What to Consider Before Applying for a Visitor Visa

At Don Valley Community Legal Services, we sometimes receive calls from community members asking how they can help a relative get a visitor visa to come to Canada. We do not usually assist with these applications due to our limited resources. However, there is some general information we ask clients to consider before they invest in a private lawyer and the visa application process. There are more details you can discuss if you retain a private lawyer.

First, clients should determine if a visa is in fact needed for their situation. For a visit of less than 180 days, Americans do not need a visa. Citizens of some (mostly European) countries can enter Canada with an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), which is generally easier to obtain than a visitor visa. If the prospective visitor does not fall into one of these categories, they will need a visitor visa. To find out what is needed for your situation, check out this resource:

Second, clients should consider whether the prospective visitor could be “inadmissible” to Canada. Reasons for inadmissibility include being unable to support oneself financially in Canada, having a serious health problem, being affiliated (no matter how innocently) with political parties or organizations accused of crimes, or having a criminal record. When it comes to inadmissibility for having a criminal record, what matters is how the offense is viewed by Canadian law. For example, driving under the influence charges are often treated as “serious criminality” by Canadian officials, even if they were treated as a misdemeanor or civil offense in the country where they were prosecuted.

For many prospective visitors, the key challenge is persuading Canada that they will leave after a maximum of 6 months. In order to persuade Canada that an applicant intends to honour the terms of their visitor visa, the applicant can document that they have a home to return to, that they have close family in their home country, that they are in school in their home country, that they are employed and well paid, etc.

Visitor visa applications are difficult because immigration officers do not give them with the same attention that they give to permanent residence applications. For example, an officer might write, “there is no proof the applicant is in school,” even when an applicant has provided multiple official documents confirming their university registration.

Applicants from a country in crisis (such as an economic depression, a destructive storm, political oppression, etc.) may struggle to get their applications approved. This is true even for individuals who are clearly unaffected by their country’s internal issues.

Applying for a visitor visa means spending money ($100 per person or $500 for a family of five or more), along with whatever fees your lawyer charges. The process can also involve months of waiting, and court challenges against refusals. Family visits are very important, but you and your relatives should approach this process with information on the possible challenges.

This is legal information and not legal advice. If you need further information or need legal advice, please call our Intake Line at 416-441-1764 ext. 1 or complete our online Intake Form.