Visiting Canada? How to fill out a successful temporary visa application

Meurrens LawTemporary Resident Visas

In recent years, more than one million people annually have been applying for visitor visas to visit Canada. Several hundred thousand more apply for work permits or study permits each year. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will refuse around 20 per cent of these applications, sending a generic refusal letter, providing vague reasons off a checklist.

What most refused applicants don’t realize is that behind these decisions are additional, often very detailed reasons that aren’t provided in the refusal letter. These internal reasons can range from a few short sentences, to sometimes even more than a page of reasoning that IRCC does not share with the applicant. It is important for refused applicants to apply for and obtain the full internal reasons for IRCC’s refusal of their application before they try to reapply. (Learn how at “Application refused? What CIC states in refusal letters is not the whole story.”)

It is also important to understand the numerous factors that visa officers consider when assessing temporary residency applications to determine whether someone will leave Canada by the end of their authorized stay. By knowing what these factors are, applicants can maximize the likelihood of successfully assembling a strong visa application.

The first, and arguably most significant, factor is travel history.

Lengthy travel history?

It is probably not surprising that a lengthy travel history is a very positive factor for visa officers when determining whether to issue someone a temporary visa. Indeed, if there’s no significant change in someone’s personal history since their last trip, a passport that is filled with entry stamps to other countries is a good sign. If those stamps are from developed countries, and there is nothing to suggest that a visa applicant failed to comply with the laws of other countries that they visited, then it is typically guaranteed that a Canadian travel visa will be issued.

A first trip

Of course, not everyone will have extensive travel experience before they apply for a visa to travel to Canada. For some people, it may even be their first trip outside their country of origin.

Individuals with limited international travel experience should take comfort in the fact that the Federal Court of Canada has consistently reiterated that, while previous travel history may be a good indicator of compliance to immigration laws, a lack of travel history should, at worst, be a neutral factor in determining whether someone will leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay.

So it is very rare that a visa officer will refuse someone’s visa application simply because they have never travelled outside their country of origin. On the rare occasions where this does occur, such decisions will typically be set aside if challenged.

Tips for a first trip

Even if a lack of travel history is not supposed to be a negative factor, applicants with limited trips abroad should expect that their application will receive greater scrutiny. In this case, applicants will especially want to ensure that they highlight to the visa officer the reasons why they would not remain in Canada beyond the validity period of their visa. Examples of this include demonstrating family ties in one’s country of origin and showing current employment, financial assets and other ties to their country.

As well, first-time travellers should take extra care in explaining why they want to travel to Canada, and provide proof of personal or business relations to Canada. If they simply want to travel to Canada to visit Niagara Falls, hike in the Rocky Mountains or go fishing off Vancouver Island, there should be some explanation as to why Canada is the first country to which they wanted to travel to abroad.

In short, everyone has to make their first trip abroad somewhere, and visa officers will not deny someone the ability to visit simply because they have not travelled before.