Visas for Canada

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Whether you’re planning to carve you way down the country’s storied ski slopes for a brief visit, or settle into one of the nation’s lauded urban centres more permanently, you’ll need a visa for Canada. 
Countless categories may seem to make the visa application process quite overwhelming, but the good news is that Canada’s citizenship and immigration department provides a comprehensive and up-to-date online resource that explicitly answers questions and leads the curious in the right direction. 
This, of course, doesn’t mean permits and visas are more easily granted, or more aptly attended to, but it does mean it’s easy to find out what you’ll need to do to apply and which permit type you’re eligible for. 

Visitor’s (tourist) visas for Canada

Citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and most European nations are afforded visa-free entry into Canada for a visit period of six months or less. It’s merely necessary to have a valid passport. 
Those from South Africa, India and a designated list of countries hosted on Canada’s citizenship and immigration site will, however, need to apply for a temporary resident’s visa prior to arrival in order to be granted entry into Canada for a visit. 
There is no separate visa for those visiting Canada for business purposes, thus, depending on which country you’re from, you may simply be able to enter with a valid passport or you may need to apply for a temporary resident’s visa. 

Temporary resident’s visa for Canada

Those applying for a temporary resident’s visa for Canada should do so from their home country within at least six weeks before departure. Application can be made at the local Canadian embassy or consulate in your home country, and may or may not require a physical meeting. 
The documents required may vary from one country to the next, but generally, future tourists should plan to provide:
  • A completed application form (IMM 5257)
  • 2 x Passport Photos
  • A valid passport with at least one blank page
  • Photocopy of a valid return ticket
  • Proof of financial support (proves that you have enough money to visit Canada)
In certain cases, additional documents, like invitations from a family member or friends, may be necessary as well. 

Permanent residence visas for Canada

Thousands of people immigrate to Canada every year, but in order to do so legally, it’s necessary to have a permanent residence visa. Expats should note that it’s possible to apply for permanent residency through Canada’s federal program, as well as through one of the nation’s provincial programs – in which case a particular province will need to nominate you. 
In contrast to Canada’s temporary resident visa application process, the permanent residence application process is, understandably, much more complicated, time-consuming and frustrating. 
The first point of the process is deciding which permanent residency category you should apply for. There are different permits for those re-uniting with their family, those who’ve recently graduated from a Canadian institution, and those who simply feel they have education, skills and experience that will make then economically advantageous to Canada. 
Types of permanent residency permits
  • Skilled workers and professionals – for those who want to settle and work in Canada, and feel they qualify to be an advantage to the economy (not applicable for Quebec)
  • Quebec selected skilled workers – for those who want to settle and work in Quebec, and feel they qualify to be an advantage to the economy
  • Canadian experience class – for those with recent Canadian work experience
  • Investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed class – for those who wish to start a business in Canada
  • Provincial nominees – for those who have skills needed in a specific province, and who wish to settle in Canada (contingent on nomination from province)
  • Family visas – for those joining a spouse or family member

Skilled workers and professionals permanent residency

One of the most common types of permanent residency permits is the skilled workers and professionals permit, which grants expats the right to live and work in Canada, as well as take advantage of many of the nation’s social benefits, like healthcare. 
In order to apply for this permit type it’s absolutely necessary to either:
►Have a permanent job offer from a Canadian employer that’s been granted permission to hire you by the Human Resources and Social Development Canada department
►Have experience (at least one year) in one of the occupations listed on Canada’s shortage of occupations list
►Be enrolled in a valid Canadian PhD program.
Don’t bother applying if you do not satisfy one of the above categories. If you find yourself eligible, however, then you can submit an application that will be evaluated based on a number of criteria called “selection factors”. 
The degree to which you satisfy each selection factor can win you a certain number of points, and the more points you have the better the chance is that your application will be approved. 
For example, one selection factor is age, and a different number of points are assigned to different ages. People between 21 and 49 are awarded the highest number of points (10), and everyone else is assigned a different number of points according to their age. 
You must score at least 67 points in total to even be considered for a permanent residency permit. Thus, it’s best to carefully consider the number of points that you could achieve. 
The Canadian citizenship and immigration department has created Canada Wizard, an easily accessible online tool that evaluates eligibility based on these factors, beforehand. It’s highly recommend that expats utilise this resource.
If you do find that you stand a good chance of having you application approved, you merely need to complete the application package, attach any additional required document, pay the application fee, and mail everything to the Centralized Intake Office for Federal Skilled Worker Applications in Sydney, Nova Scotia (Canada). You should not mail your application to the Canadian embassy or consulate in your home country. 
Document checklist for federal skilled worker permanent residency permit
  • Copy of passport
  • 6 x passport photos
  • Copy of current Canadian work permit (if you’re currently working in Canada)
  • Copy of HRSDC confirmation letter sent to your employer (if you have a confirmed job offer in Canada)
  • Letters of reference from all employers in the last 10 years (on letterhead, stamped with company stamp)
  • Proof of language proficiency from a designated testing centre
  • Copies of all education-related documents (transcripts, diplomas, and qualification certificates)
  • Proof of funds (bank statements)
  • Police clearance certificates 
  • Completed fee payment form
You will also need to undergo a medical exam that proves you’re in good health to become a permanent resident of Canada, but this is not necessary at the time of application.
Once your application has been received for processing, you can check the status online using your identification number at the “Client Application Status" portal. Processing times vary tremendously, but generally range from 50 to 100 days. 

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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