Planning a trip to Canada has become much easier thanks to a series of online tools that make a breeze of the visa paperwork. Everything you need, from visa documentation to Electronic Travel Authorizations, can be found on the Canadian government’s website.
Of course, different rules apply for different nationalities – to get you started, here’s our guide to the visa requirements for visiting Canada.
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What you need to know about visas for Canada
Currently, visas are not required for citizens of 53 countries – including most EU member states, Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK – for visits to Canada of up to six months. The Government of Canada website has a full list of countries that don’t require a visa.
Visitors to Canada from visa-exempt countries must hold a valid passport with at least six months remaining before its expiration. Visitors from visa-exempt countries (with the exception of the US) are also required to purchase an Electronic Travel Authorization (C$7), similar to the USA’s ESTA visa waiver scheme, before departing their home country.
The eTA is valid for five years, or until your passport expires if earlier, and the permit is usually granted within minutes, although it’s best to apply at least 72 hours before you travel. Visitors from non-visa-waiver countries must apply for the appropriate class of visa prior to arriving in Canada.
Beware of scam websites that claim to process eTAs for elevated fees. Use the official government website for all eTA applications.
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Allow extra time to apply for visas during busy periods such as the winter holidays © Dawn Tardif / LWA/ Getty Images
What if I need a visa to travel to Canada?
To check if you need a visa to enter Canada, consult the Government of Canada website for detailed entry requirements for different nationalities. Visas are required for citizens of more than 140 countries, including India, China, and many other countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.
Some places have very specific geographical and passport requirements to qualify for a visa, including Israel and Taiwan. If you’re unsure about your status, there’s a handy online tool that allows you to input your details and see what documentation you need to enter the country.
How to apply for a visa for Canada
Visitor visas – aka Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs) – can now be applied for online. Single-entry TRVs cost C$100 and are usually valid for a maximum stay of six months from the date of your arrival in Canada.
In most cases, your biometric data (such as fingerprints) will be taken. Note that you don’t need a Canadian multiple-entry TRV for repeated entries into Canada from the USA, unless you’ve visited a third country in between.
Please beware of the many scam websites and “immigration specialists” claiming to offer barrier-free visitor visas for Canada for elevated fees. Only use the official Government of Canada website, and report potential scams here.
If you plan to live and work in Canada, you’ll need a work permit © Russell Monk / Getty Images
Visas for working and studying in Canada
If you plan to study or work in Canada, a different class of visa is required for all nationalities. Most workers need a work permit, and applying for a permit often involves input from the company you will be working for. See the Government of Canada website for more information.
Canada also offers a working holiday visa program called International Experience Canada, which is open to young people aged 18 to 30 (or 35 for some nationalities), allowing participants in the scheme to work in Canada for one or two years.
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Do Americans need a passport to visit Canada?
Most international visitors require a passport to enter Canada. However, US citizens entering Canada via land and sea borders have other options. The list of approved identity documents includes enhanced driver’s licenses, permanent resident cards, Free and Secure Trade (FAST) cards or NEXUS cards. US citizens are also permitted to enter Canada without an Electronic Travel Authorization.
See the website of the Canada Border Services Agency for a full list of approved identification documents. Note that questioning may be more intense when entering Canada via land border crossings and your car may be searched.
For updates (particularly regarding land border-crossing rules), check the websites of the US State Department and Citizenship & Immigration Canada.