Visas are official stamps in your passport, issued by the Canadian government either in Canada or by a Canadian embassy in another country, which give permission to the passport holder to enter Canada to visit, work, or study for a limited amount of time.
Who Needs a Visa to Visit Canada
People from many countries do not need a visa to visit or transit through Canada—meaning these people can pass through freely on their way somewhere else on a flight layover. Visitors from the United States, Japan, Australia, Italy, and Switzerland among others do not need a visa to come to Canada.
However, citizens from certain countries do require a visa to visit or transit Canada, so be sure to check out the full list of countries whose citizens require a visa if you're not from the above-mentioned countries. If this is the case, you will need to present your Canadian visa (a stamp in your passport) when you arrive in the country, and therefore, you must apply for your Canadian visa in plenty of time to receive it before you leave on your trip—usually four to eight weeks.
Available Types of Canadian Visas
The temporary resident visa is for people who want to visit Canada for up to six months. This visa may be for a single entry, multiple entries, or simply for transit, and people who want to stay in Canada for more than six months can apply for a visa extension while they are in the country at least 30 days before the temporary resident visa expires.
A transit visa is a free type of temporary resident visa required by anyone who is traveling through Canada without stopping or visiting—even for less than 48 hours. You'll need to apply for this form of visa in your home country, but all it takes is submitting a simple form at least 30 days in advance of your travel dates.
How to Apply for Canadian Visas
Getting a Canadian visa is relatively simple. All you need to do is fill out the two-page application for a temporary resident visa made outside of Canada or call the nearest Canada Visa Office. Gather the necessary documents, make the appropriate payment, and mail in or take the application to a Canada Visa Office.
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 a visa for Canada from their country of residence and may not apply for a visa upon arrival in Canada.
Failure to obtain a visa before travel will likely result in the airport denying you entry to your flight, or in the worst case scenario, you would be sent immediately back to your home country once you arrived on Canadian soil.