Whether you’re travelling for business or for pleasure, it’s essential to check the visa requirements for your destination well in advance of your trip. If you’re planning a business trip to Canada you may need either an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) or a visa to enter the country, depending on your personal circumstances¹.
Find out all you need to know about how to arrange your business travel to Canada, including how to apply for a visa or eTA, the documents you’ll have to provide, and the fees you need to pay, in this handy guide.
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The first step you’ll need to take is to check whether you’re considered a business visitor by the Canadian immigration authorities.
You could be considered a business visitor if you’re in Canada as the guest of a local business, conducting work meetings or site visits. However, to fit the definition of a business visitor, you should be travelling for business purposes without the intention of doing any paid work or entering the general workforce while in Canada. If the latter is the case, you should apply for a work permit².
What you need to enter Canada will depend a little on your personal circumstances. Your nationality, the reason for your trip, and how long you’ll be in the country all matter.
To make it easier, there’s a handy tool on the Canadian immigration service website which allows you to determine the entry process you’ll need to follow, by answering a series of questions about your citizenship and your planned visit¹.
UK citizens, and people from other European countries usually need an eTA to enter Canada for business purposes, which allows a stay of up to 90 days³.
However, for a longer visit you might have to apply for a visa, which will typically be issued for 6 months. The exact length of stay you’re allowed will be determined by the immigration officer who stamps your passport on entry to Canada, and could be more or less than the 6 month standard depending on the purpose of your visit. Once you arrive to Canada, and you’re planning on staying longer than 6 months, you should make this clear to the border officer, and they'll make a decision as to whether or not they’ll allow you to stay in Canada longer¹.
If your plans change when you’re in Canada and you need to extend your stay, you can apply for a visitor record to extend your stay as a visitor. Make sure to apply on time, though, which is at least 30 days before your current status expires⁴. In order to make sure you’re eligible for the extension you can get all the information you need online at the Canadian immigration service website⁵, or by talking to a professional visa agent.
The Canadian immigration authorities will assess all applications for entry to the country, and may refuse to issue a visa or eTA if they have security concerns. This may mean that you’re not eligible for a visa or travel authorisation if you have a criminal record for example⁶.
If you’re eligible for entry to Canada for a business visit, you’ll need to apply for either an eTA or visa. This is best done online. You’ll also need to carry some key documents when you arrive in Canada to present to border officers⁷, more details on that below.
Applying for an eTA online should be fairly quick and straightforward. However, even with your eTA arranged, you may be asked to show some documents to the immigration officers when you arrive in Canada. You can expect to need the following⁷:
- Your valid passport, which should be the same one as you used for your eTA application
- Letters from both your employer and the Canadian company you’re visiting confirming the purpose of your business trip
- Contact details of your host in Canada
- Proof of your financial status, showing you can afford your stay in Canada and the return trip home
- Depending on the reason for your visit you may need to show other documents, such as: service agreements, contracts, etc.
Depending on your citizenship and the planned length of your stay in Canada, you might have to apply for a Visitor Visa (also referred to as a temporary resident visa) or an eTA. To find out which one you need, you can use a specially developed online tool from the Canadian government¹.
If you need an eTA you should keep the following documents closeby when you’re applying⁸:
- Valid passport
- A valid email address
- Relevant information for one of the accepted payment methods (Visa, Mastercard, American express credit or pre-paid card, Visa or Mastercard debit card, UnionPay, JCB Card or Interac)
After you’ve applied for the eTA, it will be processed within several minutes to 72 hours. Keep an eye on your junkmail as well, since you’ll be receiving the answer via mail only⁸.
When you need a Visitor Visa the list of documents you need to apply is a bit longer. You’ll usually have to provide copies of the following documents⁹:
- Your current, valid passport
- A completed application form and 2 recent passport photos
- Proof of payment of the visa and biometric fee
- Proof of employment, such as a letter from your employer
- Detailed information about the purpose of your visit, such as a letter from a Canadian host company, contracts or meeting details, and a full itinerary including contact details of any Canadian companies you may spend time with
- Evidence that you can pay for your stay, and your return travel at the end of the business trip
- Some visitors will also need to provide a medical report and criminal record check
Your application will be assessed, you might also be asked to go to you local Canadian embassy or consulate for an interview before the visa is issued.
If you need a visa to enter Canada for business purposes, you’re advised to apply online. This is the quickest and easiest way to get the process underway, although you may also have to visit your local Canadian embassy or consulate to give biometric data, or attend an interview.
To apply for your visa, visit the Canadian immigration authorities website⁵ and follow the onscreen prompts to double check the process you have to follow. You’ll be able to access a full checklist of the documents you have to submit and start your application for either the eTA⁸ or the Visitor Visa⁹.
You must pay a fee, which might include a biometric fee, and you’ll then be able to track your application online. Depending on the situation you might be asked to: provide more information about your trip, have an interview, show that you're not a health, security of criminal risk to Canada².
You might find you need to make an overseas transfer to cover the cost of paying the visa and biometric fee. Choosing to process the international payment through your regular bank can be expensive and inconvenient. Instead, you might save both time and money by using a modern alternative like TransferWise.
All international payments arranged through TransferWise use the mid-market exchange rate - the one you’ll find if you google your currency pair. There’s no hidden fee or markup, and just a low transparent charge for each transaction that you’ll always see upfront.
If you’ll need to make or receive regular international payments while you’re in Canada, it’s worth also considering getting a TransferWise borderless account. This new type of account lets you hold your money in any of dozens of different currencies, switch between them easily using the mid-market rate, and make and receive fast, safe international payments. You can also get a business Mastercard, which can come in handy if you have to pay for your living expenses while you’re in Canada.
Visa applications can take a few weeks, but you’ll be able to get a better estimate of the processing time based on your personal situation, online. If you can travel with an eTA instead of a Visitors Visa, you might only have to wait a few minutes. In some cases it can take a few days, though, so you should still apply on time to make sure that you’ll have your correct documents before you fly to Canada¹⁰.
The fee you pay will depend on your circumstances, and exactly what you need to get to enter Canada. Visitor Visa fees start from CAD100, and you’ll also have to pay if you’re required to give biometric data. Biometric fees are CAD85 per person for individual applicants⁹.
Not only is the process for getting an eTA easier, it’s also a lot cheaper. The fees for an eTA⁸ are only CAD7.
If you’re from the UK and planning a short business trip to Canada, the entry process is pretty straightforward. However, you’ll still need to provide documentary evidence of your itinerary, even if you don’t need a full visa.
Depending on your nationality, and the length of your stay, you might need to apply for a visa to go to Canada for business purposes. This process can take a few weeks, so is best planned well in advance. Check out the full details before you finalise your trip, and don’t forget to look at the cheapest and most convenient way to not only pay your visa and biometric fees, but also your living expenses when you're in Canada. Using a specialist service like TransferWise can make paying for your visa simpler - and save you money too.
Source used for this article:
*All sources checked on April 12, 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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