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Can I travel outside of Canada as a temporary resident?

Temporary residents in Canada may travel outside the country, but they must meet re-entry requirements outlined by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in order to return.

Temporary residents include visitors to Canada, as well as international students and temporary foreign workers. Each of these groups of foreign nationals will receive a visitor visa/temporary resident visa (TRV) to come to Canada.

Visitors to Canada (temporary residents not on a work or study permit) must meet certain entry requirements to return if they travel outside of Canada or the United States (U.S.). However, these requirements vary depending on whether the individual is a visa-required traveller, a visa-exempt traveller or a U.S. citizen.

A visa-required traveller is an individual who is from a visa-required country. These travellers require a valid visitor visa every time they want to enter Canada unless they are returning directly from a visit to either the U.S. or St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Visa-exempt travellers

Visa-exempt travellers are individuals from a country that requires an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). These travellers need an eTA if they are flying to Canada but not if they are entering by land or sea (boat, train, bus etc.). Travellers entering Canada by land or sea simply need to ensure they have a valid passport or travel document.

Note: eTAs are valid for either five years from when they were issued or until the passport linked to the eTA expires. Visa-exempt travellers must ensure they travel to Canada using the passport that is linked to their eTA.

U.S. citizens

U.S. citizens normally require only a valid passport or travel document to enter Canada.

However, IRCC notes that NEXUS members can use their membership card to enter Canada regardless of the mode of transportation they use (land, sea, air). Meanwhile, FAST members can use their membership card to enter Canada when travelling by land or sea only.

More: Mobility as an international student or temporary foreign worker

Both study permit and work permit holders can travel outside Canada. However, it is important to note that the permit itself (study or work) does not serve as a travel document.

In other words, neither permit gives you the right to travel to and/or enter Canada. This means that, in addition to your permit*, you may require either a visitor visa or eTA to leave and re-enter Canada, depending on where you are from.

*IRCC notes that some international students may only need a valid passport to re-enter Canada. It depends on where they are from.

Note: IRCC clarifies that possession of an eTA or visa, along with a study/work permit, does not guarantee re-entry to Canada. The permit holder is still required to prove that they meet all applicable re-entry requirements before they are allowed back into the country.

What is the difference between a visitor record and a visitor visa?

Visitor visas allow foreign nationals to come to Canada, either to visit, study or work temporarily. However, it is also important that foreign nationals do not get this document confused with a visitor record.

A visitor visa allows citizens of visa-required countries to travel to and enter Canada as a visitor for up to six months. This visa is placed inside the recipient’s passport, proving that they meet the requirements to enter Canada. Visitor visas include the date by which you must arrive in Canada but it is important to note that this date is not an indication of when the visa holder must leave the country.

A visitor record is a document that is issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or IRCC to extend or restrict the recipient’s stay in Canada. In other words, a visitor record is used to verify a foreign national’s visitor status in Canada while also outlining how long the individual is authorized to stay in the country.

Unlike a visitor visa, visitor records are independent documents that are not placed in the recipient’s passport. Notably, these documents include an expiry date for the recipient’s stay in Canada, which is the date by which the individual must leave the country.

Visitor records may also be provided to foreign nationals when IRCC approves the application to extend their stay in Canada or restore their status. Foreign nationals must apply for a visitor record when:

  • They first arrive at the port of entry if they already know they want to stay longer than six months

  • They are already in Canada and have decided they want to stay longer

Note: Foreign nationals already in Canada must apply for a visitor record at least 30 days before the end of their authorized stay in Canada.


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