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Canada lets you apply for a tourist visa online. What does the full process look like? Do you have to travel somewhere to get a visa or is it all electronic?

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Canadian visa applications look easy on the surface, but are actually a major hassle to receive due to requiring three trips to the closest visa center.

The first step is to submit the online application. For this you need:

  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of residency permit if living outside of home country
  • Copy of bank statement
  • Copy of work contract or equivalent
  • Travel itinerary: a description of what you're planning to do in Canada. Purchasing tickets or booking hotels in advance is not required, it's sufficient to add screenshots from booking websites
  • Copy of invitation (if you're visiting a friend or a family member)
  • A bunch of filled out bureaucratic forms, that you download from the application website

The second step is to travel to the closest visa application center to submit your fingerprints. If you live in Prague like my friend, this means traveling all the way to Vienna or Berlin.

A few days after you submit your fingerprints you'll receive an email confirming your visa has been issued an inviting you to travel to the visa center again to submit your passport. For some reason you're not allowed to simply mail your passport, so a trip is inevitable.

Around 10 days after submitting your passport, you'll receive an email confirming you can pick it up. If you live in the same country as the visa center you're in luck, as they are then able to courier your passport to your address. Otherwise you're once again required to travel to the visa center.

In total the process should take 3-4 weeks and cost $100 for the application fee. Plus whatever it costs to travel to the visa center three times in a row. On the bright side, Canadians generally issue visas valid until your passport expires, so at least you won't have to repeat these steps for the next several years.

  • It does appear that the German visa application center will mail "completed" passports to some locations outside of Germany, for an additional fee. The Austrian center, however, does not appear to offer this service, so this may vary country by country. – Michael Seifert Jan 9 at 18:31
  • Purely out of interest, if you've submitted your passport to a visa centre in a different country, how do you travel to pick it up again ten days later? – DJClayworth Jan 9 at 18:31
  • Also, the Austrian and German centers both imply that passports can be submitted to them via courier/mail, but it's possible that your friend was a special case (or that "facts on the ground" don't match the website.) – Michael Seifert Jan 9 at 18:39
  • @MichaelSeifert interesting. Looks like the issue is with the Austrian center then. – JonathanReez Jan 9 at 19:41
  • @MichaelSeifert over the phone the Austrian visa center claimed that you have to submit the passport in person. I'll have a friend apply for a visa in Prague soon and I'll confirm the facts afterwards. I'll have them try the German office. – JonathanReez Jan 9 at 19:42

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