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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
Usually, visitors do not have the right to apply for a work permit while in Canada. However a temporary measure valid until the end of February 2025, makes it possible for visitors who receive a valid job offer while in Canada to apply to get a work permit while in Canada on a visitor visa.
Prior to this temporary policy change, those applying to work in Canada would typically need to apply for their initial work permit before they came to Canada. If they were already in Canada with visitor status when they were approved for a work permit, they would need to leave Canada to be issued their work permit. With this policy in place, leaving Canada isn’t necessary.
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.
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.
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.
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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