In an effort to keep costs low, I always prefer to apply for international visas myself, torturous as that can sometimes be. After three painful Schengen visa applications, applying for a visa to Canada, even with my Indian passport, was almost a breeze! The visa requirements for Indians applying for a Canadian tourist visa are simple, and the process, facilitated by VFS in most of India, is efficient. I scored a multiple entry 7-year visa for Canada, and here are my tips to get you entry into the maple leaf country:
[Update 2018] There are two ways to apply for a Canada tourist visa on an Indian passport now: In paper, or online. The former is the traditional way of submitting the visa application form, supporting documents and payment at VFS Canada; the latter allows you to submit everything and pay online, but the passport still needs to be given to VFS Canada for the Canada visa to be affixed on it.
SUBMIT A CANADA VISA APPLICATION IN PAPER:
1) The Canadian Visa Forms and Fee
Download the forms and document checklist from the VFS Canada website. Unlike most visa applications, the forms for a tourist visa to Canada are relatively short and few in number. As per the updated guidelines, Canada visa fee for Indians (both single entry and multiple entry visa) is now CAD 100 and the visa is valid for upto 10 years.
However, the visitor form must be filled while you are connected to the Internet. It needs the latest version (11.0) of Adobe reader to be viewed and filled. The form can’t be signed electronically. Once you’ve completed the form, press Validate at the top of the form, which will generate barcodes at the end of the page. If you make any changes to the form before printing, make sure you validate it again. Print two copies of the form, and date and sign them.
2) Flight and Accommodation Bookings
As while applying for a Schengen visa, you need to show your confirmed flight and accommodation bookings. Making these in advance of the visa is always a bit of risk – so you’re better off making fully refundable bookings. Most full-fledged carriers and hotels on booking.com offer full refund upon cancellation. Once you receive your visa, you can cancel these and make your actual bookings. The idea is to show that you have enough money or credit limit to book your flight and stay.
3) Cover Letter and Support Documents
After ensuring that all your documents are in order as per the document checklist on the VFS Canada website, you should write a brief cover letter summarizing your application – why are you visiting Canada, how do you intend to cover your expenses, do you have an invitation letter, which countries have you obtained visas for in the past (having Europe, the UK or the US on the list tends to add to your credibility).
As a freelancer, I don’t have salary slips or a letter from an employer to show. To make up for this, I usually attach my resume, and copies of my past visas.
4) Choose The Multiple Entry Visa Option
I’ve always found Schengen visas to be stingy when it comes to multiple entry and validity. But I got a multiple entry visa to Canada, valid for 7 years! The best 4,000 bucks every spent. Whether or not Canada seems to be part of your plans again, having a valid multiple entry tourist visa to Canada as an Indian, has its advantages – you get Visa on Arrival in a handful of other countries, and it adds to your credibility while applying for other visas.
4) Applying For The Visa at VFS
VFS has ten visa centers for Canada, across India. If your city or town doesn’t have one, your options might be to go via a travel agent or courier your documents. You can reach the VFS Canada helpline to confirm.
The passport submission timings at VFS are between 8 am-12 noon and 1 pm – 3 pm, and no appointment is needed. You’ll be given a token number when you reach, and if you have all your documents in order, the process is quite straightforward.
5. Passport Collection
The official processing time is between 10 – 14 working days, but my visa was approved within 2 working days! You can sign up for the free SMS / email alerts at the time of submitting your passport, or track your application online.
SUBMIT A CANADA VISA APPLICATION ONLINE:
1. Answer a questionnaire to determine your eligibility
In a series of 20 odd questions in the eligibility questionnaire (on this page, click on “find out if you need a visa” to get to the questionnaire), you are asked why you’re travelling to Canada, if you have relatives there, how long you plan to stay and so on. For a typical Canada tourist visa – whether or not you know someone in the country, Indian citizens now tend to be eligible to apply.
2. Create a GC Key and Security Q&A
Before you begin your online application, you are required to create a Government of Canada (GC) Key and security questions and answers. This is to allow easy access to your application.
3. Upload the application form and supporting documents
As in the paper application, you need to download the visitor visa form, fill the details and hit validate at the bottom of the form to generate the bar codes. Don’t make changes to the form after the barcodes are generated. If you are applying online, you don’t need to print the form or barcodes. The checklist for the supporting documents is the same as the paper application (described above); make sure you take clear photos / scanned copies of these documents.
4. Declaration, electronic signature and credit card payment
Once your documents are submitted, you need to fill a Declarations and Electronic Signature page and move on to payment (100 CAD) with a credit card. Consider your online application done!
5. Submit your passport at VFS Canada to affix the Canada Visa on your passport
This part sucks. One would think that applying for the Canada visa online means NOT having to go to VFS Canada – but turns out, you still need to submit your passport to affix the actual Canada visa on your passport. Based on what I’ve heard from recent applicants on Twitter, you don’t need an appointment, and the process takes one week to ten days.
Applying for a US Visa? See my tips.
Going to Europe? Get a Schengen visa.
Traveling to Turkey, Sri Lanka, Vietnam or Cambodia? Get an e-visa.
Going to Toronto? See my list of quirky free things to do in Toronto.
Any other tips or experiences with an Indian passport and a Canadian visa?