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What You Can and Cannot Do on a Visitor Visa

Published on: November 2nd, 2017
Last updated: November 22nd, 2022

All individuals other than Canadian citizens and permanent residents must apply for and obtain a temporary residence visa to enter Canada to work or study. If you just want to visit Canada, you need to apply for a visitor, or tourist, visa unless you are from a visa-exempt country.

While work and study permits are issued for performing or undertaking specific activities in Canada, a visitor visa has a broader scope. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any restrictions on what you can and cannot do as a visitor in Canada.

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You can…

Enter and stay in Canada

Firstly, and most importantly, a visitor visa allows you to enter Canada. Once inside Canada, your visitor visa gives you temporary legal status to live or travel anywhere you want in Canada. Keep in mind, though, that this is a temporary status. Visitor visas can be issued for periods up to six months. The exact validity period of your visa will be determined by the officer who issues the visa. Once the validity period is over, your visa will expire and you will lose your legal status as a visitor in Canada.

Transit through Canada

If Canada isn’t your destination, but you have to travel through Canada to get wherever you’re heading, you may still need to apply for a Canadian visitor visa.

Search for Work in Canada

While visitor visas are not meant to be used as a vehicle to find work in Canada, visitor visa holders are not expressly prohibited from searching for work while they’re in Canada. In fact, Canadian employers often prefer to meet candidates in person before they hire them, so searching for work from inside Canada may be more effective than trying to find a job from overseas. However, if you do choose to search for work while you’re on a visitor visa, you should keep the following in mind:

  1. Never conceal or falsify your reason for visiting Canada from an immigration officer.
  2. You will be expected to prove your intention to return to your country when your visitor visa expires irrespective of the outcome of your search for work.
  3. You will be expected to prove that you won’t work in Canada without a valid work permit.

Join a short-term course in Canada

Normally, you must obtain a study permit to be eligible to study in Canada. However, there are some rare exceptions that allow you to study in Canada on a visitor visa if you meet the following conditions:

  1. The school offering the course is not a Designated Learning Institute (DLI).
  2. The duration of the course or program is less than six months.
  3. The course is not a part of a longer program.
  4. You will complete the course before the expiry of your visitor visa.

Apply to extend your stay in Canada

Visitor visas can be issued for a period of up to six months. However, if you would like to extend your stay beyond the initial validity period of your visa, you can apply for an extension. Whether or not the extension is issued, and the validity period of the extension, are at the discretion of the immigration officer reviewing your application.

Perform business activities

While you generally need a work permit to work in Canada, you can carry out some business activities while on a visitor visa, as long as you do not directly enter the Canadian labor market. For example, you can:

  1. Purchase goods or services for a foreign business from Canadian businesses.
  2. Visit a business site.
  3. Receive training for product use, sales or other business functions under invitation from a Canadian business.
  4. Meet and interact with people for initiating and concluding a business transaction.

You cannot…

Stay permanently

A visitor visa allows you to enter Canada and gives you temporary legal status in the country. However, you only maintain that status for as long as your visa is valid. You cannot legally stay in Canada on a visitor visa that is no longer valid.

Work in Canada

You need a valid work permit to work in Canada. A visitor visa does not allow you to work in the country. So, you need to make sure you don’t engage in any commercial activity where you directly enter the labour market of Canada during your stay as a visitor.

Apply for a work permit

While you can search for work on a visitor visa, you cannot apply for a work permit from within Canada if you do secure a job offer. You will have to return to either the country where you reside or the country of your origin and apply for the work permit at the appropriate Canadian visa office.

Study in Canada

As a visitor visa holder, you cannot study in Canada except under the specific conditions listed above. In all other cases, you need a study permit to legally study in Canada.

Apply for a study permit

You cannot apply for a study permit from within Canada on the basis of your status as a visitor. You will have to initiate the study visa process after returning to your country. One exception to this rule that allows a visitor to apply for a study permit from within Canada is if he or she has a family member holding a valid Canada study or work permit.

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