Do I need a visa or eTA for Calgary?

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Calgary, Alberta

Just in case you are not already aware of this: Calgary is the biggest city in Alberta, the western province of Canada. It is also the biggest metropolitan area in the 3 “Prairie” provinces. In 2021 the city’s population was well over one million residents, and that of the metropolitan area was almost 1.5 million. That made it Canada’s 5th biggest metropolitan area.

Whether you will need a visa, eTA, or another kind of authorization or permit to visit Calgary depends on where you are from and the reason for your visit. Let’s take a closer look.

Visiting Calgary as a tourist

If you plan on visiting Canada as a tourist, you might have to apply for a Canadian visitor visa. However, if your country is on Canada’s list of visa-exempt nations, you will probably only have to apply for an eTA or Electronic Travel Authorization.

A Canadian visitor visa can be either for one visit (single entry) or multiple entries. The validity dates can also vary significantly. Most visitors are allowed to stay for a maximum of six months.

Regardless of whether you will be entering Canada with a visa or an eTA, it must be valid when you arrive in the country.

Visiting your child or grandchild in Canada

If you’re a grandparent or parent of a Canadian permanent resident or citizen, you will most likely qualify for a Parent and Grandparent Super Visa. This visa allows multiple entries into the country over a maximum period of 10 years to visit your children and/or grandchildren. You can visit them as often as you like and stay in the country for a maximum of 5 years at a time.

Visiting Canada for business purposes

If you would like to visit Canada because you want to examine ways to invest, expand your business, or broaden your existing business relationships in the country, you have to apply for a business visitor.

As a business visitor, you will be allowed to remain in Canada for a maximum of 6 months. If you intend to stay longer or you plan to take up employment in the country, you might have to submit an application for a work permit.

How can I extend my stay in Canada?

If you initially arrive in Canada on a visitor visa and later decide that you would like to stay longer, you will have the option to apply for what is known as a ‘visitor record’.

Please note that a visitor record is different from a visa. It is, instead, a document that officially changes your status in Canada to that of a visitor. As such, you will be allowed to remain in the country longer.

A visitor record has a new expiration date that differs from the one on your visa or eTA. This is now the new date by which you must leave the country.

When do I have to submit an application for a visitor record?

You have to submit an application for a visitor record before the expiration date of your present status.

Leaving Canada and returning at a later stage

A visitor record is a type of document that extends the period for which you can stay in the country as a visitor. It does, however, not give you the right to leave Canada and return at a later stage.

If you have plans to leave Canada and, e.g. visit another country, you are going to need a new entry document, such as a visa or an eTA, if you want to go back to Canada.

What are the differences between multiple-entry and single-entry visas?

The biggest difference between the two types of visas is that (as the name indicates) a multiple-entry visa allows someone to enter Canada more than once. In contrast, a single entry visa only allows a single visit.

Should I apply for a multiple-entry or single-entry visa?

There is no need for you to make that choice. Everyone who applies for a Canadian visa is automatically considered for a multiple-entry visa. The authorities will, however, review your application and issue you with a visa that is relevant to your situation. If you e.g. have no plans to leave Canada and return again during the validity period of the visa, you might be issued a single entry visa.

Multiple Entry Visa for Canada

During the period for which it is valid, this type of visa allows you to visit Canada for a period of 6 months at a time – for as many times as you want. It will remain valid for a maximum of 10 years – or 1 month before your passport’s expiration date, whichever comes first. You have to leave Canada on or before the date on which your visa expires.

Single Entry Visa for Canada

This type of visa allows an applicant to visit Canada only once. You might only qualify for a single entry visa if:

  • Your trip to Canada has a limited purpose, for example, you are a foreign national visiting the country as part of an official visit
  • You are partaking in a once-off special event in the country
  • There are specific guidelines or procedures for your country in place

In most instances, once you have departed from Canada and would like to return, you will have to apply for a new visa.

The only exception is if you travel directly to the U.S., its overseas Possessions or Territories, or St. Pierre and Miquelon and would like to return to Canada from there.

The Alternative: Applying For eTA To Visit Canada

When it comes to applying for an eTA, there are four different types of visitors:

Those who do require an eTA

The list here includes the vast majority of foreign nationals whose countries are exempt from applying for a visa and who want to fly to Canada or transit via a Canadian airport. These visitors don’t, however, require an eTA – provided they are arriving by boat, train, bus, or car.

Also included are legal permanent residents of the United States. They need an eTA to transit through or fly into a Canadian airport. During check-in, they have to present a valid passport and Green Card.

Visitors who might qualify to apply for a Canadian eTA

Nationals of a few countries whose citizens normally have to get visas to visit Canada might qualify to instead apply for an eTA – but only if they are travelling to Canada by air. These same travellers will, however, have to apply for visas if they are arriving by boat, train, bus, or car.

Travellers who are not required to submit eTA applications but have to carry another type of identification

You must carry a valid Canadian passport if you are a Canadian citizen or have dual citizenship for Canada and another country. If you have dual Canadian/American citizenship, you can travel with either a valid U.S. or Canadian passport.

If you are a permanent resident of Canada, you must have a valid travel document on you that indicates your status, e.g. a resident card in the case of permanent residents.

Please note that PR (Permanent Resident) status never expires. Even if you acquired PR status in Canada 50 years ago, you will probably still be viewed as a permanent resident of that country -but you should confirm this before embarking on a trip to Canada.

Visitors who have been exempted from the normal eTA requirements

U.S. citizens are, for example, exempt from the normal eTA requirements. They have to travel with proper identification e.g. a valid United States passport.