Whether planning to carve their way down Canada’s ski slopes for a brief visit or settling into one of its lauded urban centres more permanently, it is essential for expats to know the facts about visas for Canada.

Countless categories make the visa application process appear overwhelming, but the good news is that Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration department provides a comprehensive and up-to-date online resource that assists applicants with the process.

Visit visas for Canada

Citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and a number of European countries are afforded visa-free entry into Canada for a visit period of six months or less, as long as they have a valid passport.

Expats from a designated list of countries available on Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration site will, however, need to apply for a temporary residence visa before they arrive to be granted entry into Canada.

There is no separate visa for visiting Canada for business purposes. Depending on which country someone is from, they may be able to enter with a valid passport or they may need to apply for a temporary residence visa.

Temporary residence visas for Canada

Those applying for a temporary residence visa for Canada should do so from their home country at least six weeks before they depart. Applications can be made at a Canadian embassy or consulate in an expat’s home country, which may need to be done in person.

Permanent residence visas for Canada

Thousands of people immigrate to Canada every year. In order to do so legally, it is necessary to have a permanent residence visa. Expats should note that it’s possible to apply for permanent residency through Canada’s federal programme, as well as through one of the country’s provincial programmes – in which case a particular province will need to nominate the applicant.

In contrast to Canada’s temporary residence visa application process, the permanent residence application process is more complicated, time-consuming and can be somewhat frustrating.

The first point of the process is deciding which permanent residency category an expat should apply for. There are different permits for those reuniting with their family, those who have recently graduated from a Canadian institution, and those who have the education, skills and experience that will make them economically advantageous to Canada.

Main types of permanent residency permits

  • Skilled workers and professionals – for those who want to settle and work in Canada, and 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 will be an advantage to the local economy

  • Canadian experience class – for those with recent Canadian work experience

  • Investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed class – for those wanting to start a business in Canada

  • Provincial nominees – for those with skills needed in a specific province and who wish to settle in Canada (contingent on nomination from the province)

  • Carers – for live-in caregivers and individual taking care of those with high medical needs

  • Family visas – for those joining a spouse or family member

*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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