As far as I can tell from the Visit Canada official website section on visas, there are three main kinds approvals for non-Canadians making a short trip: eTA (for visa-waiver nationals coming by air), Visitor Visas and Business Visas

For someone who isn't from a visa-waiver country (eg an Indian citizen living in India), who wants to attend a Conference (in this case a few day event on a specific open source project), what kind of visa do you need?

Some bits of the Visit Canada official website section on visas talks about Visitor Visas or Business Visas, other parts talk about Tourist Visas and Business Visas, which is proving confusing (at least for me and my Indian friend...). The Business Visa sub-section does mention conferences as being something you can do on a business visa, but also they look harder to get. The Tourist Visa sub-section that you confusingly turn up on after clicking many of the Visitor Visa links doesn't seem to say anything about what you can and can't do on a tourist visa. The tourist visa page links to a Visitor Visa application form, again leading me to be confused.

(A quick google with likely keywords only found me information on what Canadians going to the USA for conferences should / shouldn't say to US immigration about their trip...)

So, hopefully simple question - Someone from a visa country (eg India) travelling to Canada to attend a conference, but who isn't doing it as a work trip (they're paying personally), what kind of visa do they need to apply for? Visitor? Tourist? Business? Other?

  • 3
    Welcome to our confusing visa application website. Please report back if you still have all your hair when you figure out which type you need.
    – blackbird
    Mar 22, 2016 at 17:46
  • More seriously, the conference is listed under "cross-border" business. Since your hypothetical traveller is here to attend and not in the context of employment/work I suppose visitor visa is the appropriate type in this case. Have you contacted an embassy near you ?
    – blackbird
    Mar 22, 2016 at 17:46
  • @blackbird57 To apply for an eTA as a Brit, you practically need a thesaurus as every dropdown has a different country it wants you to give, several times the wrong form / grammatically incorrect / etc....
    – Gagravarr
    Mar 22, 2016 at 17:47
  • 1
    If Schengen is any clue - Business visas are for those visiting specifically for the purposes of conducting business (such as signing contracts). All other things come under visit. I have yet to be asked to apply for a business visa when attending conferences in EU. Mar 22, 2016 at 17:48
  • 2
    @BurhanKhalid how could Schengen be a clue when there's no such thing as a business visa in the Schengen system? Excepting airport transit and national long-stay visas, there's only a short-stay visa, which can be granted for any of several purposes, including for business visits. This may explain why you haven't been asked to apply for a business visa.
    – phoog
    Mar 22, 2016 at 18:59

1 Answer 1


Canada does indeed have one of the most confusing web sites I've ever seen.

So, here is the very simple about Canada's visitor visas: They're all the same.

Canada refers to all visitor visas, including for tourism, business, and even transit, as temporary resident visas. They all use the same application form and are good for both business and tourism.

If your visitor is from a country whose citizens need a visa to visit Canada, he or she must apply for a temporary resident visa just like any other temporary visitor to Canada. There is no separate application for business visitors. The temporary resident visa covers all visitors, including those in Canada on business.

The application guide goes into a little more detail, and should be read in its entirety if you are planning to obtain a visa to visit Canada.

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