“Wait, do I need a visa to go there?” is probably the most daunting question in anyone’s travel preparation. Visas are seen as a messy, slow-moving government-run ordeal of paperwork, fine print, and waiting — lots of waiting. Fortunately, the process to get a Canadian travel visa is fairly straightforward. We’ve spent some time actually applying for the visa ourselves to give you an idea of what the process entails. Here’s a quick rundown on what you can expect from the tourist Canada visa application.
Make Sure You Need a Visa
Before you start filling out forms and sending in documents, make sure you actually need a visa prior to applying. The entry application process for any country is often a messy series of bureaucratic phases, so start out by knowing exactly what is needed. Use the Canadian government’s website to determine if you should indeed apply for a visa.
Chances are, you’ll need a visa if you’re not a Canadian or U.S citizen, or you don’t hold a passport.
Applying online is the easiest and quickest way to get a Canadian visa. Use the Canadian government’s portal to begin the process, and scroll down to “Continue to GCKey.” The other option — “Continue to Sign-in Partner” — uses a banking partner in the application, but we recommend doing things through their own internal system for simplicity’s sake.
Create an account, and fill out a series of questions relating to your country of residence, how long you plan on staying, where you plan to travel within Canada, whether you want study or work permits, whether you have been convicted of a crime, and so on. All of your answers will be used to make a final decision about your visa approval.
For online applications, you will need access to a scanner and a camera. As of 31 July 2018, you now need to give your biometrics (fingerprints and photo) when you apply for a visitor visa, study or work permit, or permanent residence if you are from Europe, Middle East, or Africa. You only need to give your biometrics once and they are valid for 10 years.
Collecting and uploading your documents will be the most time-consuming part of this process. Depending on who you are and where you currently reside, the government will ask you for a series of documents. One of these is a letter of invitation — a letter sent from someone in Canada formally inviting you to visit the country. The letter has to mention the length of your stay, the purpose of your trip, and the funds available. As a rule of thumb, you want the invitation letter to come from someone that is not “significantly” tied to you. If your letter comes from a sibling or girlfriend, the connection may actually seem too strong and reason enough for you to stay beyond your granted visa time.
After everything is uploaded to the portal, you will be asked to pay the fees. As of September 2018, the only costs associated with the process are $100 CAD ($77 USD) for the application and $85 CAD ($65 USD) for processing the biometrics.
After everything is uploaded and submitted, it’s a bit of waiting game. Remember to check the processing times, these can range anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on your country of residence and what exactly you’re applying for.
In your application, the Canadian government is looking for concrete evidence that you have no incentive to overstay your temporary tourist visa. Whether that be a steady job in your home country, ample funds in your savings account, or your marital status, these variables will be used to build a portfolio that proves you have no real intent to permanently stay.
If you’re applying for a tourist visa, try to include anything about your potential trip that demonstrates you’re really there to travel. Things like accommodation reservations, itineraries, and tour receipts can really help your case. Although the Canadian visa process may sound arduous, it’s actually much less so than many other countries. Plus, representatives are available to answer all questions at every step of the way.