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My fiancée and I are moving from Switzerland (residency and nationality: Switzerland) to Vancouver, BC, Canada in a week or so for five years with a student visa. The issue is that my fiancée might not receive her visa on time.

I first thought it won't be an issue, she will enter as a tourist and then travel back and forth to the USA (she already paid for an ESTA) to re-enter Canada with her visa once she has received it (her visa application will very probably be accepted). However I am scared that because we only booked a one-way flight (we already bought the tickets) customs officers might not allow her to enter Canada as a tourist. Am I right to be scared? What should we do to ensure we won't have any bad surprise at our arrival in Vancouver?

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A thought that occurred just now .... if your fiancee has applied for her visa and is awaiting the decision, where is her passport right now? Not sure how Canada works, but most of the time when I apply for a visa, I have to send my passport in with the application form. –  Tom Aug 1 at 18:51
    
@Tom The application is online. We only need to send scans of the passport so this is not an issue. thanks –  Remi.b Aug 1 at 23:59

3 Answers 3

up vote 22 down vote accepted

If I was a customs officer and I saw one person has a visa to stay, and the other does not but bought a one way ticket I would most certainly assume that person planned to stay. And in fact, she does. Don't start your time here with a lie. Call whoever is processing her visa and ask what to do. She may have to change her flights and stay back until the paperwork comes through. While this is irritating, it sure beats the alternative.

If she tries going without the right visa, it might just work. But you might instead find:

  • she can't board, you have to fly without her and she has to figure out where to stay (since you've presumably given up your apartment) while she waits for the visa
  • she boards, but isn't let in and has to fly back without you. They don't hold it against her so she can come back once the visa clears
  • she boards, isn't let in, and a note is left keeping her out for a year or even forever. This is unlikely but it could happen

Compared to these choices, her staying back for a week or two seems like a much safer option. But followup with whoever is issuing it - maybe it will arrive just in time, or you can speed things up by travelling somewhere in the next few days to pick it up.

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"Don't start your time here with a lie." - I cannot find any indication in the question that the OP's fiancée is intending to pretend she is actually there as a tourist, rather than stating truthfully that she would like to enter legally as a tourist only at first, because the Canadian agency responsible for her visa did not complete it in time. –  O. R. Mapper Aug 1 at 6:57
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@O.R.Mapper they're moving in on a resident visa, yet he suggests she may try to get in as a tourist instead (maybe they think tourists need no visa to enter Canada). –  jwenting Aug 1 at 7:48
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@jwenting: If you go to Canada as a Swiss tourist you don't right? –  David Mulder Aug 1 at 8:04
    
@DavidMulder I don't know, I guess they have something akin to the US where some countries are excempt from certain visa requirements. –  jwenting Aug 1 at 8:19
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@O.R.Mapper: Though if she were to do that she should make it extremely clear she has the money to book a return flight in case she doesn't get the visa and make clear she intends to leave if she doesn't get it. –  David Mulder Aug 1 at 9:03

Actually your first concern will be the airline, as rules require them to make sure you have the correct documentation to enter Canada BEFORE they let you on the plane. It is entirely possible that they could prohibit your girlfriend from flying.

Once you get to Canada, it is a crap shoot, they may simply take her word that she is visiting only for a few weeks or they could ask about her return flight.

If you haven't bought your tickets, you could buy a round trip for her (which often cost the same as a one way), which will satisfy the immigration rules and then postpone the return date or simply cancel it.

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Thanks for your answer. We actually already bought the one-way flight ticket! –  Remi.b Jul 31 at 12:51
    
May be you can buy a refundable ticket? In most cases, you will get 90% of the ticket price and will cost ~50 USD for the refundable option. –  Ayesh K Jul 31 at 15:30
    
"they may simply take her word that she is visiting only for a few weeks" - Where in the question does the OP say that the fiancée is going to pretend that? –  O. R. Mapper Aug 1 at 6:58
    
@OR Mapper - She has a one way ticket, no residency visa, plans to go to the USA once her visa is approved and then return. So it is a fairly safe assumption this process would happen within a few weeks. –  Tom Aug 1 at 18:49

From the FAQ of the Canadian Embassy in Austria:

I do not have a return ticket. Can I travel to Canada with a one-way ticket?

We strongly recommend that travellers who enter as tourists present a return ticket upon entry into Canada, but this is not a legal requirement. Port of Entry officers may want to see proof that the person entering Canada will leave before expiry of their authorized period of stay.

If you are the holder of a work or study permit, you generally do not need a return ticket. At the port of entry in Canada you might have to prove that you are able to fund your return flight.

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