Canada welcomes visitors, and in many cases, you won’t need to apply for a visa before arriving. Citizens of certain countries are referred to as visa exempt. Upon arrival in Canada, you will need to present a valid passport and you may or may not receive an entry stamp (with the date you have arrived in Canada; this is not essential) in your passport at your point of entry (border or airport), but either way, you are typically allowed to stay for up to six months without a visa.
If you are a citizen of a non-exempt country (complete list can be found at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp), you must apply for a Temporary Resident Visa from the Canadian visa office (high commission, embassy, or consulate) responsible for your home country/region before visiting Canada. Complete instructions and downloadable forms can be found here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/apply-how.asp#step5.
You must submit the following documents with your application:
- A valid travel document (such as a passport) for each family member on the application
- Two recent passport photos of each family member (ensure the photos meet the requirements)
- Application fee (non-refundable)
- Proof of adequate funds (further information can be obtained from the visa office)
- Additional documentation if required—identification cards, proof of employment, a letter of invitation from relatives or friends in Canada, or a proposed itinerary (check with the visa office)
You will need to mail the application to the appropriate Canadian visa office (detailed instructions will be in the package of forms). Processing times are typically one month or less. A visa officer will review your application to ensure that all your documents are in order and will then decide whether or not an interview and/or medical exam is necessary. If an interview is necessary, you will be notified of the time and place. If your application is then approved, your documents will be mailed back to you, along with your Temporary Resident Visa. You are now free to visit Canada! You will need to present your passport, along with your visa, at your point of entry into Canada.
You might be visiting Canada for business purposes—to look for new business/investment opportunities, or to further develop existing business connections or affiliations. In this case you are a Business Visitor. You might still need a Temporary Resident Visa (see above for list of required documents), in which case you must apply just like anyone else, but additionally you will be required to submit the following:
- A letter of invitation from your potential business partner in Canada and
- 24-hour contact details for that person.
Complete instructions can be found here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/business-who.asp.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provides for U.S. and Mexican citizens to engage in various cross border business activities. This agreement makes it permissible for North Americans to travel more freely across the border for work-related purposes, rather than just for leisure purposes. Cross-border business can include activities like:
- buying Canadian goods or services for a foreign business or government
- taking orders for goods or services
- attending meetings, conferences, conventions or trade fairs
- providing after-sales service (mainly supervision, not hands-on labour)
- being trained by a Canadian parent company you work for outside Canada
- training employees of a Canadian subsidiary of a foreign company or
- being trained by a Canadian company that has sold you equipment or services
Mexican nationals will need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa (see above). Further information on NAFTA can be found here: http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/nafta-alena/.
A list of what you may bring with you into Canada can be found at the Canada Border Services Agency website: http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/pub/bsf5082-eng.html.