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How To Visit Canada

A visitor is a person who is legally in Canada for a temporary purpose, and who is not a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident. Visitors to Canada, like students and workers, fall under the category of temporary resident, and receive a “temporary resident visa”. This visa can allow for multiple entries, or may be of the single-entry variety. Citizens of some countries do not require a visa to visit Canada. These are generally countries in the developed world.

What to Expect When Applying

Applying to visit Canada is a two step process: one must obtain a visitor’s visa at the consular office abroad, and then be granted admissibility by the immigration officer at the border. Various documentation and processing fees are involved in the application process. During the visa application, the prospective visitor has to satisfy the visa officer that he or she does not have immigrant intent with the application. There may be an interview to verify the reasons for the visit, the willingness to leave Canada, and to address questions of overall admissibility. At the border, the visitor must have a passport with a valid date, since a document is needed which allows re-entry to the visitor’s original country. The examination at the border ends when the visitor has been authorized to leave the port of entry and does so. In certain cases, a visitor could be let in (on the condition that he or she will report back at a future point in time) if the examination has not been completed.

A temporary resident application is given as much priority as is possible. Done in person, it may be completed that same day. While applicants are required to answer questions truthfully and to provide relevant evidence and documentation, certain requirements are also placed on immigration officials. For instance, officers must wait for an interpreter before interviewing or refusing an applicant. Additionally, as governed by the Canadian Human Rights Act, a refusal should be based specifically on the characteristics of the individual rather than generalities. The reasons provided for a refusal should be complete, and an applicant can seek redress at the Federal Court or Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Qualifying to Visit

The principles behind admission to Canada are similar to those of the United States. A visitor has to satisfy similar criteria to be issued a visa, and must satisfy the immigration officials at the port of entry to the country. Based on various factors such as family ties, one’s employment in the home country, and financial independence, immigration officers have to be satisfied that the visitor is merely seeking temporary entry to Canada. At the border, one can be found inadmissible on various grounds, such as security, criminality, lack of financial resources, misrepresentation, or other. A visitor would be deemed inadmissible either at the port of entry, or would be referred to the Immigration Division for an inquiry.

Time Limitations

A multiple entry visitor visa is valid for up to five years, or one month prior to the expiry date on the visitor’s passport (or document that allows for re-entry to the visitor’s home country), whichever is earlier. A single entry visa can be issued up to six months before the expected date of travel. Remember that a “visa” is merely a “preliminary determination of eligibility”, not a right to enter Canada. Also note that the length of the stay itself is a condition that is imposed by the immigration officer at the port of entry, and is typically six months, unless affected by circumstances such as means of support, passport expiry, etc.

Extending the Length of a Visit

A Canadian visitor can apply for a six-month extension up to 30 days before the expiry of the temporary visitor status.

Turning a Visit to Canada into a Permanent Stay

A visitor comes to Canada and is issued a temporary resident visa on the understanding that the visit is temporary, and that he or she will leave the country at the end of the stay. As with the United States, applying for entry to Canada under the guise of being a visitor and then applying or permanent resident status can lead to questions of fraud on the original visa application. Generally speaking, converting visitor’s status to permanent status is not possible except for spouses of Canadian citizens and residents, or extraordinary humanitarian circumstances. Those who have already applied for permanent resident status and who wish to visit Canada while their applications are pending may experience difficulty due to the suspicion that they will refuse to leave. This is not a ground to refuse to issue a visitor visa, although the onus is on the visitor to demonstrate his or her validity to the visa officer. Generally speaking, an immigration official will look at factors such as the length of stay, ties in Canada, ties with the home country, financial independence, and so on, to make a determination.

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