June 22, 2018

Family visiting from outside Canada?

By Candice Pusey

Expecting visiting relatives from overseas or the U.S.? Here’s everything you need to know, from visas to travel insurance.

You probably know what's involved in planning a trip from Canada to another country: Get your ticket, make sure your passport is up to date, buy some travel insurance and off you go. But bringing family from abroad to visit you in Canada is a different story. Whether your visitors are coming from the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa or a tiny island in the Caribbean, you need to plan ahead.

From official paperwork to sightseeing, here are some steps to take before your family comes to visit:

Preparations you can make

  • You may not realize it, but you can buy travel insurance for relatives visiting from abroad – they don't have to buy it at home. Find out which option provides the best coverage and value, and make sure the policy will cover any medical emergencies that might come up during their visit.
  • Ask your relatives what special events they may be interested in so you can buy tickets in advance. You can check out city and provincial tourism websites for ideas, and for a high-level look at special events across the country, visit Canadian attractions, events and experiences.
  • If they come from a country that uses different electrical plugs, you may wish to buy adaptors for any electrical devices your relatives bring with them, in case they neglect to pack some themselves.
  • Let your relatives know what the weather will be like when they visit, so they can pack the right clothes. If they are visiting from the tropics during the winter, you may need to meet them at the airport with coats, gloves, etc.

Preparations your relatives can make

  • The first task will be to get passports, if they don't already have them. Passport issuing times vary from country to country, so the sooner your family applies for theirs, the better. Recommend that they make copies of their passports either mechanically or digitally and save them at home in a safe place.
  • Depending on their citizenship and country of residence, your relatives may need temporary resident (visitor) visas to visit Canada. If so, there are a few options to choose from, depending on their needs:
    • A single-entry visa allows your family to come to Canada once. After they leave Canada (not counting any side trips they may make to the U.S. or St. Pierre and Miquelon), they will need to apply for a new visa to visit you in Canada again.
    • A multiple-entry visa will allow your family to come and go from Canada for up to 10 years (or one month before their passports expire – whichever comes first) for six months at a time.
    • A parent or grandparent super visa will let an eligible parent or grandparent visit you for as long as two years at a time without having to reapply, and is valid for up to 10 years. One of the requirements for this type of visa is proof of valid health insurance.
  • There may be other requirements based on your family's citizenship, such as a medical examination or letter of invitation. You can find the most up-to-date information about visitors to Canada on the government of Canada website, Visit Canada. Bookmark it and check it whenever relatives are coming, as the rules may have changed since their last visit.
  • Your relatives should check with their doctor regarding any required vaccinations and refill any prescriptions they may need while travelling.

Find out more from the government of Canada about who is eligible to visit Canada as a tourist and how a super visa can make it easier to visit children or grandchildren.

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