How long can I stay in Canada as a visitor?

August 2019

How long visitors to Canada can stay is an issue that frequently comes up with my clients. 

The general policy is that visitors to Canada may stay for up to six months, unless the border services officer at the airport or land entry limits or extends the six-month time period.  If the time period is to be something other than six months, then either the passport will be stamped, with a date underneath indicating when the person must depart Canada, or a Visitor Record will be provided with an expiry date for the length of the stay.  If a visitor wishes to extend their stay after entering Canada, they may apply to do so.   If granted, they will be provided a Visitor Record indicating the new date they must leave Canada by.

This seems straightforward, but consider the following scenarios:

  • A citizen of China with a multiple entry visa valid for another five years was in Canada as a visitor.  She was caring for her Canadian citizen children who were studying in Canada while their father worked abroad.   She had a visitor visa for the USA.  She travelled by vehicle to the USA for a day trip, leaving Canada a few weeks short of the end of her six-month permitted stay.  Upon returning, she could have been permitted another six months of stay, since each time you enter Canada, the six-month ‘clock’ starts anew.   The border services officer at the port-of-entry instead issued her a Visitor Record valid for only for a few weeks and told her to apply to extend her stay from within Canada.  We did so, and she was granted a Visitor Record valid until the children’s academic year was to conclude.  They returned to China for the summer and came back to Canada for the next academic year.  At the airport, the border services officer granted her a two-year stay, giving her a stamp in her passport with the extended date.

The lesson from this case?  The length of visit granted by border services officers is discretionary.  You might want to avoid the Johnston, Ontario/Ogdensburg, New York (Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge) land crossing! 

  • A citizen of Syria with residency in the United Arab Emirates enters Canada with a visitor visa valid for only another two months.  She is advised at the airport by the border services officer that she must leave Canada by the time her visa expires.  However, he does not stamp her passport, which means she is permitted to stay for six months, regardless of when her visa expires.  The difference between the validity of a visitor visa and the permitted duration of stays in Canada is explained on the immigration department’s website.  We apply to extend her stay from within Canada, submitting the application after her visa expires but prior to the end of her six months stay, and a Visitor Record is granted allowing her a further six months in Canada.

The lesson from this case? Visitor status rules are complicated, even for border services officers.

  • A ‘super visa’ (I always imagine it with a superhero cape, fluttering out of the passport) allows the parents and grandparents of Canadians to visit for up to two years at a time.  Since passports are not routinely stamped upon entry to Canada, there is no way of documenting the length of stay permitted.  When I pointed this out to the immigration department, I received this response:

When the holder of a Super Visa enters Canada, if an officer does not limit their stay, they are eligible for a stay in Canada of 2 years, regardless of a stamp in the passport. Please note we are aware that this information is not available on IRCC’s external site and are currently working to have it updated. 

I received the response February 28, 2019; the website still has not been updated.  No wonder border services officers, who are primarily responsible for keeping our borders safe, have trouble keeping up with the policies surrounding temporary residency in Canada. 
If you would like to apply for a visitor or super visa, or wish to extend your stay in Canada, we would be happy to assist you with your application.