When we hear someone say that they are planning a trip, we often assume their biggest worries are whether they’ve figured out accommodation, packed the right clothes, or were able to secure the time off work.
For those who are from visa-requiring countries, a much bigger hurdle exists: being able to secure visitor visas to actually enter Canada.
For those who are romantically linked to a Canadian, obtaining a visitor visa is especially challenging. This applies to those in long-distance relationships who want come to Canada to visit their loved ones, or those who are living abroad with their Canadian partners and are looking to make a trip back home together.
Why is it difficult?
When applying for a visitor visa, the applicant must prove to the Immigration officer that his or her intention is to come to Canada only temporarily. This is the case for all those seeking temporary entry to Canada, whether applying to study, work, or visit.
A central concern for the officer is whether the applicant will leave at the end of his or her authorized stay. Once approved, unless specifically noted, visitors are allowed to stay for up to six months at a time, until the expiry of the visa (except in the case of supervisas). The officer wants to know that once the applicants’ legal rights to stay in Canada have ended, they will respect the law and leave.
This is the opposite intent which exists when someone is looking to move to Canada. For example, in the case of spousal sponsorships, the intent is clearly to settle in Canada permanently.
In the case of a romantic partner of a Canadian seeking entry to Canada as a visitor, officers are naturally skeptical about the partner’s intention upon entering Canada. They worry that the partner will enter Canada as a visitor, but will not leave at the end of his or her authorized stay. Who wouldn’t want to stay with their loved one, right?
But what if you did just want to come for a visit, and really would go back home when required?
It is legally permissible to have ‘dual intent’. It means having the intention of coming temporarily, with the eventual goal of applying for permanent residence. This is often the case for romantic partners visiting Canada, who have the long-term plan of settling here. International students also often have dual intent by looking to study here temporarily, with the eventual goal of applying for permanent residence.
While it is legally permissible to have dual intent, successfully proving it is where it gets tough. Permanent intent will be implied, especially if you are in a long-term relationship with a Canadian. As a result, when applying, romantic partners of Canadians should focus on providing as much proof of possible about the temporary nature of their visit.
Tips for romantic partners applying for visitor visas:
Get it right the first time. Once a visitor visa is refused, it becomes very difficult to overcome an officer’s decision upon resubmission. As is pointed out by Mr. Vic Satzewich in his book Points of Entry: How Canada’s Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In, the officer who is reviewing the resubmitted visa application may be sitting right next to the officer who refused the first one. Applicants will have to give a very compelling reason for him or her to make a different finding then his colleague. Our office recently succeeded at obtaining a visitor visa for a romantic partner after a refusal, however it required extensive documentation and explanations about the applicant’s changed circumstances since the first application.
Give extensive documentation, but in a clear, concise way. Remember, visa officers are only human. They have a large workload, and face time constraints. In his book, Mr. Satzewich points out that visa officers in a busy Asian office can make decisions on up to 75 applications per day. That translates to about 3 minutes per file! So, while you should give ample proof of your statements, you should also outline what is included in your application in a clear, concise cover letter. List the documents you are submitting. The goal is to be so clear that the officer doesn’t need to spend extra time sifting through your materials.
Explain why you are coming, but more importantly, why you will leave. Requesting the full six months for the visit, for no particular reason other then being together with your partner, signals to the officer that you’d likely have no problem staying even longer. If you have a specific reason for coming, such as attending an event or celebrating an anniversary, then give the officer proof. If possible, include a trip itinerary, proof of your plane ticket both there and back, and information about the particular event. You should also give convincing proof for why you need to return back to your home country, or current country of residence. This could include a letter from your employer outlining when you need to return to work. It could also include proof that you still own a house or car in your country, and would need to return to finalize the sale even if you were intending on being sponsored as a spouse at a later date. You should also give ample evidence of your ties back at home. If you have a child or elderly parent you take care of which would necessitate your return, prove it. A letter written by your parent could go a long way in showing that you do not have the option of simply hanging around Canada after your temporary visit ends.
Putting together a successful application will require careful planning. Unfortunately, despite providing as much information as possible, you may still not succeed. It’s simply very hard to convince the officer that your visit to your loved one is only meant to be temporary. However, it’s not impossible. By providing an application that addresses the officer’s concerns up front, you’ll give yourself the best chance of success.