Canadian Visitor Visas and eTA

Thinking of short-term travel to Canada? Here is your guide to the Canadian Visitor Visa and eTA!

  1. What is a Visitor Visa? What is an eTA?
  2. Visa-exempt countries and travellers 
  3. Do I need a Visitor Visa or eTA?
  4. What can I do as a Visitor?
  5. What will happen when I arrive in Canada?
  6. How long can I stay?
  7. Re-entering Canada

What is a Visitor Visa?

The visa or eTA is the permission to enter the country. 

A visitor visa allows a foreign national to temporarily stay in Canada. It is a document about the size of a credit card that is given to you at the port-of-entry and inserted into your passport upon arrival. Foreign nationals who are entering from a visa-exempt country (like the United States), with proper identification will not need a visitor visa to enter Canada.

Some recipients of study or work permits may also need a visitor visa or eTA, depending on which country you are coming from. If you are approved for a permit, the visitor visa or eTA will be automatically issued to you. But remember, they are different things. The permit alone will not allow you to enter Canada; that is what the visa is for. The visa or eTA is the permission to enter the country. 

What is an eTA?

An ETA is an Electronic Travel Authorization. No traveler will ever need both a Visitor Visa and an eTA. You may require one or the other to enter Canada, depending on your country of origin. An eTA gives a foreign national from a visa-exempt country the ability to visit Canada for typically up to 6 months at a time for as long as it is valid. Foreign nationals from countries that will require you to have a visa to enter Canada will need a visitor visa. An eTA must be applied for online; once approved, it will be electronically linked to your passport. 

Visa-exempt countries and/or travellers:

AndorraAustraliaAustriaThe BahamasBarbadosBelgiumBritish CitizenBritish National (Overseas)British Overseas Citizen (re-admissible)British Overseas Territory CitizenBritish Subject (with Right of Abode) Brunei DarussalamBulgariaChileCroatiaCyprusThe Czech RepublicDenmarkEstoniaFinlandFranceGermanyGreeceHong KongHungaryIcelandIrelandIsraelItalyJapanThe Republic of KoreaLatviaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMaltaMexicoMonacoThe NetherlandsNew ZealandNorwayPapua New GuineaPolandPortugalRomaniaSamoaSan MarinoSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaThe Solomon IslandsSpainSwedenSwitzerlandTaiwanThe United Arab EmiratesThe United States of AmericaS. Lawful Permanent ResidentVatican City State

If you are a citizen and passport holder of one of the above countries, you will not need a visa to enter Canada. You must apply for an eTA instead. If you are approved for a permit to enter Canada, the eTA will automatically be issued to you. This means if you get a work or study permit and need an eTA, it will be taken care of. 

Note: In most cases, U.S. citizens do not require a visa or an eTA to travel to Canada. U.S. citizens require a valid U.S. passport to travel to Canada. 

Do I need a Visitor Visa?

If you are not a passport holder of any of the above-listed countries, then you may need a visitor visa to enter Canada. The government of Canada website offers a tool for foreign nationals to determine if they will need to apply for a visitor visa to enter Canada. Your country of origin and the travel documents you have will affect the outcome. 

Remember, a work or study permit is not a visa. They offer permission to work or study in Canada but not permission to enter Canada. Therefore, if you are not from a visa-exempt country, you need to make sure that you obtain a visa in order to gain entrance at the border. 

When you apply for your initial work or study permit, upon approval of the permit a visitor visa will automatically be issued to you if you don’t already have one. However, if you already have a visa or wish to extend your permit in the future, your visa will not be automatically issued or extended. It is your responsibility to ensure that you renew your visitor visa under these circumstances.

What can I do with a Visitor Visa?

When you apply for a visitor visa, you will be asked your reason for visiting. You must be truthful because your answer will affect your permissions while in Canada. For example, if you state that you are visiting Canada to see family or friends, you will not be able to work or study in Canada-unless you have received permission in the form of a permit. 

Foreign nationals who are approved for a work or study permit will automatically be issued a visitor visa or eTA. This will come with guidelines on what you are able to do. For example, some students are able to study in Canada but not able to work- this will be communicated to the applicant. 

If you have an eTA, you can visit Canada as often as you like.

What happens when I arrive in Canada?

People assume that having a valid visa or eTA guarantees entering Canada. Unfortunately, this is not the case. When you arrive in Canada, a border services officer will conduct a final assessment to determine whether or not you can enter Canada. You can expect the officer to ask you some questions and do the following:

 Confirm your identity. You may be required to provide your fingerprints.  

  1. Check to see that you meet the COVID-19 exemption requirements. This includes a health assessment for symptoms of COVID-19, checking your ArriveCAN app receipt, vaccination record, negative COVID-19 test, and your quarantine plan.
  2. Verify that you are eligible to enter and that you are not criminally, medically, or otherwise inadmissible to Canada.   
  3. Confirm that you will abide by the terms of your visa and leave Canada at the end of your approved stay. 

It is crucial that you provide accurate and complete information to the officer. Dishonesty or misinformation can result in a bar from Canada. If you pass the above-listed assessments, the officer will tell you how long you can stay in Canada or stamp your passport with the date that you must leave by. You will need to have sufficient travel and supporting documents with you each time you enter Canada, along with your valid visa or eTA.

How long can I stay in Canada?

The reason that you are coming to Canada will usually determine how long you can stay. For example, if you are applying for a study permit, you will probably be allowed to remain until the end of your program. Visitors are usually allowed to stay for about six months.

The border patrol agent can give you a date that you must leave the country at the port-of-entry. It can be more or less than six months and is at their discretion. If you wish to stay longer, you must apply to extend your stay before your allowed time passes. 

Note: the amount of time you are allowed to stay in Canada is different from the expiration date on your eTA or visitor visa. For example, a visitor visa is typically valid for about 10 years, while an eTA is valid for five years or until your passport expires.

Remember, you must be from a visa-exempt country to qualify for an eTA. During this time, you can visit Canada as often as you like but generally for periods shorter than six months. 

Re-entering Canada

You may be able to re-enter Canada multiple times, depending on the type of visa you have. A typical visitor visa will allow multiple-entries. On a multiple-entry visitor visa, you can leave and come back as long as it is not expired. However, if you have been granted a single-entry visa, you will need a new visa to come back to Canada once you exit the country. 

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