Filipino tourists can apply for a Canadian Visa in three ways: online, by mail, and in person. This guide focuses on online application. Last updated: September 2018.
Applying for a Canadian visa is actually pretty simple and easy. But when I began my application, I found the whole process a bit daunting. The disconnect, I believe, comes from the visa application website. What is supposed to be an easy procedure becomes overwhelming and a bit arduous because the layout of the website and the user journey are complicated and somewhat confusing. I have been living and breathing digital for the past 10 years of my life, yet I still ended up lost and confused a few times along the way.
I recently applied for a Canadian visa because I will be visiting Toronto soon. I documented every step of the process in order to help guide the readers of this blog. When you break it down to the requirements and basic steps, it really is pretty straightforward. Here goes.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
CANADIAN VISA REQUIREMENTS
But first, complete the requirements. Below is a list of all the documents you will need.
- Accomplished IMM5257 Form (Application for Visitor Visa Form). You can get it from here: Form IMM5257. Fill it out digitally.
- Accomplished IMM5645E Form (Family Information Form). You can download it from here: IMM5654E. Fill it out digitally.
- Passport. Scanned copy of the bio page and all pages with visas and stamps.
- Digital photo. Scanned. Passport-size (35mm x 45mm). White background. Specs here: Canada Visa Photo
- Proof of Purpose of Travel. Submit proof that you are coming to Canada for a TEMPORARY visit. You can submit any or all of the following:
– flight ticket departing Canada (return or onward ticket)
– your travel itinerary
– hotel booking
You don’t need to submit actual tickets. You can submit flight or hotel reservations, which you can cancel in case your application is denied (so you don’t have to waste money). A few airlines allow flight blocking (although I haven’t tried any of them) and some hotel booking websites have free-cancellation policy. Travel agencies can also issue these reservation documents. You can find one here: Flight and Hotel Reservations
– If you’re invited by a citizen in Canada, you will also need to provide the following: invitation letter, a copy of their citizen card, payslips or tax docs.
- Travel History. Scanned. This can be any or all of the following:
– previous passports used within the last 10 years
– expired and valid visas
– entrance and exit stamps
– If you’re living outside your country of citizenship, submit a copy of your immigration status document.
- Proof of Means of Financial Support. Scanned copies of any or all of the following:
– If you’re employed: Bank statement for the past 4 months, a Certificate of Employment, Income Tax Returns (ITR), proof of assets (land titles, etc.).
– If you’re a student: you must also submit proof of payment of tuition and accommodation fees.
– If someone else is funding your trip: also submit a letter from the person or institution providing you with money.
- Business Registration Documents. Only if you’re self-employed or if you’re traveling for business. You can submit SEC, DTI, or BIR registration documents, as long as it indicates the registered name of the business, the business address, and type of ownership.
- Letter of explanation (optional). If you wish to provide more info about the trip, you can also submit a letter of explanation.
- Visa Fee. CAD 100. MasterCard, Visa, and American Express cards are accepted.
IMPORTANT! Here are a few notes that will make your application easier:
- Regarding IMM5257 and IMM5645E Forms: When you view the forms online, sometimes the file won’t load at all, displaying a “Please wait” message instead, especially if you’re using Chrome or Firefox. (Yep, it’s best accessed using IE.) Download it anyway. When you open it using a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat Reader DC or Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional, you’ll see that the form is actually there.
- Fill out the forms electronically. You don’t need to print it out or sign it. I struggled so hard finding a way to be able to type on the Signature field, but it turned out that I didn’t have to. Leave the signature field blank. You will be providing your electronic signature later in the process.
- ANY or ALL. You’ll notice that in the list of requirements above, I keep on using the phrase “any or all of these documents.” It’s because in theory, you can submit just one item per document type. However, if you want better chances of approval, we strongly recommend submitting everything that you can provide.
- Only the following file types are accepted: PDF (Portable Document), JPG, TIFF, or PNG (Image), DOC or DOCX (Microsoft Word Document.
- Only one file will be allowed per requirement.
– For example, for proof of means of financial support, if you want to submit a Certificate of Employment, ITR copy, AND proof of assets, make sure they’re in one file. If all your files are in PDF format, you can use apps like Adobe Acrobat to merge all the pages. If they’re image files, you can also insert all of them in a Word document to generate a single file.
– Another example, travel history. If you are want to submit multiple pages of your passport to show the different visas and stamps, you must scan and save all pages as only one file.
- The size of each file must NOT exceed 4MB. That’s the maximum size. If your file exceeds, you need to reduce the size. Know that PDF files tend to be smaller in size than Word (doc) files. If your PDF files are still over, recreate your files with Adobe Distiller and set to “lowest file size.” Set it to only 96 DPI (dots per inch).
- Make sure your documents are complete. You won’t be able to submit your application if any of the required files is missing.
HOW TO APPLY FOR A CANADA VISA ONLINE
1. Create a GCKey (CIC Account).
What is a GCKey? It’s an account that would let you securely access the online services of the Government of Canada, including the CIC, which stands for Citoyenneté et Immigration Canada (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada), the government agency that will be handling your application. You will be asked to create a username, password, and security questions.
Here’s how to create a GCKey/CIC account:
- Visit the registration page of the CIC here: CIC Register. Click on GCKey at the bottom of the screen.
- Click SIGN UP (on the right side of the screen) on the next page.
- Accept the terms and conditions on the next page.
- Create an account. Provide your full name, email address, desired username, password, and security questions and answers. Take note of these details because you will be entering these bits of info many times during the process.
- On the next page, click “VISITOR VISA, STUDY AND/OR WORK PERMIT”.
- On the next page, you will be asked if you have a Personal Reference Code. Under “I do not have a Personal Reference Code,” click “VISITOR VISA, STUDY AND/OR WORK PERMIT”.
- Find out if you’re eligible. You will be asked a series of questions about your trip and your background: how long is your trip, what province will you be visiting, have you been arrested for or convicted of any crime, have you overstayed a visa before? Just answer truthfully. You will also be asked whether or not you have a family member who is a citizen or permanent resident of Canada. If everything is alright, the next page will tell you that you are eligible for a VISITOR VISA. Click CONTINUE. On the next page, click CONTINUE again.
2. Upload your documents.
You will be asked to review all the information you entered in the previous step. Check if things are as they should be, and then click CONTINUE.
You will be presented with a Personal Checklist, which displays all the required documents that you need to upload. It looks like this:
To upload, simply click on the corresponding UPLOAD button on the right side.
You don’t need to upload the documents all at once. If you feel like you can’t complete it today, you can simply log out and log in another day. You have 30 days to complete the requirements.
- Only the following file types are accepted: PDF, JPG, TIFF, PNG, DOC, DOCX
- Only one file will be allowed per requirement. If you are want to submit multiple pages of your passport to show the different visas and stamps, you must scan and save all pages as only one file.
- The size of each file must NOT exceed 4MB.
- Make sure your documents are complete. You won’t be able to see the SUBMIT or CONTINUE button if any of the required files is missing.
Once you have completed the requirements and submitted your application, you will be prompted for an electronic signature. You don’t need to scan your signature or anything. You simply have to enter your full name. That’s your electronic signature. Just type your name.
3. Pay the Visa Fee.
Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are all accepted. Just enter your card details and click Process Transaction. It may take a while to process so be patient. Don’t click that button again because you might be double-charged.
Within a few hours, you will receive an email containing your Application Number. It starts with letter V and then a series of numbers.
4. Wait for updates.
From hereon, you will be getting a message each time there is an update to your application. The first few messages will be updates that your application has been received.
To read your messages, follow these steps:
- Visit the CIC Login page and click on GCKey again here.
- Enter your username and password. You will also be asked to answer a security question.
- On the next page is a summary of your application. Scroll down toward the bottom. Under “View My Submitted Application”, click the Check Status and Messages button.
- On the next page, info about the application is displayed. Scroll down to the bottom again. Under Correspondence, you will see the messages. Click on the Expand button and it will reveal a “View this message” link. When you click it, a PDF document will be automatically downloaded.
5. Submit your passport.
If your application is denied, you will receive an email telling you just that.
If your application is approved, you will receive a message that they have come to a decision regarding your application and they are requesting that you submit your passport.
You have two options: by mail of in person.
If in person
- Print out the passport request letter you received from IRCC/CIC. Make sure that the barcodes and application number are clear. You will bring this and your passport to the VFS Office/ Canada Visa Application Centre (CVAC).
- Go to Canada Visa Application Centre (address below). At the CVAC Office, the guard will give you a number and 2 forms: a personal info form and a VAC Consent Form. While waiting for your number to be called, fill out the forms.
- When your number is called submit all the requirements:
– Request Letter from IRCC/CIC
– Personal info form
– VAC Consent Form. You can also download here
- Pay the CVAC handling fee. P543.15 according to the website. But in reality, I was charged P905 (cash), perhaps including the courier charges. Check out the list of fees and service charges here
If by mail
It’s a bit more complicated. here’s the complete step-by-step guide: Submission by Mail
According to the staff I talked to, the passport will be ready in 2 weeks, but she also said that it usually takes much shorter than that.
Below are the addresses of the visa centers for Canada:
Canada Visa Application Centre
29F The World Center
350 Senator Gil Puyat Avenue
Makati City, Philippines
Passport Submission: 7am – 3pm
Passport Collection: 3pm – 4pm
Canada Visa Application Centre
VFS Services Phils. Pvt. Inc.
9F Keppel Center Unit 905 Samar Loop cor Cardinal Rosales Ave,
Cebu Business Park
Cebu City 6000
Passport Submission: 7am – 2pm
Passport Collection: 2pm – 3pm
That’s it! Once it has your visa, you may receive your passport by mail or collect it at the CVAC office, depending on what you paid for.
Search for Hotels: Canada Hotels
CANADIAN VISA FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How long does the whole Canada Visa process take?
It varies. Case-by-case basis. It can take as short as two weeks or as long as months. In my case, the entire process from the moment I submitted my application to the moment I received my passport spanned 16 days. Here’s my timeline:
- June 27: I created a CIC account and submitted my application online.
- June 28: I received an update that my application has been received/read.
- July 5: I received an update that they have made a decision and that I should submit my passport.
- July 6: I went to VFS to submit my passport in person.
- July 11: I received an SMS from VFS that my passport with the visa is ready and to be delivered.
- July 12: I received my passport with a multiple-entry visa.
How early should I apply?
2-3 months in advance, to be safe.
Although mine took only 2 weeks, I know people whose waiting game lasted for over a month! So to be safe, I would say 3 months in advance is ideal.
How long is the validity of Canada visa?
I’m not sure if this is standard, but I was given a multiple-entry Canada visa that is valid for until the end of my passport’s validity. In my case, 2 years.
I keep on getting “Please wait” when I open the form. What can I do?
Regarding IMM5257 and IMM5645E Forms: When you view the forms online, sometimes the file won’t load at all, displaying a “Please wait” message instead, especially if you’re using Chrome or Firefox. (Yep, it’s best accessed using IE.) Download it anyway.
Open it using a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat Reader DC or Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional. You’ll see that the form is actually there. It’s just not compatible with other programs.
How do I add my signature to the form? Do I need to print out the form?
Ha! Not reading well. I explained it twice above. But okay, I’ll explain it again.
Leave the signature field blank. You don’t need to print out or sign the form by hand. You don’t need to type anything in the signature field.
Upload the form with the signature field blank. You will be providing your electronic signature later in the process. After you have completed the requirements and submitted your application, you will be prompted for an electronic signature.
Once prompted, you simply have to enter your full name. That’s your electronic signature. Just type your name. No need to actually sign anything.
I struggled so hard finding a way to be able to type on the Signature field, but it turned out that I didn’t have to.
Can I use just 1 GCKey for my family members who are traveling with me?
According to some of our readers who have tried it, you can.
When you start your application, you will be asked if you are also applying for a family member. They say that if you answer yes, your checklist will include requirements for them too.
I haven’t tried this personally so I’m not really sure, but that’s what they say.
What is UCI number? What do I write in the UCI field on the application form?
UCI stands for Universal Client Identification number, an 8-digit or 10-digit number given to anyone who has made a transaction with Canada Immigration/CIC. Every individual gets their own unique number.
If it’s your first time to apply for a Canadian visa or anything issued by CIC, you don’t have a UCI number yet, so you can write NOT APPLICABLE or N/A in the UCI field. If the form doesn’t accept N/A or NOT APPLICABLE, you can leave it blank. I left mine blank.
If you have been issued a Canadian visa before, you have your own UCI number. Check your account to see it.
What is Form IMM 5257 Schedule 1? Do I have to submit it?
When you reach the UPLOADING stage of the application, you’ll find under the Optional Documents an item called Schedule 1 – Application for a Temporary Resident Visa Made Outside Canada (IMM 5257).
We get a lot of questions about whether or not it is the same as the actual application form 5257. The answer is NO. Schedule 1 of IMM5257 is different from the actual Form IMM 5257. It’s a supplementary form that asks for military and government service history that you need to fill out ONLY IF you answer YES to any of the questions under the BACKGROUND INFORMATION SECTION of the actual IMM 5257 form (pages 3-4). You don’t need to fill it out if it doesn’t apply to you. (I didn’t submit that form.)
I received a message asking me to submit my passport. Does that mean my application is approved?
Most probably. According to the VFS person I talked to, it’s almost always the case. If you’re refused a visa, you will simply receive an email saying that your application has been denied.
How much money should I have in the bank to get approved?
Hmmm, I don’t know for sure. But like I said in my previous visa posts for other countries, the rule of thumb is to always add the cost of the flights, cost of hotel accommodations, and an allowance of probably USD70 per day.
Every country has its own daily allowance requirement. Most Schengen countries require around EUR60 per day, so we can assume that Canada’s is probably around that figure too. Add all those and that should be the minimum amount in your bank. Minimum, because of course, that can’t be the only amount in your account. You can’t be broke after your trip and expect the embassy to approve your application.
What does a Canada Visa look like?
Do I really need plane tickets before applying? What if I get denied? Sayang the moolah.
As mentioned above, you don’t need plane tickets. You can submit just an itinerary or a cover letter, if you think you have a strong reason to visit. Again, it’s ANY or ALL of the items in the list.
HOWEVER, if you want better chances of getting approved, you can submit flight and hotel reservations. These are different from actual tickets or bookings. “Reservations” are just proof that you have blocked these plane seats or rooms, and you can cancel these in case your application is denied (so you don’t have to waste money). A few airlines allow flight blocking (although I haven’t tried any of them) and some hotel booking websites have free-cancellation policy.
Travel agencies can also issue these reservation documents. If you don’t have time to go to a travel agency, you can have it reserved online. When we apply for hard-to-get visas like Canada and Schengen, we hire Gazelle Travel and Tours, a DTI-registered and DOT-accredited agency. We created a form here so you can contact them completely ONLINE:
What are the reasons why my application would be denied?
This applies not just to Canada Visa but also other developed countries. The reason is often any of the following:
- You can’t prove that you can financially support yourself on this trip. You probably have insufficient funds or your sponsor is not in a good financial standing.
- You can’t prove that you intend to return to your home country (rootedness). You probably don’t have a stable job at this point, newly employed, or newly resigned, and it’s giving the impression that you intend to work there.
- Your intention/purpose in Canada is unclear. This is why it is best to be specific when you’re detailing the reasons for your visit.
More info here: Reasons Why Visa Applications are Denied
This post is based on my own application as a tourist in Canada, so if you have questions about anything outside my personal experience or if you’re applying to work there, I’m afraid I won’t be of assistance. But feel free to post them in the comments section below because some of our readers might help.