Usually, 6 months. However, how long you can stay in Canada as a visitor once you have entered the country is at the discretion of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). NOTE: How long a visitor visa is valid has absolutely no impact on how long a person can remain in Canada – the validity period of a visa in a passport is permission for boarding a plane or crossing the Canadian border only, and does not impact how long the holder can remain in Canada.
If you are a permanent resident or citizen of Canada, then of course you never have to leave. If you are a worker or student, then you have to apply to extend your status or leave Canada prior to the expiry date of your work permit, study permit, or before the date you have been advised by Canada Border Services Agency if you are allowed to work or study without a permit.
The rules are not always as straightforward for a visitor.
How long a visitor can remain inside Canada is determined by CBSA upon the person’s entry to Canada. Nearly every visitor is allowed to stay for a maximum of 6 months once they have entered Canada. However, this is not a universal rule.
When Visitors Must Leave Before 6 Months Is Over
CBSA will ask questions to every person who enters Canada. If the person is a visitor, CBSA can determine that they are only allowed to stay for a certain period of time. This period of time may be less than 6 months if the CBSA officer believes that the visitor may not leave Canada when they are supposed to. In this case, the CBSA officer would issue the visitor what’s called a Visitor Record at the time of their entry. A Visitor Record is a paper document indicating the expiry date of the person’s visitor status, and the visitor must either leave Canada by that date, or must submit an application to extend their visitor status by that date.
As long as the application to extend is submitted on or before the expiry date of their status, the person may continue to remain in Canada legally until a decision is made on their extension application. This is called implied or maintained status. You can find more information about implied/maintained status here.
When Visitors Can Stay In Canada Longer Than 6 Months
Just as CBSA can force a visitor to leave sooner than 6 months, they can also allow a visitor to stay for longer than 6 months. This is most common when visitors are entering with their spouse or common-law partner who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. For example, when the couple plans to submit a sponsorship application in the near future, CBSA will sometimes allow the foreign partner to be issued a Visitor Record for 12 months.
If the visitor is the holder of a Super Visa for parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, then they are allowed to enter Canada for up to 2 years at a time rather than up to 6 months at a time. They can also apply for an extension of up to 2 years from inside Canada.
Applying for a Visitor Record from Inside Canada
Regardless of how long you have been allowed to enter Canada for as a visitor, you can always submit an application to extend your status. This is the case regardless of whether you have been given 6 months, 12 months, 90 days, or 1 week to stay in Canada as a visitor. As long as you apply to extend before your status expires, then you are still legally in Canada.
In order for a visitor extension application to be approved, the applicant needs to be able to demonstrate why they need to stay in Canada longer (such as to submit their In-Canada sponsorship application), and that they have the money to support themselves without working, as well as meeting the other eligibility requirements.
If your application to extend visitor status is approved, then a Visitor Record will be issued and sent to you via Canadapost. Then you can apply to extend your status as a visitor again if necessary – you may continue to apply to extend your status as a visitor indefinitely until the application is refused. It is possible to remain in Canada as a visitor for years. However, if you receive a visitor record that is valid for only 30 days (or less) by the time it is approved, this is a warning that you are remaining in Canada for too long as a visitor and that the next application to extend will likely be refused.
What if I am the spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident?
Being the spouse or partner of a Canadian citizen or PR does not confer any special privileges in terms of how long you can remain in Canada. All of the above information still applies to you, and you can continue to apply to extend your stay from within Canada. You can also apply for permanent residence from within Canada under the spouse or common-law partner in-Canada Class.
Contact us if you need to extend your status as a visitor.