Are you planning to travel to Canada, or through Canada to another destination? Read here whether you need to apply for a visa or an eTA. In general, British and Irish travellers who are planning to fly to Canada for a holiday, on business or for a transfer do not need a visa. Instead of the Canada visa, applying for an eTA Canada suffices. With an eTA, you can stay in Canada for a maximum of 6 consecutive months for tourist or business purposes. If you meet the requirements mentioned on this page, you can apply for an eTA Canada online. If you do not meet these requirements, you can apply for a Canada visa at the Canadian embassy or on the website of the Canadian government.
A Canada visa is not the same as an eTA Canada. Check on time what type of travel authorisation you need. This page explains what the differences between the eTA and visa are, what the requirements for both are, and which visa you need in case an eTA Canada does not suffice for your situation. For instance, you are required to apply for a visa if you wish to enter into employment with a Canadian organisation, if you wish to stay in Canada for longer than six consecutive months, or if you do not meet the passport requirements which apply for the eTA. In the chapters below, you will find the most important things to keep in mind if you are in doubt whether you need a visa, and which visa you need to perform the planned activities in Canada.
More information about the Canada visa
1. Visa or eTA?
It is very important that you apply for the right travel authorisation (eTA or visa). This way, you can avoid being stopped when boarding your flight, or being put on a return flight home by the Canadian immigration service as soon as you arrive in Canada. Before the implementation of the eTA Canada (eTA meaning), each traveller to Canada that did not possess the Canadian or American nationality was required to apply for a visa. Because this was an expensive and complicated procedure, the Canadian government implemented the eTA in 2015. The eTA Canada is easier, faster and cheaper to apply for than the Canada visa. Under certain circumstances, which apply to most travellers, the eTA is virtually equal to the visa. To apply for an eTA, the traveller and their travel plans must meet several requirements.
Requirements to apply for an eTA Canada:
- You are travelling to Canada by plane
- You are staying in Canada for a maximum of six consecutive months (maximum validity period is five years)
- You are travelling to Canada on a holiday, for business (for example to attend a meeting or to visit clients or suppliers) or on transit
- On arrival in Canada, you possess a return ticket or another ticket ensuring you will eventually leave Canada again
- You are a British or European national
If you meet all of these requirements, you do not need to apply for a visa, you can simply apply for an eTA.
If you meet ALL of the requirements mentioned above, you can apply for an eTA. An eTA Canada is not a visa, but a mandatory electronic travel authorisation to travel to Canada without a visa. The “electronic Travel Authorization” (eTA) system was implemented to allow travellers to fly to Canada with less stress. As you are required to apply for an eTA beforehand, it saves you a lot of time during your trip and prevents waiting times at the airport.
Read more about the eTA and applying for an eTA
In the following instances, you do not meet the requirements for the eTA and are therefore required to apply for a Canada visa:
- You are planning to stay in Canada for longer than six consecutive months
- You are planning to work in Canada (under the employment of a Canadian organisation)
- You do not meet the legal or regulatory requirements for the eTA
In these instances, it is necessary to apply for a visa in order to enter Canada. With this, it is important that you apply for the right visa; an approved visa is only valid for the purpose it was issued for. Carefully read the chapters below to apply for the right visa as quickly and correctly as possible.
2. Overview of Canada visas
If you do not qualify for an eTA, you can still apply for a visa. To enter Canada without an eTA, you can choose from dozens of visas. Each visa type has its own terms and requirements. This chapter will help you with selecting the right visa to travel to Canada.
The Canadian visas can be separated into two main categories: Temporary Resident Visas (TRV), and Permanent Resident visas (PR). The temporary resident visas are suited for staying in Canada for a holiday, to study or to work. The permanent resident visas apply to anyone wishing to settle in Canada for an extended period of time, for instance to emigrate to Canada.
1. Temporary Resident Visa
A temporary resident visa is an official document that is issued by an embassy employee. After the approval of the visa, this physical document will be applied to your passport, so the immigration service can see that you likely meet all the requirements to temporarily stay in Canada.
According to Canadian law, these temporary resident visas are for “aliens that are legally entitled to enter Canada for temporary purposes”. These “aliens” can belong to one of the following 4 groups: visitors, students, temporary foreign employees and temporary green-card holders. These four groups can stay in Canada on the basis of their visa as a privilege, not a right.
Temporary resident visas are therefore suited for people who want to come to Canada to enjoy a holiday, to study or work, and who do not meet the requirements for the eTA. The intention has to be a temporary stay in Canada and not a permanent one.
Overview of Temporary Resident Visas
Visitor visa A visitor visa is issued to foreign visitors who wish to temporarily stay in Canada for a holiday, business trip, transit or family visits. This visa can therefore be applied for if you want to go on a holiday to Canada, if you want to visit Canada for business or want to visit family or friends. One of the most important requirements for this visa is that your stay is temporary, and that you intend to leave Canada at the end of your stay. In general, you can acquire a visitor visa more easily if you have not travelled much and do not have a criminal past.
4 types of Canada visitor visas
This visa is issued to individuals who wish to temporarily visit Canada for tourist purposes. Often times, you need an eTA to visit Canada as a tourist. If you do not meet the rules for an eTA, you can apply for a tourist visa. You are, however, required to meet the following requirements:
- You have a valid passport
- You can prove that you have strong personal ties in the United Kingdom or Europe. This can help convince the Canadian immigration service that you most likely intend to leave Canada at the end of your trip
- You can prove that you have sufficient financial means to pay for your trip, return trip and stay in Canada
With the granting of the tourist visa, the Canadian immigration service normally automatically issues a visa which allows you to visit Canada multiple times (multiple entry visa).
- Single entry visa
This type of visa can only be used to enter Canada once, and is valid for a minimum of one month. This visa type is only issued in exceptional cases.
- Multiple entry visa
This visa type is an authorisation to stay in Canada an unlimited number of times for a maximum period of 6 consecutive months, and is valid for 10 years. It also automatically expires 1 month before your passport is no longer valid.
This visa is issued to individuals that want to temporarily visit Canada for business purposes. In the eyes of the Canadian government, you are a temporary business visitor if:
- You are looking for ways to make your company grow
- You wish to invest
- You want to make progress with business relations
To acquire this visa, you need to be able to provide a letter in which you are invited by a (potential) Canadian business relation. You must also be able to provide the contact information of this business relation (who is available 24 hours) and possibly also a document stating where and who you work for at this moment.
In addition, you are required to meet the following requirements:
- You must leave Canada within six months
- You cannot enter the Canadian job market
- You must be able to prove that your most important source of income and profit lies outside of Canada
- You must possess a valid passport
- You must be able to prove that you possess sufficient financial means to pay for your trip, your stay and your return trip
If you wish to stay for longer than 6 months as a temporary business visitor in Canada, you need to file for a “Work Permit” (see below).
This visa is issued to individuals that want to temporarily visit Canada in order to immediately continue their journey. It grants access to Canada on the condition that you are on transit through Canada without having to stop anywhere or having to visit something or someone. You need to apply for this visa if you are on a transit through Canada and don’t qualify for an eTA. This visa can be applied for free of charge at the Canadian immigration service.
Parent and grandparent super visa
This visa is issued to parents or grandparents who want to make a visit to Canada, with the purpose of visiting one or several children who are living in Canada permanently. This visa is valid for 10 years, with each stay being allowed to last a maximum of 2 consecutive years. The average time between the application and approval of this visa is 8 weeks.
Before you qualify for this visa, the immigration service looks at, among other things:
- Your ties with your country of origin
- The economic and political stability of your country of origin
- The purpose of your visit; is it reasonable to assume that you are truly travelling to Canada for the purpose of visiting your children or grandchildren, and returning home afterwards?
- Various details about your family and finances
- The invitation of the person you wish to visit
- Your health insurance; you are required to have proper Canadian health insurance for at least 1 year, and are required to undergo a medical test
A student visa is issued to foreign students that want to visit Canada to study. Canada is an ideal destination for international students due to the freedom to live, study and work (on campus) during the validity period of the student visa. This visa costs roughly 100,- and processing of the application takes 2 weeks on average.
To qualify for the student visa, you are required to meet the following requirements:
- You are enrolled at a recognised Canadian educational institution (such as a university) and can provide a “letter of acceptance” proving this. Furthermore, you must be able to show that you have sufficient financial means to pay the required tuition and provide for your yourself (and potentially any partner and/or family members) during the period you are staying in Canada
- You do not have a criminal record and do not pose a threat to the Canadian society
- You are in good health and willing to cooperate with a medical exam to prove this
- It is reasonable to assume that you intend to eventually leave Canada
Strictly speaking, this visa type is a permit and not a visa. With the student visa, you automatically receive a valid eTA.
A temporary work permit is issued to foreign employers that want to temporarily work in Canada for a Canadian employer. This visa has 2 types: open work permits and employer specific work permits. With an open work permit, you are free to work for different Canadian employers. The other permit types allow you to work under the specific terms listed in that work permit. These terms determine, for example, the name of the employer you are required to work for, how long you can work and the location where you can work.
There are a number of important requirements to acquire these visas/work permits, including:
- You must have been offered a job by a Canadian employer (the most important requirement)
- It is reasonable to assume that you intend to leave Canada after your work permit expires
- You have to prove that you possess sufficient financial means to provide for yourself and any potential family members during your stay, and to allow you to return home after your stay
- You cannot have a criminal past
- You must be in good health and agree to a medical exam
- You cannot pose a threat to the safety of Canada
Holiday and work program
Working Holiday Visa
The working holiday program allows you to travel and/or work in Canada during your stay. You are required to be at least 18 years of age, and younger than 30. This type of visa can only be applied for once. This visa allows you to work in Canada during your holiday, allowing you to finance your trip while you are there. Take note that this visa has very limited availability; apply for this visa on time.
2. Permanent Resident Visas
To qualify for a permanent resident visa or residence permit, you must meet a number of strict requirements. You can make use of the Express Entry program to acquire a permanent residence permit based on national economic immigration programs, such as:
- The “Federal Skilled Worker Program”
- The “Federal Skilled Trades Program”
- The “Canadian Experience Class”
Furthermore, Canadian provinces can set their own specific requirements that potential immigrants have to meet to qualify for a permanent resident permit. These permits fall under the “Provincial Nominee Program”.
Selecting the correct visa
It is very important to find out exactly which visa applies to your situation. Aside from the visas in the above-mentioned two categories, Canada also has other visa types. It is also important to know that a visa does not guarantee you a stay in Canada. Upon arrival, a customs employee can ask you questions about your trip and stay. Based on the facts, a final judgement will be made on whether you can continue your trip, or if you are required to leave Canada immediately. If you are travelling to Canada with a valid visa, you can reasonably assume that you will not experience any problems with the immigration service, assuming that you are entering Canada for the purposes for which the visa was issued.
3. Reasons for rejection
It can occur that your visa for Canada is rejected. There can be many different reasons why your Canada visa can be rejected.
The most common reasons for rejections can be:
- Your health is determined to be inadequate
- You pose a possible safety risk, generally because you have a criminal past and/or a criminal record
- You do not possess the required documents
- You have been denied access to Canada before
- The customs employee is not convinced that you are visiting Canada for the purpose indicated in your visa or visa application
- The customs employee is not convinced that you plan to leave Canada again
- You cannot prove that you possess sufficient financial means to pay for your stay and return trip
- You do not meet the visa-specific requirements
The list above is an incomplete selection from the possible reasons why a Canada visa might be rejected. Keep in mind that applying for a Canada visa takes more times than an eTA application. A Canada visa application often takes several weeks, while the eTA Canada is often granted within minutes.
4. Canada visa application
After your visa application has been completed, it can take several weeks, occasionally even up to two months, before you receive the required visa.
The following Canada visas can be applied for online:
- Temporary residence visas, including:
- Visitor visas
- Student visas
- Work permits
- Permanent resident permits that fall under the programs of the “Federal Skilled Worker Programme”, “Federal Skilled Trades Programme” or the “Canadian Experience Class”
Other Canada visas generally have to be applied for through the Canadian embassy or the Canadian government.
Required for a visa application
In order to start a visa application, a valid passport and a filled-in visa application form are required (which can often be also filled in online). Furthermore, a number of extra documents or pieces of evidence can be of importance during the application, such as: proof of sufficient financial means, the results of a medical test, a statement of conduct or criminal record, proof of your health insurance, results of language tests, diplomas and other certificates.
During the visa application, information will be asked about yourself, your family and the reason for your visit to Canada. It is important that you answer all questions correctly to avoid delays during your visa application.
- Temporary residence visas, including: