How to enter Canada without a VISA

Are you considering a trip to Canada? Maybe you are planning to attend school in Canada? If so, there are some important guidelines that you must be aware of when traveling and/or visiting Canada.

If you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport and your intended stay is less than 180 days, you will not require a visa to enter Canada. The same is true of U.S. students traveling to Canada for educational purposes. If your stay will be less than 180 days, a visa will not be required. However, if you need to extend your stay past the 180-day benchmark, you will need to apply for an extension at least 30 days before your time limit expires. If you know in advance that you will be in Canada for more than six months, then you should apply for a visa well in advance of your intended travel date(s) to ensure you have the necessary approved paperwork, as well as permission to enter and stay in Canada for the necessary time period. This is especially important for those who are traveling to Canada for business dealings and/or educational purposes.

It is important to note that you can apply either online or in person for an extension, and you are not required to return to the U.S. to make the application. However, it is required by law that all visitors to Canada must carry both identification and proof of nationality with them at all times. Therefore, you should keep your passport, passport card, and/or NEXUS card with you at all times, in case you are required to show it.

For those visiting family in Canada, there is a Parent and Grandparent Super Visa program available for U.S. citizens visiting either children or grandchildren. This visa allows you to remain in Canada for up to two years to visit your family. These forms can be found online and the application can be submitted at any Canadian visa office. Moreover, if you are a United States citizen, there will not be any fees. However, if you do not meet the criteria for this program, you will need to apply for a tourist visa if your intended stay will be more than 180 days.

For those studying in Canada, U.S. passport holders need a student visa to study in Canada if their course is longer than six months. However, you need to secure a place at a Canadian college, school, and/or university prior to submitting your application. You must also provide documentation proving your financial ability to sustain yourself throughout the course of your studies.

Those working in Canada for an extended period will require a visa or work permit. The regulations are often complicated and will vary on your employment. Certain jobs, such as missionaries and journalists, do not require a work permit, but many other professions do. It is best to check the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website for the most up-to-date information on criteria and how to apply.

It is also important to note that visa requirements can change with little or no notice. Casein point, visa-exempt foreign nationals now require a Canadian ETA (electronic travel authorization) (eTA)) to fly to or transit through Canada. Exceptions to this requirement include U.S. citizens and travelers who possess a valid Canadian visa. As of March 2016, this authorization is required for all persons coming from previously visa-free countries to travel to Canada. It is the equivalent of American Esta in Canada. Thus, it is imperative to check the State Department’s International Travel Information when planning your trip to Canada.