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Canada Visa Types And How To Obtain Them

With a population of 38 million and the second-largest country in the world (according to geographical space), Canada is a multicultural hub, brimming with citizens and residents from all over the globe. Known for its diverse cities and uninhabited land, many flock to the North American nation for the best of both worlds. But before you can even start planning your new life in Canada, getting your visa secured is the most important hurdle to get over. This article will zoom in the many visa types in Canada and how to go about obtaining them.

There are three main visa types offered in Canada: visitor, study and work visas. Visitor visas are meant for temporary stay in Canada for up to six months. So, if you’re thinking about moving there, it’s clear that study and work visas are the ones you may want to consider.

Types of visa and permits in Canada:

Visitor Visa

Price: From $100
Processing time: Varies depending on country. (Check estimated processing time here.)
Valid for: Up to 6 months
Application: Go here to apply online.

Also called a temporary resident visa, the visitor visa is an official document that is attached in your passport. It shows that you meet the requirements needed to enter Canada.

Most travellers will require a visitor visa to travel to Canada. This may also apply if you’re transiting through a Canadian airport.

Upon your arrival at the immigration counters, the border services officer may allow you to stay for less or more than 6 months. If so, they’ll state the date of your mandatory departure in your passport. They may also give you a document – called a visitor record – which inform you of your mandatory departure.

Should you not have a stamp in your passport, you may stay for 6 months from the day you arrive or until your passport expires (whichever comes first). If you require a stamp, you may request for one from the border staff.

You can apply for a visitor visa online or on paper. Find out if you require a visitor visa here.

Study Permit

Price: From $150
Processing time: Varies depending on country. (20 days via the *Student Direct Stream, see below. Or, check estimated processing time here.)
Valid for: The length of your respective study programme plus an extra 90 days
Application: Go here to apply online. Or apply through the Student Direct Stream (for residents of approved countries only)

If you’re moving to Canada as an international student (and have already secured enrolment in a Canadian institution), applying for a study permit should be on top of your list.

Study permits allows foreign nationals to study at designated learning institutions (DLIs) in Canada. These include primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges/universities.

Before you apply for this permit, do note that a study permit is NOT a visa. Upon successful application of the study permit, you will still need to obtain a visitor visa or an Electronic Travel Authorisation. However, not to worry. If your study permit is approved, these will be issued to you, too.


  • You must be enrolled in a DLI. Your DLI must be on this list of DLIs with an approved Covid-19 readiness plan.
  • Financial proof that you have enough funds to pay for your tuition fees, living expenses and return transportation
  • No criminal record
  • Are in good health and will need to pass a medical exam (if required)
  • Proof of end of study

Documents needed:

  • Proof of acceptance
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of financial support

Other documents may be requested at the behest of the Canadian government.

Student Direct Stream

Legal residents from the below list of countries may be able to obtain their study permits faster if they apply online via the Student Direct Stream:

Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Vietnam.

Work Permits

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Photo credit: 123RF

Canada has seven main programmes that issue work permit: International Experience Canada, Intra-Company Transfers, Global Talent Stream, Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), Post-Graduation Work Permit, the International Mobility Program (IMP) and the open work permit.

1. International Experience Canada (IEC)

Price: From $156
Processing time: 8 weeks (Check estimated processing time here.)
Valid for: Employment period
Application: Go here to apply online.

Youth from over 30 approved countries are eligible to live and work in Canada under this programme.


  • You must be from the list of approved countries
  • You must be fully vaccinated and have a valid job offer

Participants can apply for and create an account to be placed in the pools where hiring managers can access your profile. When successful, you will be sent an invitation to apply for a regular work permit.

Go here for a complete list of must-dos when you receive an invitation to apply.

2. Intra-Company Transfers

Price: Funded by respective companies
Processing time:
2 to 10 weeks (Check estimated processing time here.)
Valid for:
1 year (renewals can be done to extend it)
Go here to apply online.

This permit allows international companies to temporarily transfer qualified employees to Canada for the purpose of improving its operation.

Companies will advise on the process of application. After which, you can apply for a general work permit.


  • To be eligible, foreign workers must fall into either one of the three categories:
    • Executives
    • Senior Managers
    • Workers with “specialised knowledge”
  • Employees being transferred to Canada must have at least 1 year of full-time experience with the respective company before transferring to Canada.

3. Global Talent Stream

Price: $1,000
Processing time:
2 weeks (Check estimated processing time here.)
Valid for:
Employment period
Apply via the application form here.

The Global Talent Stream allows Canadian employers to high top-performing and talent individuals from overseas. To qualify for this programme, you must be referred by one of the Global Talent Stream’s list of designated partners.


  • Go here to access the full list of requirements as listed by the Canadian government.

4. Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)

Price: $155
Processing time:
120 days (Check estimated processing time here.)
Valid for:
Employment period
Application: Go here to apply online.

This programme is created by the department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) as a pathway to help Canadian businesses hire foreign workers. Businesses who wish to be a part this programme will need to take the Labour Market Assessment (LMIA) to determine if they are permitted to hire a foreign worker to fill a shortage temporarily.

This programme is applicable to the following:

For more specific details on the requirements for each of the roles above, visit here.

5. Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP)

Price: From $255
Processing time: 80 to 180 days (Check estimated processing time here.)
Valid for:
Up to 3 years
Go here to apply online.

This permit allows international students who have graduated from universities and colleges in Canada to work there for up to three years upon graduation. This can also help graduates transit to permanent residence in Canada.


  • You must have graduated from an eligible DLI in Canada
  • Proof of completion of degree or programme or proof that you will be completing your studies at least 8 months leading to the degree, diploma or certification
  • You must have maintained full-time student status in Canada
  • Proof of academic documents e.g., transcripts and official letters from your DLI stating you have completed your studies

Visit here for a full list of requirements and documents to apply for this permit.

6. International Mobility Program (IMP)

This programme is similar to The Foreign Worker Program and is designed to help Canadian employers to hire temporary foreign workers without a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This is mainly done by the respective employers to source and offer job opportunities to foreigners via an online employer’s job portal.

Once accepted, the employee will then be able to apply for a temporary work permit.

7. Open Work Permit

An open work permit is a work permit is not job-specific. In this case, you will not need the following when you apply:

  • A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada, or
  • Proof that an employer has submitted an offer of employment through the Employer Portal and paid the employer compliance fee

In most cases, you will have to pay the open work permit holder fee at the same time that you pay the work permit fee. Check the fee list for the most up-to-date application fees.

According to the Canadian government’s website, you may be eligible for an open work permit if you:

  • Aare an international student who graduated from a DLI and are eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (see Study Permit above)
  • Are a student and no longer able to meet the costs of your studies
  • Have an employer-specific work permit and are being abused or at risk of being abused in relation to your job in Canada
  • Applied for permanent residence in Canada
  • Are a dependent family member of someone who applied for permanent residence
  • Are the spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker or international student
  • Are the spouse or common-law partner of an applicant of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program
  • Are a refugee, refugee claimant, protected person or their family member
  • Are under an unenforceable removal order
  • Are a temporary resident permit holder
  • Are a young worker participating in special programmes

In each of these situations, you must meet additional criteria to be eligible.

Other types of work permits in Canada

8. Open work permit for recent graduates from Hong Kong

Price: From $100
Processing time:
12 weeks (Check estimated processing time here.)
Valid for:
Up to 3 years
Go here to apply online.

If you’re a recent graduate from Hong Kong, you are eligible to apply for an open work permit to live and work in Canada.


  • Must hold a valid passport issued by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or the United Kingdom to a British National Overseas
  • Must meet the education requirements:
    • You must have graduated not more than 5 years before application
    • Must possess a degree from a DLI, or
    • A diploma for minimally a 2-year programme from a DLI
    • The programme from which you have graduated from must at least a 1-year programme

Visa applications can be a long process that requires patience. It is therefore recommended to start your research and application early to avoid disappointment. In addition, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only fully vaccinated individuals are allowed entry into Canada. So, do be sure to prepare medical and vaccination certificates whenever necessary during your application process.

Information from the Government of Canada.

Feeling ready to make the big move?

Head over here to begin your journey
Or start ticking off your relocation checklist here

Still unsure?

Learn more about Canada here
Explore more destinations here 

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