Extend your Stay in Canada or Change your Status
Mohsen, an Iranian citizen entered Canada as a tourist about five months ago. He currently stays with his brother who lives in Edmonton, Alberta. When Mohsen entered Canada, the Border Services Officer told him he may stay up to six months. However, he really loves to stay beyond six months in Canada. He wonders if this is possible.
Canada welcomes millions of international tourists every year. For example, almost 21 million tourists visited Canada in 2017, about 14.3 million from the United States and 6.5 million from other countries [source]. In order to travel to Canada, a foreign national may need an eTA or a TRV. US citizens and some other people are exempt from both. Regardless of their nationality, tourists may usually stay in Canada for up to six months. A Border Services Officer (BSO) has the final say in the length of stay for a foreign national, but they rarely limit the stay to less than six months or increase it beyond that.
Sometimes you decide to stay longer than six months in Canada. In these situations, you may have one or more of the following options after entering Canada.
Apply for an Extension of the Stay
You need to apply for an extension of authorization to remain in Canada as a temporary resident before the expiry of your status. For example, if you enter Canada on the first day of February and the BSO does not impose any limitations to your stay, you need to submit your application before the end of July (note to practitioners – see section 181 of the IRPR). The immigration authorities recommend submitting the application at least 30 days prior to the expiry of the status.
An immigration officer reviews your application and if they believe you still meet the requirements of legal stay in Canada, they issue a Visitor Record. They mention the validity of your stay on the Visitor Record (i.e. an official document they mail to your address). A Visitor Record is not valid for re-entry to Canada.
The exact expiry date of the Visitor Record depends on the officer’s decision and it could be from a few days to a few months. I had clients who received a couple of weeks of extension and those who received up to 12 months. Of course, when you are applying for the extension, you need to mention for how long you want to stay. The officer usually takes your request into consideration.
You may request for the extension of the visitor record multiple times. However, the chances you get refused increases every time you apply for a new extension. The subsequently granted extensions are usually less than six months and could become limited to a few days only.
If you apply for an extension but you do not receive the decision of the officer before the expiry of your current status, you do not need to fear. In this situation, you have implied status. It means you are still considered a visitor. For example, if your status expires on August 1st and you apply in July but the officer does not render a decision before August 1st, then you may continue staying in Canada until the officer renders their decision. If the decision is negative you have to leave Canada immediately or apply for Restoration of Status.
In some cases, you could go to a US-Canada land crossing and renew your stay or apply for a work or study permit. We call this practice flagpoling. Read the following articles for more information:
Restoration of Temporary Resident Status
If your status in Canada expires and you do not have implied status, you need to either leave Canada immediately. Of course, you may alternatively apply for Restoration of Temporary Resident Status (note to practitioners – see section 182 of the IRPR). While you are waiting for the outcome of this request, you have no status in Canada. The restoration process could take several weeks. If the officer refuses the application, you need to leave Canada immediately. If the officer approves the application, you will receive a Visitor Record that shows the last day your status is valid.
Apply for a Work Permit or a Study Permit
While you are in Canada as a visitor, you may not work or study, with the following exceptions:
- Work – If the work is exempt from a work permit (e.g. some performing artists or professional speakers and athletes)
- Work – For certain business visitors (note to practitioners – see section 187 of the IRPR)
- Study – If the program is less than six months and it is not part of a longer program
- Study – if the visitor is a minor child studying at a kindergarten, primary school, elementary school, or a secondary school only if their accompanying parents are permitted to work or study in Canada
Visitors may apply for a work permit or a study permit from inside Canada under the following circumstances.
- Study Permit (note to practitioners – see section 215 of the IRPR)
- They are subject to an unenforceable removal order,
- They are minor children who will be studying at the preschool, primary or secondary level,
- They are visiting or exchange students who are studying at a designated learning institution,
- They are accompanying family members of someone who holds a valid work permit or study permit,
- They are accompanying family members of someone who holds a TRP that is valid for more than six months,
- They are accompanying family members of certain people who are exempt from work permits (e.g. they are accompanying a participant of sports activities or the employee of a foreign government),
- They have completed a course or program of study in Canada that is a prerequisite to their enrolling at a designated learning institution, or
- They submit their application to the Visa Application Centre in New York. This option may discontinue at any time.
- Work Permit (note to practitioners – see sections 199, 206, and 207 of the IRPR)
- They are authorized to work in Canada without a permit (with the exception of business visitors) and now they want to work in a job that mandates a work permit,
- Their permanent resident or citizen spouse or common-law partner has initiated their sponsorship application to Canada under the in Canada class,
- They have applied for permanent residency under the Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) considerations and their application has been granted an exemption but is not finalized,
- They are a family member of the people described above,
- They are subject to an unenforceable removal order,
- They have made a claim for refugee protection that has been referred to the Refugee Protection Division but has not been determined,
- They applied for a work permit before entering Canada and the application was approved in writing but they have not been issued the permit,
- They hold a written statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade stating that it has no objection to the foreign national working at a foreign mission in Canada, or
- They are exempted under the USMCA (formerly NAFTA), or
- They apply for a work permit by mail at the Visa Application Centre in New York. This option may discontinue at any time.
As you can see this is a long list. You may, therefore, consider consulting with a professional for your options.
File for Asylum (Refugee Claim)
If you file a refugee claim, then the immigration officers issue you a removal order, but that removal order will not be enforceable until a final decision is made on your case. Therefore, you may stay in Canada for a few weeks or a few months longer. Of course, if they approve your refugee claim you may remain in Canada and apply for permanent residency. Needless to say, you need to have valid reasons for your refugee claim (e.g. being a convention refugee or a person who needs protection).
Apply for Permanent Residency
Under certain programs, you may apply for the Permanent Residency of Canada and stay in our country while your application is being processed. For example, you may apply for the Canadian Experience Class or Live-in Caregiver programs inside Canada.
Note: This article applies to visitors who are either US citizens or visiting Canada with a valid eTA or TRV. The article does not apply to TRP holders for the most part. Read the following article about TRP and its potential options.
Biometrics for in-Canada applicants
Starting December 3, 2019, if you are applying from inside Canada you may need to give biometrics. Read the following article for more information:
If you have an open immigration application and you want to extend your stay in Canada, make sure to read the following article:
If you wish to visit or move to Canada, please fill out our free assessment form. We will review the form for free, but we will contact you only if we find an opportunity for you. Alternatively, you may book a consultation session. Consultation sessions are not free, but you will receive formal advice from a licenced practitioner.
This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not give legal advice. Do not rely on it as legal advice or immigration advice. We cannot be held responsible for the content of these articles. If you have specific legal questions, you must consult a lawyer. If you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment. All the characters in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Any resemblance in names, dates, and places (whether individuals, organizations, regions, or countries) is coincidental.