How to bring business guests to Canada

You can avoid problems or delays when you bring foreign business guests to Canada by following the guidelines on this page.

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Exercise due diligence

Before you enter any formal partnership, you should investigate your potential partner’s business track record, assets and liabilities, reputation and current legal status. This can protect your company’s interests and reputation. It will also help you decide if aspects of your potential partner’s background will pose problems when you bring the proposed partner to Canada for business.

Please see the Trade Commissioner Service for advice.

Know Canada’s entry requirements for business visitors

Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

Visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to, or transit through a Canadian airport need an eTA. Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travellers with a valid visa.

If your visitor is from a country whose citizens need an eTA, they must apply for an eTA online before travelling to Canada by air. It is best for travellers to apply for their eTA before booking their flight to Canada.

In most cases, applicants will receive an approved eTA within minutes of applying. However, some requests may need several days to process. If this is the case, applicants can expect an email from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) within 72 hours of applying that tells them what the next steps are.

Visitor visa

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

Multiple entry visas are granted whenever possible. This benefits business partners or contacts who need to make repeat visits to Canada. However, there may be circumstances where only a single-entry visa is issued.

Most completed visitor visa applications are processed within a week of when the visa office receives them, with some exceptions for special circumstances. Present or past conditions in foreign countries, like war or political unrest, could affect whether your potential partner is admissible to Canada, and how long it takes to process a visa.

You can see potential wait periods for visas under Application processing times. Delays and refusals will result if applications are not complete, or if the required documents are missing or suspect.

You can find out more about Canada’s requirements for business visitors under How to visit Canada on business.

Your company’s responsibilities

We recommend that you:

  • Perform due diligence checks on your potential business partner.
  • Liaise with the Canadian Trade Commissioner responsible for the sector and country your visitor is coming from.
  • Provide your potential visiting business partner with 2 copies of a letter of invitation.
  • Provide your potential visiting business partner with 24-hour contact information for a representative from your business. Your visiting partner may:
    • be asked to provide the information to the border services officer when arriving in Canada, or
    • need to contact you due to travel delays.

What to do if an eTA or a visitor visa is refused

If your potential partner’s eTA or business visa is refused, please see How do I get help if my application is refused?

If there is new or additional information that should be considered, your partner can re-apply and submit this new information. There is no minimum wait to apply again.

How to prepare your business partner for arriving in Canada

Depending on what visitors say at the border and the documents they have with them, a border services officer may decide that more information is needed. If this happens, the visitor may be sent to “secondary” processing where he or she will be interviewed by an officer. This is why we recommend that your business partner should be prepared and have all the documents on hand to present to the border services officer.

Even if an eTA or a visitor visa is issued, a border services officer at the port of entry could find that the visitor needs a work permit. This could happen if the officer finds the visitor’s circumstances have changed since the eTA or visitor visa was issued, or new information is found during the interview.

Your letter of invitation can help explain the reasons for a visit and help prevent this from happening. Also, if your business partner provides an officer with 24-hour Canadian contact numbers, the contacts can answer any questions the officer has about the visit. Make sure that the contact person is prepared to answer questions.

If, for example, your visitor is coming to service a piece of equipment as set out in a contract, he or she should bring a copy of the contract or bill that states that this work is covered.

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