If you hold a passport from a visa-exempt country, you only need an Electronic Travel Authorization (or eTA) to board a plane to Canada. However, if you are not from a visa exempt country you will need to apply for a visitor visa before you travel to Canada.
In recent years Canada has encouraged visitor visa applicants to apply for multiple entry visitor visas that are usually issued for the length of time left before your passport expires. At first look visitors visas appear to be simple compared to other types of visa or immigration applications. They require fewer forms and are processed faster. However, the process is anything but simple when you realize how easily an application can go wrong and you can receive a letter stating that your application has been rejected. This is particularly damaging given how difficult it is to reverse a negative decision and to turn a negative visa history into a positive one when you re-apply.
Here are my top five tips to help you avoid the most common mistakes when applying for a visitor visa application:
1. There are no shortcuts: Apply with full knowledge of eligibility requirements
Whether you are applying for yourself or a family member, make sure that you are fully aware of the eligibility requirements for a visitor visa. You cannot rely on the personal experiences of family or friends because each person's situation is unique and they may not be aware of your particular circumstances when they “advise” you of what you should and should not do. Too many times I have been contacted by applicants who believe that they should have been accepted because they did everything the same as someone else who applied but were in fact refused.
You need to spend time reviewing all the legal requirements from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship (IRCC) or seek the assistance of a qualified professional to advise you of the legal requirements and your eligibility.
2. Documents are King
Each application for a visitor visa is made up of forms and documents. The onus is on you to convince a visa officer that you meet the conditions of a visitor visa and that you will leave Canada once your trip is over. You must provide documents to back up all your claims including, but not limited to, your circumstances and ties to your home country, the reason(s) for your trip to Canada, and the resources you have to finance your trip.
You cannot assume that the visa officer will look favourably on your application and you must make every effort to convince the officer of your eligibility through the documents that you provide in support of your application.
3. Honesty is the best policy
You must provide complete and truthful disclosure in your visitor visa application. I am often asked “why is it important to have the correct dates of birth for my parents?” or “do you really need to know the date I graduated from university twenty years ago?” The answer is that every question in the application forms for your visitor application counts and must be answered truthfully. Any incorrect information in your forms, whether significant or insignificant, provided deliberately or by mistake, can be the basis of a finding of misrepresentation.
The consequences from a finding of misrepresentation are very severe and often result in you not being able to apply for any visa for a number of years. This is particularly important because Canadian immigration law does not recognize your lack of knowledge of the law or the information filed on your behalf as a defence to misrepresentation and you will be held responsible for all information presented by you or on your behalf in your application.
So before making any submissions to IRCC make sure you check and re-check to ensure that the information and documents in your application are complete and accurate.
4. Your visitor visa profile lives on forever
When applying for a visitor visa you should remember that the information you provide will be part of your profile with immigration forever. Therefore the extra time you invest to gather accurate information and complete documents will be well spent.
I have seen many applicants who realized after their visit to Canada that they would like to immigrate or apply to study or work in Canada. However, they found out that the information they provided (or was provided on their behalf) in their visitor visa did not correctly reflect important things such as their work experience, their education or even their family members. This inaccurate or incomplete information creates serious legal obstacles for them in applying for different visas and may well be the start of a finding of misrepresentation.
If someone else is preparing your application, always ask to see a copy of the application and forms before they are submitted and make sure to keep a copy of all forms and documents yourself.
5. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
All too often there are unlicensed and unqualified people who promise to obtain visitor visas for applicants for exorbitant fees. I am regularly contacted by applicants who have paid thousands of dollars but not received a visitor visa. And in other circumstances, applicants have arrived in Canada only to find out false information was provided on their behalf to obtain their visitor visa.
Beware of the promises that these people make for as the old saying goes: “if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is”. Do not be a victim of such fraud. Carefully scrutinize the information provided to you and make sure that you choose someone to assist who is a competent immigration lawyer or licenced immigration consultant with a proven track record.