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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.
This topic will discuss visitor visas.
Citizens of most European countries and some other countries do not require a visa to visit Canada, they simply use their passport. No letter of invitation is needed for them.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents may invite visitors from countries requiring a visa to enter Canada. The persons who invite promise to pay all expenses for their prospective visitor. The prospective visitor then attends the closest Canadian consulate or embassy with the letter of invitation to apply for a visitor visa.
The usual period of visit in Canada is six months, subject always to the discretion of a port-of-entry immigration officer. The visit may be extended for good reason, as long as the extension application is sent before expiration of the original visit period. In that case, visitor or “temporary resident status” continues, even beyond expiry date, until there is a response. For this reason, people in Canada with temporary status – visitors, workers and students – should always keep a copy of their extension application and their postal or courier receipt.
Visitation to Canada is a privilege, not a legal right. Visa officers are hesitant to issue temporary resident visas if they suspect the prospective temporary resident seeks to remain in Canada permanently. Visitors must show continuing connection to their country of residence. This includes family members remaining behind, homes and businesses, cars and other assets.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents who invite visitors must clearly set out their responsibility and ability to pay for the visitor’s expenses in Canada, including health care. This means that if the visa is issued, a private health insurance policy for the visitor’s entire stay in Canada is necessary. A sample letter of invitation is available on the Citizenship and Immigration website, www.cic.gc.ca . The invitation letters are usually signed before a notary public, who then provides a stamp and seal to indicate authenticity, together with any other documents to prove the finances of the inviting person.
The letter of invitation and enclosures are then sent to the prospective visitor who then applies for a visitor visa from the closest Canadian consulate or embassy. The processing period is fast, usually a matter of less than three weeks.