The 2015 Pan American Games will be held this year in Toronto, Canada from July 10 to July 26, while the Parapan American Games will be held in Toronto from August 7 to August 15, 2015. If you are planning to attend the games, you need to know under which category you will be applying to visit Canada for either, or both, of the games. You should, as well, understand the requirements for each category. There are 4 possible categories for those who wish to enter Canada to attend or participate in the Pan American and Parapan Games:
- Games Family Members: This is a broad category that includes people directly involved in the games, whether athletes and coaches, committee members and technical officials, broadcasters and other media, sponsors and partners and suppliers, or dignitaries and heads of state.
- Volunteers: Those who have been approved for a volunteer position.
- Workforce: This involves any workers associated with the Games who are from abroad.
- Spectators and Visitors: These are those people who have come to Toronto to enjoy the games and visit the city and country.
Games Family Members
A Pan American Games Family Member, or PAFM, or Parapan American Games Family Member, or PPFM, includes the following categories:
- Members of a National Olympic Committee or a National Paralympic Committee;
- An athlete, a coach, a manager, a team official, a sport technician, and the like;
- Members of International Federations or International Paralympic Federations;
- Technical delegates and officials, Members of Executive Boards and their staff;
- And other Accredited Media;
- Sponsors, Lead Partners, Premier Partners, Official Suppliers, and Proud Supporters;
- Members of the Pan American Sports Organization, (PASO), or International Paralympic Committees;
- International Dignitaries, Heads of State, and National Sports Ministers.
If you are a Games Family Member, whether a PAFM or a PPFM, your respective National Olympic Committee, or NOC, will send you an invitation to apply by means of the accredited visa process. As well, your National Olympic Committee will submit your application to the Toronto Pan Am Organizing Committee, or TO2015, on your behalf. When you are notified that you are eligible for the visa accreditation process, you will have to sign a consent form that gives your National Olympic Committee permission to collect your personal information, and also give written permission to the Toronto Pan Am Organizing Committee, or TO2015, to permit the government of Canada to do a background security check on you.
Once, as a PAFM or PPFM, you are accredited, you will receive a Pan Am Identity and Accreditation Card, or PIAC. This card will be unique to you as an individual PAFM or PPFM. It will enable the following:
- It will serve as a travel document, along with your passport or other travel document you provide.
- It will be valid for a restricted time period: from 60 days before the opening ceremonies to 30 days after the closing ceremony.
If you do not give consent to share your information, or you do not receive an invitation to apply for a visa through the accreditation process, then you should apply for a visitor visa, which will include biometrics information where applicable. You will also have to pay any associated fees. The first step, should you not provide consent, is to see whether you need a visitor visa to visit Canada. Go here to see if your visitors to Canada from your country need a visa. For example, if you are a PAFM or PPFM from the Bahamas you will not need a visa. You should ensure, however, that you meet any other requirements in order to visit Canada. If you are from Brazil, however, you will need a visa to visit Canada, as well as satisfying any other requirements. See below in the Spectators and Visitors category for further details on visitors’ visas and biometrics.
If you wish to volunteer, go here for information on the 23,000 volunteers who will be part of TO2015 as well as a link to their Volunteer Portal. If you have already been approved as a volunteer, you will receive what is called a “Volunteer Attestation Letter”, which is your volunteer acceptance letter. Go here to see if visitors to Canada from your country require a visa. If you do require a visa then you will have to present your Volunteer Attestation Letter when you apply for a visa at your nearest Visa Application Centre. If you apply for your visa online, you should scan your Volunteer Attestation Letter during the online application process. If you do not require a visa, you should have your Volunteer Attestation Letter with you at your Canadian port of entry should Border Service officials ask you for the reasons for your visit to Canada.
If you are a foreign worker you will have to apply for both a visitor visa as well as a work permit and pay any required fees. If you are from a list of countries found here, you will have to give biometrics. Remember that if you have multiple citizenships you will have to use the same travel document when giving biometrics at a Visa Application Centre, or VAC, outside the USA or an Application Support Centre, or ASC, within the USA. Remember biometrics are fingerprints and digital photographs that take a few minutes to record in a safe and quick process at the respective centre you go to.
To apply for a work permit, first of all, go here to see if you are eligible for one. The eligibility requirements include:
- Proving to the authorities that you will leave Canada when your permit expires after the Games end.
- Proving you have enough money for your stay in Canada and that you will obey the law and are not a health risk to Canadian society.
- That you will submit to a medical exam if necessary and that your employer is legitimate.
- Prove that you have not worked over one or more periods in Canada that total 4 years since April 1, 2011.
- Give the immigration officials any documents they request to prove you can enter Canada.
If you need a visa to enter Canada then the application for a work permit should be done at the same time through the same visa office that handles your visa application. Your employer at the Games may have to submit a Labour Market Impact Assessment, or LMIA. You may also need a medical certificate, especially if you are from a designated country. Go here for more information on medical exams.
If in your case:
- You do not need a visa and if you have a medical certificate, should it be required for Your work, and
- Your employer has submitted an LMIA as well as an Offer of Employment form, as well as paid an employer compliance fee in the case that your job does not require an LMIA,
- Then you may apply for your work permit on arrival in Canada.
Spectators and Visitors
As with workers and Games Family Members who do not provide consent or do not receive an invitation to apply for a visa through the accreditation process, first go here to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Canada. Note that, depending on your country, you may to provide biometrics. You must also pay any fees required by Canadian immigration authorities. Remember to apply early to ensure your visitor visa comes through in time for you to attend the Games. You should apply at least 6 to 8 weeks before your anticipated date of arrival in Canada. Remember that to visit Canada as a tourist or visitor, you must:
- Have a passport or other valid travel document;
- Be in good health and not be health risk to Canadian society;
- Prove that you have ties back home – a job, a home, financial assets, and family for example – that ensure you will return to your home country after the Games and not attempt to remain in Canada;
- Have enough money for your stay in Canada.
Seeing your stay will be less than 6 months, in most cases you will not need a medical exam but you should be certain that you are not from a designated country that requires medical exams to visit Canada. In certain cases you will also need a letter of invitation to visit Canada. Go here for more information. Please be aware that certain travel documents are not acceptable for entry to Canada because they are deemed unreliable:
- Passports purportedly issued by Somalia;
- Non-machine-readable passports issued by the Czech Republic;
- Temporary passports issued by the Republic of South Africa;
- Provisional passports issued by Venezuela.
Go here to check for updates to this list of unacceptable travel documents. You should also understand that there are certain things that makes visitors to Canada inadmissible according to Canadian immigration law. They include:
- If you are a security risk to Canada;
- If you have committed human rights or international rights violations;
- If you have been convicted of crimes or committed acts outside Canada that would be considered a crime within Canada;
- If you have ties to any organized crime;
- If you suffer from serious health problems;
- If you have severe financial problems;
- If you have lied in any immigration interview;
- If a family member is inadmissible to Canada.
These and any other violations of Canadian immigration law can mean are not admissible to enter Canada. Visit the Canadian Border Services Agency website to ensure you understand all the documentation and other requirements you will need to enter Canada as a visitor.
While understanding which requirements apply to you might seem a little overwhelming, it is far better to inform yourself and take all the required steps before getting on a plane to Toronto. That way you can help ensure a smooth arrival in Canada that enables you to enjoy your visit and the Pan American and Parapan American Games this summer.