Visiting Canada


The tourist category applies to any visit to Canada which does not involve employment or study. Acceptable purposes include visits to friends and family, learning about Canada, and recreation. Tourists are normally admitted to Canada for six months, unless a Visitor Record is issued granting a shorter or longer period of time. Tourists from many countries must first obtain a visa from a Canadian consulate abroad. U.S. citizens and permanent residents don’t need visas. U.S. citizens should have a passport to prove citizenship and to return to the United States.

About fifty million people are admitted to Canada every year as visitors, most without difficulty. However, problems sometimes arise, either when applying for a visa, or at the port of entry. Here are some of the most common issues:

  • Immigrant intent. All visitors to Canada are presumed to be immigrants. The burden is on the applicant for admission to convince the visa officer or immigration official that he intends to leave Canada when the visit is over. This is seldom an issue with U.S. citizens, unless the person indicates an intent to marry a Canadian or otherwise expresses an intent to remain in Canada. However, for visitors from poorer countries like China and India, immigrant intent is a big problem, and visitor’s visas are refused frequently. To get by this barrier, you need to provide proof of strong ties to your home country, such as employment, a home or apartment, and other family and social ties. You should also have proof of a definite purpose for your visit to Canada, and proof of your ability to return including a round-trip ticket.
  • Illegal work or study. You should have proof that you will have a means of support while in Canada, so you will not have to work illegally or go on welfare. You should also have proof of medical coverage if you get sick. Canada’s medical system does not cover tourists.
  • Criminal record. Canada has strict limits on the admission of people with criminal convictions, including driving while intoxicated. This often presents problems at a port of entry when a criminal conviction pops up on the computer. It is often possible to apply for “rehabilitation” after five years. Under Canada’s immigration law, certain minor offenses are “deemed” rehabilitated without an application, if ten years have passed. In other cases, it is possible to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit. These rules are complicated. We have successfully handled many cases of criminal inadmissibility. Click here for More information.
  • Medical examination. If you are planning to stay in Canada for more than six months, and you have been living in a country which has been determined to have a high rate of infectious disease, you will have to have a medical exam by an approved doctor. This can create a long delay in getting a visitor visa.

What if you have an immigration application pending? Canada’s immigration law recognizes the concept of “dual intent,” and you can still be admitted as a visitor if the immigration officer is convinced you will abide by the law, and leave Canada if your immigration application is refused. However, people with immigration applications pending should exercise care in entering or leaving Canada.

What if you have to stay longer than you expected? You can file for an extension using form IMM 1249. This form is sent to the case processing center in Vegreville, Alberta. It must be filed before your period of stay expires.