The information provided below is not legal advice and is intended for general information purposes only. For the most up-to-date information, please see Visit Canada on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.
Visitor Visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
Depending on your citizenship, you may need either a Visitor Visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) before traveling to Canada. If your study permit application from outside Canada is approved, then a Visitor Visa or eTA will be issued to you at the same time as your letter of Introduction. You do not need to apply separately or to pay an additional fee.
It is important to understand that both of these travel documents are different than study permits. While a study permit authorizes an individual to study in Canada, it generally cannot be used as a travel document to enter Canada.
If you have family members or friends from your home country who wish to visit you in Canada during or after your studies, they will also most likely need one of these documents.
Visitor Visas are also known as Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs) or informally as “tourist visas.” A Visitor Visa is a counterfoil in your passport which allows you to enter Canada.
Find out if you need a visa to travel to Canada on the IRCC website.
Even if you are already in Canada and have no plans to leave, it is a good idea to make sure your visa is always valid in case you need to leave Canada for any reason, such as a family emergency in your home country.
Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
An eTA is an entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling to Canada by air. It is electronically linked to your passport and is valid for 5 years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.
For more information, visit Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) on the IRCC website.
Preparing for travel to Canada
It is important to understand that having a valid visitor visa or eTa does not necessarily guarantee you entry to Canada.
When you arrive at a Canadian port of entry, you will meet a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer who will verify your documents and ask you questions about the purpose of your visit to Canada. The officer must be satisfied that you are not inadmissible and that you will leave Canada at the end of your stay.
Before traveling to Canada, prepare and double check that you have all of your important documents including:
- A valid passport or travel document
- The Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction the visa office sent you when they approved your study permit
- A valid Visitor Visa or eTA (not required for US citizens)
- A copy of a valid letter of acceptance from BCIT
- Proof of financial support for yourself and any other family members who may come with you to Canada
- Letters of reference or any other documents the visa office told you to bring such as accommodation and health insurance information
Carry these documents with you at all times and do not put them in your checked luggage. You may not be allowed into Canada if any of your documents are missing or if any of the information on your application or letters of reference is incorrect.
If the CBSA officer believes that you meet the requirements to obtain a study permit and are not inadmissible, they will issue you a study permit. Before leaving, make sure to double check your personal information, validity, and remarks about working eligibility in your study permit. It is much easier to correct any errors immediately on the spot rather than it is to submit a request to amend your study permit later.
To re-enter Canada if you travel outside of Canada during your studies, you must have a valid:
- Passport or travel document
- Study permit if you’re returning to study in Canada and
- Visitor Visa or eTA, depending on which document you need.
The only exception to needing a valid visitor visa is if you travel only to the United States or St-Pierre and Miquelon and you return to Canada with a valid study permit. This exception doesn’t apply for eTAs.