Monday, February 09, 2015
tips for applying for a visitor's visa to canada.
It's been almost a year since Tony applied for (and got!) a visitor's visa for Canada. Since then, I've received a few emails asking for advice/tips, and a lot of people we know "in real life" have been curious about the process. We had friends help us and give us advice, so I'm happy to do the same!
I thought I'd share our experience here, FAQ style, in case you're looking for tips or are just curious:
(Note: This is based only on our personal experience. We aren't experts (by any means!) and we applied in early 2014 so things may have changed since.)
We are talking about a visitor's visa to Canada? And an independent visitor's visa too, right—not for a tour group?
Yes, we're talking about a private visitor's visa to visit Canada. (In fact, on one of the forms, you have to tell the purpose of the trip. The guide from the website said to choose "tourism," even if it was a private visit, not a tour group, but when we called the VAC (Visa Application Centre) to ask about something else, the guy we talked to gave us a tip to choose "other" for purpose and in the next box write "Private - Visiting friends.")
Did you manage to find a website that officially listed the requirements?
I looked and looked and I found lots of websites and they all said different things. Then I found this website http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp. Once you choose the country, you can click "Apply as a tourist or for a transit visa." (We also used the "Come to Canada wizard" and it was super helpful because it told us pretty much everything we needed.)
Approximately how long did the process take?
It was actually really quick, maybe about 2 weeks and that included gathering everything, applying, and getting the visa. It was stressful, but I'm super organized and we were lucky that my mom emailed me what I needed from her right away and our employer (a school) gave us what we needed within a day or two.
Our friend has applied three different times. The first time, she was rejected and told us it took a month to hear back after she applied. The second, she found out within a week or so and was accepted, and the same with the third time.
Also, I don't know if there is a set rule about how far ahead you can apply, but our friends told us you can't apply more than 6 months ahead of when you'd want the visa because (usually) the visa expires after 6 months.
Did Tony just apply and was granted a visa, or did he have to go for an interview too?
Tony just applied and was granted one. I think we got really lucky. Everyone else I've heard from or have heard of said they were all rejected at least once. But I've never heard of anyone having an interview. It was just decided on the paperwork, application, and supporting documents.
Did you mail stuff in or do it in person, or is there the option for both?
Tony went in person but I think there is an option to mail it in. I'm guessing it's probably faster if you do it in person, but I'm guessing you'd only be able to do it if you can also pick it up in person? You could call and check.
Why do you think he was given a 9 year multiple-entry visa when you said you only applied for a single-entry visa?
All of the advice we got was that since it was his first time applying, he should only apply for a single-entry, less than 6 month visa because it would show them he wasn't planning on trying to stay in Canada and his odds of getting one would be more likely. So that's what we did. And when he went to pick up his visa, we were shocked (happily so!) to see it was a multiple-entry visitor's visa that was valid for 9 years!
I honestly have no idea why we got so lucky. Some people said they think it must have been a mistake (but I think they probably don't make mistakes like that and even if it is, yay for us!), or maybe it's because we meticulously filled out our paperwork (I went over it SO many times) and followed their instructions to the letter and provided extra things (more on that further down). And a few people have suggested that maybe it's because Tony and I both work at a Canadian International school and that somehow convinced them to be extra nice?
From what I've heard from other people, most people's first visa is for a shorter amount of time and then when they apply the second time they are granted one for a longer time.
What kind of documents/proof did you need to submit? Obviously a valid passport and any forms they ask for, but what else?
If you use the "Come to Canada wizard", it will tell you what you need. But! Our friends told us that everyone they knew who was denied only submitted what was asked for, and when people submitted extra things, they got the visa!
Here's a list of everything I can think of that we submitted:
- all the completed forms
- copies of his passport
- Letter of Invitation from my Mom and supporting documents (She followed these instructions exactly and emailed me a copy of her driver's license, birth certificate, vehicle registration, and her T4 from the previous year. Other things someone could send would be a copy of a power bill, home owner documents, etc. I think the idea is just to prove you're visiting a real person who can help support you if need be.)
- letter from Tony's employer stating how long he's worked there, how much he earns, and that he is under contract for another year
- letter from my employer stating the same things
- Tony's bank information (balance, etc.)
- my bank info (I just printed that month's account statement and my credit card statement to show it was paid off)
- my tax info from my employer
- copies of my passport and birth certificate
- emails sent between the two of us and skype conversations (to show that we really do know each other and are in a "regular," long-term relationship)
- photos of the two of us together (Tip: Include photos from different times of year (think wearing winter coats, shorts, etc.), in different locations, and with friends and family to prove that your relationship is real and long-term.)
Did you need to show bank information/did you need to have a certain amount of money in an account?
As I said above, we did provide bank information, but I don't think it was specifically asked for. On one of the forms, Tony had to write how much money he would have available to him while he was in Canada and he wrote $2500 CAD I think, even though he might have more or less than that. A required amount was never mentioned to us. In my mom's letter, she also mentioned that I would help to pay for his flight and she would provide accommodation, etc. as necessary. That might have helped.
We had heard that two strikes against you could be if you didn't have enough money or had never left the country before. Well, Tony doesn't have a lot of money (neither do I!) AND he had never left the country, but he still got a visa!
We've also heard that they're harder on women applying, maybe because of the sexist stereotype that they want to marry a man and try to move to Canada.
From everything we've been told/can tell, the two most important things to prove are that you can support yourself while you're there and that you're not planning on trying to stay once you're there. If you include everything mentioned above, I think you should be good!
Phew! That was a long post! I tried to answer all the questions we've been asked because I know how stressful applying for a visa can be, and it would have been nice to have the information and answers we wanted all in one place.
If you have more questions, you can ask them in the comments or email me!
Again, this is based only on our personal experience. We aren't experts (by any means!) and we applied in early 2014 so things may have changed since.