Updated for May 2017

There is a big difference between needing and not needing a visa to enter Canada. In either case, Canadian immigration authorities will have the final say at your port of entry, usually an airport nowadays, in Canada. But needing a visa means a sometimes lengthy list of requirements, as well as filling out the application forms – it depends on which country you are a citizen of as well as which country you are applying from – that you must deal with before getting the approval. And having submitted to the process, you may still be rejected. The reasons for the rejection will generally be given, but that is small consolidation. It is best to be informed of whether you need a visa, and if you do, how to go about obtaining one. 

 

Background

In the wake of September 11, 2001, security concerns became paramount across much of the world. Canada, as the northern neighbor of the USA, is in a unique position. Because the country shares a mostly undefended border that stretches for thousands of kilometres with the United States, it is subject to pressure from the American Government to comply with certain security policies they have put in place since the terrorist attacks. This includes travel visas (whether student, temporary work, or temporary residence) as well as fingerprinting and biometrics. It is an evolving situation as they say, and some countries are deemed higher risk than others. It may not seem fair or just to some, but those are the rules nowadays and you will have to comply with them to obtain your visa. 

 

Countries Whose Nationals No Longer Require Visas

3 more coutnries' citizens no longer require visas to travel to Canada.

Bulgarian and Romanian citizens will no longer require visas to visa Canada as of December 2017 and can will be able to apply for eTas. This deal was worked out because Bulgaria and Romania are part of the European Union but their citizens were not treated the same way by Canada's visa policy.

Brazilian citizens are being granted a partial exemption along with Bulgarian and Romanian citizens: any Brazilian, Bulgarian or Romanian citizen who has previously held a visitor visa to Canada, or who currently holds a US Visa, can now apply for an eTA. In December, this qualification will be removed for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens.

 

Getting a Visa

Visa Requirements to Canada by Country By Aquintero82 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

by Aquintero82 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The first step is to see if your country requires its citizens to have a visa to visit Canada. The following countries require visas:

Afghanistan Albania Algeria Angola
Argentina Armenia Azerbaijan Bahrain
Bangladesh Belarus Belize Benin
Bhutan Bolivia Bosnia Herzegovina Botswana
Burkina Faso Burma (Myanmar) Burundi Cambodia
Cameroon Cape Verde Central African Republic Chad
China Colombia Comoros Democratic Republic of Congo
Republic of Congo Costa Rica Cuba Djibouti
Dominica Dominican Republic East Timor Ecuador
Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea
Ethiopia Fiji Gabon Gambia
Georgia Ghana Grenada Guatemala
Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti
Honduras India Indonesia Iran
Iraq Israel

Only holders of "Travel Document in lieu of Passport"
Ivory Coast Jamaica
Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati
North Korea Kosovo Kuwait Kyrgyzstan
Laos Lebanon Lesotho Liberia
Libya Lithuania

Only holders of non-biometric passports
Macao Macedonia
Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives
Mali Marshall Islands Mauritania Mauritius
Mexico Federate States of Micronesia Moldova Mongolia
Montenegro Morocco Mozambique Namibia
Nauru Nepal Nicaragua Niger
Nigeria Oman Pakistan Palau
Palestine Panama Paraguay Peru
Philippines Poland

Only holders of non-biometric passports
Qatar Russia
Rwanda Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal
Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Somalia
South Africa South Sudan Sri Lanka St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Lucia St. Vincent and the Grenadines Sudan Suriname
Swaziland Syria Taiwan

Only if the passport does not contain your personal identification number
Tajikistan
Tanzania Thailand Togo Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan
Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates
Uruguay Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe

Source: CIC

The next step is finding out where to send your visa application. There are several options, depending on your situation:

  • Visa Office: These are located in High Commissions, Embassies and Consular offices of the Canadian government around the world. They will accept and process temporary residence visas, work permits, study permits, and temporary residence permits. Please remember that they do not provide any assistance to help you correctly complete the applications and any incomplete application will be returned to you. Some do offer biometric services should your visa application require them.
  • Visa Application Centres: Also called VACs, these are private, for-profit offices that specialize in helping you complete your visa application. They will assist you in completing the form and afterwards forward the form to the appropriate government office. They are licensed by the Canadian government to accept applications, but they cannot guarantee you success, and they do charge for their services. You may find their help very useful, however. Only some provide biometric services, although the Canadian authorities are working on expanding the number that do.
  • Application Support Centres: Also called ASCS, these are for applicants from within the USA, and are in fact run by the US Immigration and Citizenship Service, or USCIS. These can provide you with biometric services should they be required. You cannot submit your application through an ASCS however, and they are not knowledgeable regarding Canadian immigration policy.

 

Biometric Identification

Fingerprinting By Rachmaninoff (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Fingerprint Scanner by Rachmaninoff / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Canada requires biometric ID, digital fingerprinting and photographs, from about 30 countries, as of late 2013. You will need to find Visa Offices or VACs or ASCS that offer biometric services when completing and submitting your application. These are the countries whose citizens must submit biometric ID when applying for visa to visit Canada:

Afghanistan Albania Algeria Bangladesh Burma (Myanmar) Cambodia
Colombia Democratic Republic of the Congo Egypt Eritrea Haiti Iran
Iraq Jamaica Jordan Laos Lebanon Libya
Nigeria Pakistan Palestine Saudi Arabia Somalia South Sudan
Syria Tunisia Vietnam Yemen    

Source: CIC

Get a visa to Canada


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