canada to go to school, you’ll need a study permit as well as a visitor visa.
Super visa. If you have kids or grandkids who live in Canada, a super visa lets you stay longer than a visitor visa — up to five years at a time!
Visa for business visitors. You'll need this visa to stay in Canada to conduct business.
In this article, we are only covering the visitor visa and super visa.
How to apply — documents required for visitor visa
International visitors to Canada can apply for a visa online at the Government of Canada’s Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.
Before you head over there, though, it’s best to gather the information and documents required to apply for a Canada visitor visa. These may vary depending on the reason for your visit but will typically include the following:
- Your passport (make sure it isn’t due to expire before the end of your visit)
- Your national identity card
- A letter of invitation from the person you’re going to visit and proof of your relationship to him or her
- Your employment information (name, address, how long you’ve worked there; a letter from your employer can be helpful, too)
- Financial information — bank/investment statements for the past six months
- Details about your trip — when and where you’ll be arriving, where you’ll be staying, where you plan to go and what you expect to be doing, to the best of your knowledge
- Travel history — details about places you’ve visited in the past five years, including date of entry and exit; list of anywhere you’ve lived other than your home country for more than six months
If you’re applying for a super visa, you’ll also need to provide proof of payment for medical visitors to Canada insurance (at least $100,000 emergency medical coverage and valid for at least 1 year) from a Canadian insurance company.
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Completing the application
We’ve included an easy-to-read guide below that illustrates each step of the visitor visa application process plus any additional details you should know. You can also check out the official guide from the Government of Canada here.
Step 1: Set up an account
The first step in the application process is to set up an account at the IRCC portal. From your secure account, you can start an application, submit it and pay, get messages and check the status of your application.
Step 2: Answer application questions on screen
The best thing about the IRCC website is that it’s actually set up to help you. You start by selecting the reason for your visit (e.g., “visit family”). Based on your answer, the system will tell you what documents you may need.
Then, answer the questions in the application. Again, these will vary depending on the reason for your visit. Be sure to answer each question completely and honestly and to “save” as you go. You don’t have to complete everything in one sitting, so take your time. You have 60 days to finish your application from the time you start it.
Once you’ve answered all the questions, you can review them and make any changes.
Step 3: Upload supporting documents
The next step is to upload your supporting documents. The system will generate a list of both required and optional documents.
After everything is uploaded and saved, you’ll see the “Consent and Declaration” page. Read it through, check off that you’ve read and understand everything and sign by entering your name.
Step 4: Pay fees
The “Fees” page is next. This is where you can pay the visitor visa application fee and the biometrics fee. To make your payment, enter your credit card information and then check out.
Step 5: Biometrics
What are biometrics and do you really need to pay this fee? Good questions. “Biometrics” is just a fancy word for fingerprints and photograph. If you’ve never applied for a visitor visa before, or at least not in the past 10 years, you’ll need to give this information. If biometrics are required, you’ll get a letter in your account’s message box with instructions telling you where to go. When you pay the biometrics fee at the same time as the application fee, you’ll get this letter within 24 hours. Otherwise, it may take a little longer.
To give your biometrics, make an appointment at the specified location. Be sure to take the letter and your passport with you when you go.
What happens after you apply
Once you’ve submitted your biometrics information, the IRCC will start to process your application. This usually takes two to three weeks.
Best case scenario: Your application is approved! You’ll get a letter of notification in your account message box and another letter with instructions on how to submit your passport so your visa can be inserted into it. If your application is refused, you’ll get a letter in your message box explaining why.
Assuming your application is approved, the IRCC will return your passport, complete with visa attached, along with any other original documents you provided. Now you can start getting ready for your trip to Canada!
How to extend your visa
If you want to extend your stay, you need to apply for a visa extension or a visitor record. This document allows you to stay longer and includes a new date by which you must leave the country. Note that your passport needs to be valid to the end of your extended stay.
It’s best to apply for a visitor record at least 30 days before the end of your authorized stay. You can apply online through your IRCC account.
Before you go…remember to buy travel insurance
You’ve spent a lot of time and energy planning your visit to Canada, and it would be a shame to have it interrupted by something you didn’t plan for — like an accident or illness. That’s why getting travel insurance for visitors to Canada is one of the best decisions you can make. Also known as health insurance or medical insurance for visitors to Canada, this coverage helps to protect you from emergency medical costs. It covers health services (for example, if you need to go to a hospital or see a doctor), and transportation (including emergency transportation back to their home country).
Important: Remember, if you are applying for super visa for parents or grandparents, it is mandatory for you to purchase travel insurance for super visa before you apply for the visa.
Learn more about the features and benefits of health and travel insurance for visitors to Canada.
Frequently asked questions
Can I apply on behalf of someone else?
No, you can’t apply on behalf of someone else but if you are applying as a family, you can submit your family members applications together in one envelop and pay the fees together as one application. Click here to learn more about how to apply as a family.
What if I am applying for a visa for parents coming to visit Canada?
If you want to submit an application for your parents or grandparents, that means you’re a “representative.” There is a section in the application on the IRCC portal specifically for this situation. You’ll need to provide details about yourself and proof of your relationship to the applicants (like a birth certificate, since you’re representing your parents) as well as their information. Check here to learn more about the super visa application.
Is travel insurance mandatory?
It depends. If you’re applying for a super visa (see above), you’ll need super visa insurance — that is, you’ll need to show that you have at least $100,000 of medical insurance that is valid for at least one year from a Canadian insurer. Otherwise, travel insurance or health insurance for visitors to Canada is not mandatory. However, getting travel insurance is still strongly recommended. A medical emergency could easily cost thousands of dollars. Health insurance for visitors to Canada costs only a small fraction of that amount.
Government of Canada. “Extend your stay in Canada.” 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/extend-stay.html.
Government of Canada. “Visitor visa: How to apply.” 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/apply-visitor-visa.html.