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I read on https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=1016&top=16 (mirror):

Most visitors can stay for up to 6 months in Canada. If you’re allowed to enter Canada, the border services officer may allow you to stay for less or more than 6 months.

How do Canadian officials determine how long a visitor entering Canada is allowed to stay?

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Under subsection 183(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, the border officer at the point of entry may decide a period other than the default six-month period for a temporary resident based on several factors:

Authorized period of stay

(2) Subject to subsections (3) to (5), the period authorized for the stay of a temporary resident is six months or any other period that is fixed by an officer on the basis of

  • (a) the temporary resident’s means of support in Canada;

  • (b) the period for which the temporary resident applies to stay; and

  • (c) the expiry of the temporary resident’s passport or other travel document.

A work or study permit, or a temporary resident permit (issued for specific cases only), may also take precedence to this subsection (a valid rentry permission is needed before departure, i.e. a visa or ETA).

For visitors, although officers have the power to do so, a period other than six months is rarely applied to travellers with a visa, since the proper course of action in case of doubt is for the visa officer to refuse the visa, or for the border officer to refuse entry. For visa-free nationals, the proper action is usually to refuse entry if there are doubts regarding the purpose of entry or means of support.

Even when the traveller requests a shorter time, the border officer would still routinely apply the default rule, as they are instructed (ENF 4 - Port of Entry Examinations):

13.22 Six-month entry

In most cases, a BSO should routinely authorize entry for a period of six months to a foreign national requesting entry as a temporary resident, even when the person requests entry for a very brief period. Six months is adequate for most purposes of travel and preclude the need for the person to request an extension.

In most cases, a shorter period could be applied when for example

  • the passport is expiring in less than six months (the most common scenerio), exceptions apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents and French citizens resident of St-Pierre-et-Miquelon
  • visas based on humanitarian or other special case grounds (e.g. a visa to attend a funeral of a close relative, whereas a visa wouldn't have been issued normally to the individual based on their e.g. financial situation)
  • genuine visa-free visitors in the previous case
  • reentering Canada after a brief visit to a foreign country to avoid visa runs

13.23 Entry for more or less than six months

Based on the information presented during an examination, a BSO at Immigration Secondary may decide to limit a temporary resident’s stay to less than six months despite the length of time requested by the foreign national. If requested by the applicant and the BSO is satisfied that the foreign national is a temporary resident, is able to support themselves and accompanying family members financially, and is not inadmissible for reasons of health or security, the granting of entry for more than six months may be considered.

In no case should the BSO impose a period of time for a temporary resident’s stay greater than the validity of the foreign national’s passport or travel document. This will not be applicable to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals exempted under subsection R52(2) from the requirement to be in possession of a passport or travel document.

All requests for a stay over 6 months as a visitor will result in the traveller being transferred for secondary examination (section 7.5, ENF 4). As long as a border officer is satisfied that you are not inadmissible and you are a genuine visitor with a valid travel document who have enough financial resources to sustain yourself in Canada without violating the conditions imposed (e.g. not working), they can admit you for more than six months. A medical examination may be required depending on your travel and residence history (s. 30 IRPR).

However, a longer period may create doubts over your intentions and means of support without working illegally or violating tax laws. Additionally, you have the option to extend your stay in Canada so border officers may be reluctant to decide as such in a short time at the port of entry.

Longer period of stay is usually authorized for

  • parents and grandparents of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident with a super visa, routinely authorized for one or two years
  • really specific borderline cases (e.g. to attend a study program less than six months but a pre-entry assessment is needed a few weeks before the start of the program, causing the total period of stay just a little bit over six months)
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