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Obtaining a Visa to Live, Study and Work: Canada

23 May, 2012 11:24  EasyExpat EasyExpat

This is the third in a series of articles concerning visa options. We cover the different types of visas and how to apply. The other regions in the series are the United Kingdom, Australia, the Schengen area, and the United States. Get ready to go abroad!

immigration control © TMAX - Fotolia.comIf you've ever wanted to live or work (legally) in Canada, you've come to the right place. Below you will find information on visa regulations for long-term visitors, students, and individuals moving to Canada to work or to join spouses, partners or other family members. This is the first in a series of five articles: in the coming weeks there will be installments that investigate visa requirements for permanent residents, students, workers and certain other visitors to the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Schengen Area of western Europe. Each article will focus on how to meet the requirements for obtaining a visa and/or work permit for the country or region.

Every effort has been made to provide accurate information; however, you should consult with the appropriate consulate or embassy to obtain the most recent information and to discuss your specific circumstances. In addition, fees have been deliberately omitted because this information often becomes outdated very quickly.

Do You Need a Visa?

Are you planning to relocate temporarily to Canada? If you hold a passport or permanent resident status for any one of the countries or regions listed below, you do not need a visa to visit Canada for short visits. In some cases, passports must contain biometric chips that store personal information about the passport holder such as name, photograph, date of birth and fingerprint images.

The length of time you may stay in Canada without a visa varies according to your country of origin and other factors, however, in most cases you may stay for up to six months.

List of Countries and Regions Whose Citizens May Enter Canada Without a Visa on the government website.

Obtaining a Temporary Residence Visa

If you do not hold a passport for a visa-exempt country, you need to obtain a visa to visit Canada for any length of time. You will also need a visa if you are a resident of a visa-exempt country and plan to stay in Canada for an extended period. In most cases, you will need a temporary resident visa. You must apply for a temporary resident visa from outside of Canada. Once you are in Canada, you may apply to extend your stay; however, you must submit your application at least 30 days in advance of the expiration date of your visa.

In some instances, you must present proof of health insurance or provide a letter of introduction (see information and example) from someone inside Canada along with your temporary visa application. You may also be required to undergo a medical examination, present proof of employment or offer of employment, provide a copy of your planned itinerary for your visit or conduct an interview with a visa processing officer to qualify for a temporary resident visa. In all cases, you will need to present the following documents. Allow sufficient lead time for processing; lead times vary according to your country of citizenship and other factors.

Necessary Documents for a Temporary Residence Visa Application:

  • Valid Passport or Other Travel Document
  • Two (2) Color Headshot Photographs (see requirement)
  • Proof of Sufficient Financial Resources for the Entire Duration of Your Visit
  • Non-Refundable Application Fee (Not Applicable for Long-Term Visitors from Visa-Exempt Regions)

More information on http://www.cic.gc.ca.

Obtaining a Study Permit

If you are coming to Canada to study, you may be eligible for a study permit. As a holder of a study permit, you may be able to obtain a temporary work visa that allows you to work up to 20 hours per week either on or off campus while you remain enrolled full-time. You must be admitted to study in an eligible Canadian institution, have no criminal record, provide evidence of good physical health and demonstrate that you will be able to cover your expenses, including tuition, while you are in Canada. You must apply for a study permit before you come to Canada. If you are studying full-time, you may also work up to 20 hours per week when classes are in session and full-time during breaks, including summer break, either on campus or of-campus, under a special student work visa.

If you wish to study in Canada for less than six months, you do not need a study permit. You also may not need a study permit if you are accompanying a family member who is accredited by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada as a staff member or foreign representative. If you are a uniformed member of the armed services of foreign countries serving under the Visiting Forces Act, you may also be eligible to study in Canada without obtaining a student visa. However, any family members that accompany you, including your minor children, must apply for temporary residence visas.

Necessary Documents for a Study Permit Application (PDF):

  • Application for Study Permit
  • Letter of Acceptance from Educational Institution
  • Application for Temporary Resident Visa (If Necessary)
  • Custodian Declaration (for Minors Studying in Canada)
  • Proof of Financial Support
  • Certificate d'Acceptation du Québec (if Applicable)
  • Photocopy of Passport Information Page (if Applying from a Visa-Exempt Country)
  • Original Passport with At Least One Blank Page (if Applying from a Non Visa-Exempt Country)
  • Two (2) Color Headshot Photos (see requirement)
  • Applicable Study Permit Fee

Obtaining a Permanent Resident Card

If you've decided to make Canada your permanent home, you will need to apply for a permanent resident card.

  • If you have substantial personal and financial resources you may qualify for permanent resident status if you meet the requirements to apply as an investor or an entrepreneur.
  • However, if you have family living within Canada, you may qualify for sponsorship under the Family Class designation without the need to meet stringent financial requirements.
  • If you possess skills in a profession in high demand, you may also apply for permanent residency status as a Skilled Worker; self-employed workers may also qualify for permanent resident status in some instances.

The sections below describe the general requirements for applying for permanent resident status under the Family Class, Skilled Worker and Self-Employed designations. Be forewarned that the wait time for processing a permanent resident visa application can be extremely lengthy, especially if you do not have sponsorship or a job offer in hand.

Document Checklist for Permanent Resident Card Application (PDF):

  • Applicaition for a Permanent Resident Card
  • Supplementary Identification Form, with Photo Attached
  • Photocopy of Secondary Identification Document
  • Two (2) Color Headshot Photos (see requirement)
  • Birth Certificate or Adoption Certificate (for Applicants Under 18 )
  • Copy of Receipt for Fee Payment

More information on application forms and guides.

Qualifying for a Visa Under Family Class Rules

If you have an eligible spouse, partner, parent (including adoptive parent) or other family member who is a citizen of Canada or who holds permanent resident status, and who is willing to sponsor your application for permanent resident status, your chances of being admitted to Canada as a permanent resident are much greater.

Citizens and permanent residents may also sponsor other relatives under the Family Class category if they have no eligible dependents, spouses or partners or have previously sponsored all other eligible dependents, spouses or partners.

Your sponsor must be at least age 18 and agree to provide for your financial support once you arrive in Canada if you are unable to provide for your own financial needs.

Necessary Documents for Family Sponsorship Visa Applications (PDF):

If you do not presently live with your sponsoring family member, your sponsor will also need to complete a sponsorship application to submit along with your application for permanent resident status. In addition, you and your sponsor will each need to complete additional relevant application forms to begin the process of applying for permanent resident status. In addition to paying the appropriate fee, you and your sponsor must complete the documents listed below.

You will find the list of necessary documents on the government website.

Dependent Children

Canadian citizens may sponsor their biological and adopted children for permanent resident status under Family Class regulations.

Your child must be under age 22, and may not have a spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner at the time of his or her application unless he or she married or became involved in the relationship before reaching age 22 and has remained financially dependent. If your child is over age 22, he or she must either be enrolled as a full-time student or unable to live independently due to a physical or mental disability.

Parent and Grandparent Super Visa

As of November 5, 2011, Canada placed a 24-month hiatus on new applications for sponsoring parents or grandparents for permanent resident status. No new applications will be accepted until the hiatus has been lifted.

However, as of December 1, 2011, if you are a parent or a grandparent of a Canadian citizen, you may be eligible for a Parent and Grandparent Super Visa that allows you to remain in Canada for up to two years without having to renew your visa status. In many cases, you may receive your visa within eight weeks of applying. The visa is a multiple-entry visa, which means that you may make short trips outside of Canada, and return to Canada without having to reapply.

You must apply for the visa outside of Canada, although exceptions may be made if you have come to Canada within the past six months and otherwise qualify for a super visa. You must also undergo a medical examination and purchase Canadian medical insurance.

Obtaining a Visa to Work in Canada

If you want to work in Canada and you are not a full-time student, you must apply for a work permit, either as a skilled worker, a temporary worker or a provincial nominee. In most cases, you will need to submit your application before you arrive in Canada. You have a much shorter wait if you can qualify as a sponsored applicant, or have a job offer that you have obtained from your own efforts or through the provincial nominee program.

In some cases you may be required to submit to a medical examination in addition to your application. Once you receive your work permit and arrive in Canada, you must apply for a Social Insurance Number.

Skilled Worker Visas

As of July 1, 2011, you may only apply for a Skilled Worker visa if you qualify for any one of the following categories:

  • Several of the 29 recognized work classifications have already reached the maximum number of applications set by the Canadian government; applications that exceed the cap will be returned unprocessed. Cap limits do not apply if you have an offer of arranged employment.
  • You must demonstrate proficiency in either English or French. Proficiency in both languages is a definite plus.
  • You must provide proof that you have sufficient financial resources to support yourself and any family members who accompany you once you arrive; this requirement is waived if you have a job offer in hand.
  • There are no formal age requirements to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, however, applicants between the ages of 18 and 49 have a significant advantage over younger or older applicants.

Be forewarned: the wait time to process an application for Skilled Worker status can take as long as six to twelve months, even if you meet the very stringent requirements to qualify for Skilled Worker status. Having a job offer in hand, or qualifying for provincial nominee status can cuts your wait time significantly.

Eligible Categories for Skilled Worker Application:

  • Holders of Valid Offers of Employment with Canadian Employers
  • Ph.D. Students or Recent Ph.D. Graduates of Canadian Universities
  • Skilled Workers in One of 29 Work Classifications (Within Specified Caps)

See here for the list of Necessary Documents for a Skilled Worker Application.

Temporary Worker Visas

In most cases, if you have an offer of temporary employment, you must apply for a temporary worker visa. However, certain job classifications, including clergy, professional athletes, business visitors, public speakers and military personnel do not require temporary work permits.

You may also bring your spouse or common-law partner and your children, however, each family member must submit separate applications for temporary visa status. If your spouse or common-law partner wishes to work, he or she must also apply for a work permit.

Your employer must obtain a letter from the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada stating that employing you will not cause an adverse effect on the labor market for eligible Canadians.

See here for the list of documents along with the applicable fee.

Visas for Québec

Québec has its own visa requirements for visitors, students, workers or individuals being sponsored by a spouse, partner or family member that are similar to those of the rest of Canada, but not identical. These differences have generally been omitted because, other than language requirements (i.e. French instead of or in addition to English skills), they often do not have a fundamental impact on the process of applying for or obtaining a visa. In addition, fees have been deliberately omitted because this information often becomes outdated very quickly.

Check the government website to find information specific to Québec.

Researched by Audrey Henderson
--freelance writer based in Chicago


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