Visa Requirements for Canada

Canadian work permit paper document and passport top view.
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Whether you need a visa to enter Canada depends on where you come from, how you arrive, and for how long you expect to stay. U.S. passport holders, for instance, may visit visa-free if they enter by land or sea, but if they arrive by plane, an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is required . The same goes for citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and much of the European Union (EU). People from other countries may require a visa regardless of how long they plan to stay or how they enter the country.

Most may visit Canada for up to six months on the basis of tourism. This means you won't be allowed to work or study at a Canadian institution during your stay. If you're interested in more long-term arrangements, then you will likely require a visa. Canada offers work visas for both sponsored and self-employed workers, study visas to students, a family-sponsorship program for parents and partners of Canadian nationals, and a temporary resident visa, which covers everything from general tourism to giving birth in Canada.

In most cases, visas can be applied for online and must be shown on arrival at the border. If you do require a visa for entry into Canada, you should apply for it four to eight weeks ahead of time.

Visa Type How Long Is It Valid? Required Documents Application Fees
Visitor Visa (Temporary Resident Visa - TRV) Six months Valid passport, financial statements, and a medical clearance certificate, if applicable $75 for the visa, plus $63 in biometrics fees
Electronic Travel Authorization Multiple six-month visits over a five-year period Passport and email address $5
Study Permit As long as your program lasts Acceptance letter from a designated learning institution, financial statements, a medical clearance certificate $112, plus $63 for biometrics
Work Permit Six months A job offer from a Canadian employer, proof of funds, proof of leaving Canada after employment $115
International Experience Canada 12 to 24 months, depending on nationality Proof of age (18 through 35), financial statements, a valid passport for the duration of stay $175
Family-Sponsorship Program Permanent Proof of relationship, proof of sponsor's financial means $400 for the sponsor, $775 for the sponsee
Transit Visa As long as the layover A valid passport and proof of travel out of Canada Free

Visitor Visa (Temporary Resident Visa - TRV)

Temporary resident visa is the term for Canada's general visitor visa, offered for a broad range of travel scenarios. This is most notably the visa given to visa-requiring nationals (i.e. the ones not included on Canada's visa-exempt list), which allows foreigners to visit for six months. However, there are many variations of it.

Under the temporary resident visa umbrella, you have special iterations such as one for diplomats and government officials, one for organ donors, and one for those wishing to give birth in Canada, therefore automatically making the infant a Canadian citizen.

Visa Fees and Application

The visa requirements vary by individual circumstances.

  • The visitor visa is valid for multiple entries and costs $100 (Canadian Dollars) for the visa itself, plus $85 CAD in biometrics fees.
  • Be prepared to be called into a collection service point to have your fingerprints and photograph taken.
  • To qualify, you must have a passport that's valid for at least six months upon entering Canada, financial statements, and a medical clearance certificate, if applicable.
  • Remember to apply for a Canadian visa at least 30 days in advance of your departure or allow eight weeks if mailing it in.
  • Visitors must apply for the visa from their country of residence, not upon arrival in Canada.

Electronic Travel Authorization

Those who don't require a visitor visa to enter Canada may require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) if traveling by air rather than land or sea . This document is required for U.S., UK, EU, and Australian citizens. It costs only about $7 CAD and takes a few minutes to fill out the questionnaire online. All you need is your passport, an email address, and a credit card for payment.

Like visitor visas, eTAs are valid for visits of up to six months, but can be used for multiple entries over a five-year period (or until your passport expires—whichever comes first). If your eTA is approved, it will link directly to the QR code on your passport for easy scanning at the border.

Study Permit

Students aged 18 and over who have been accepted into a Canadian school may qualify for a study permit. This visa requires an official acceptance letter from a designated learning institution and proof that the student has adequate funds (for any family members who plan to come, too) for the duration of their stay . The Canadian government defines this as $10,000 CAD per year (slightly higher in Quebec).

You must also have a clean criminal history and prove that you will return to your home country after your studies are complete. Medical examinations may also be necessary. The study permit itself costs $150 (CAD). You can apply from inside or outside of Canada, either online or via paper application, which should be sent to the Canadian Consulate.

Work Permit

Those who meet Canada's definition of a skilled worker—carpenters, aircraft mechanics, electricians, welders, and the like—may consider the Express Entry Program , a point-driven system on the Government of Canada website that qualifies foreigners for permanent residency based on their skill set. If permanent residency isn't the primary goal, then a temporary work permit will allow you to work in the country for six months.

Visa Fees and Application

Applying for a temporary work permit for Canada is almost as simple as applying for a visitor visa.

  • You must already have a job offer from a Canadian employer and you must only work for that employer .
  • You may have to show proof that you are willing to leave Canada after your employment is finished.
  • The fee for the visa is $150 CAD.
  • It takes about 95 days to process.
  • The application can be submitted online.
  • If your work lasts longer than six months, you can apply for an extension of the same price (which you must do at least 30 days before your current visa expires).
  • The maximum amount of time you can work temporarily in Canada is four years. 

International Experience Canada

Another type of work visa is granted to young people (aged 18 through 35) who want to work temporary jobs while traveling in Canada for up to 24 months, depending on where you're from. The International Experience Canada (IEC) work visa—similar to what's called a working holiday visa in other countries like Australia and New Zealand—is granted to nationals of the UK, the EU, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Asia and South and Central America. The U.S. does not have an agreement with Canada for this visa.

The IEC is good for either one year or two, and can in some cases be obtained twice. It costs about $153 CAD for the participation fee and another $100 CAD for the open work permit, both required. In order to qualify, travelers must be a citizen of a participating country, meet the age requirement, have a valid passport for the duration of their stay, have the equivalent of $2,500 Canadian, and must not be accompanied by any dependents . Because the visa is high in demand, applications (which can be filled out online) are entered into a pool and selected at random.

Family-Sponsorship Program

The Family-Sponsorship Program is a permanent resident program for which spouses, parents, grandparents, and children of Canadian citizens qualify. Sponsors must be either citizens or permanent residents and have enough financial income to provide for the sponsee. The rules depend on your relationship to the Canadian national, but, in general, partners must be married or in a conjugal relationship and have lived together for at least a year. Children of Canadian nationals must be under the age of 22 years old.

Sponsors must first submit an interest to sponsor form to the Government of Canada , then they will be invited to apply. Chosen applicants must apply within 60 days. The relative must at the same time apply for permanent residence. The sponsor application costs about $75 CAD, the relatives right to permanent residence application costs around $500 CAD, and the processing fee for it is another $75 to $400 CAD.

Transit Visa

A transit visa is a free type of temporary resident visa required by those traveling through Canada without stopping or visiting—even for less than 48 hours. You'll need to apply for this visa from your home country, but all it takes is submitting a simple online application at least 30 days in advance of your travel dates. You must have a valid passport and proof of travel out of Canada to qualify.

Visa Overstays

The penalty for overstaying a visa in Canada may be detainment or a removal order. If the overstay is discovered upon re-entry into Canada, you may be denied and sent back to your origin (in other words, declared inadmissible), but overall, the country is relatively generous. Removal orders are rare, and they fall under three categories: a departure order (removal within 30 days), an exclusion order (the visa holder may not return for a year), and permanent deportation.

Extending Your Visa

Visitors and temporary residents who want to stay in Canada for more than six months can apply for a visa extension while they are in the country, and must do so at least 30 days before the temporary resident visa expires. The visitor visa extension can be applied for online and costs about $100 CAD.

Extensions of long-stay visas are more complex. In order to obtain a six-month extension of a work visa, for instance, candidates need to prove that they're still employed by a verified sponsor . In order to extend a study visa, proof of enrollment is required . Each costs around the same as the first-time visa ($100 CAD) and must be applied for at least 30 days ahead of the expiration date. The processing time for a work visa extension is 177 days, and for a study visa extension is 90 days.

Article Sources
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  2. Government of Canada. "Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)."

  3. Government of Canada. "Study permit: How to apply."

  4. Government of Canada. "How Express Entry Works."

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  6. Government of Canada. "International Experience Canada: Who can apply."

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  8. Government of Canada. "Extend or change the conditions on your work permit: About the process."

  9. Government of Canada. "Extend your study permit: About the process."