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Visiting Canada with a tourism visa

Jo Qiao on Monday, 24 October 2016. Posted in International Students, Vacation / Break

      As we all aware, RIT is located in Rochester, NY, which is fairly close the border between the US and Canada. Rochester is 2 hours (by driving) away from Niagara Falls, CA, 3 hours (by driving) from Toronto and 5 hours (by driving) from Montreal. Going to RIT means you have to take a trip to Canada sometime during your time here. When you and your friends make a spontaneous plan to go to Canada for a weekend, you may wonder what documents do you need to visit Canada? In this blog, I will share some personal experiences of how to travel to Canada with a tourism visa. This blog does not apply to American citizens and Canadian citizens; it targets towards international students who need visas to visit Canada.

Do I need a visa?

 First, you need to know if you need a visa or not. You can obtain this information by visiting Canadian Citizenship and Immigration website at:

As a Chinese citizen, I do need to obtain a visa prior to visiting. I have to plan ahead to apply for the visa. Even if you do not have a plan to go to Canada, it’s always a good idea to have the visa. So when the time comes, you won’t be stressed out because you don’t have the visa to Canada.

Application preparation

After you determined that you need a visa, you can follow Canadian Government’s website to apply online or apply on paper. I recommend applying online since it’s a lot easier. You will need to answer a questionnaire on the Canadian Government’s website. Then the website will notify you what kind of visa you should apply for. At this time, you need a scanner or camera to make digital copies of your documents. There’s also an application fee of $100 that you need to submit after filling the application.

You will obtain a personal reference code and instructions on the application procedure. The application document I filed out was IMM 5256. You can find instructions on how to fill out the IMM 5265 form at:

You also need supporting documents including travel history, passport, invitation letter (if needed), proof of financial resource of supporter, proof of means of financial support, digital photo, purpose of travel, etc. As an international student studying in the US, you can also provide your I-20 documents. It makes the process easier; you are more likely to be granted a visa. After finishing your application and submitting your payment, you will receive a confirmation message and instruction of how to proceed next. Directionally, you will have to mail your passport to one of the Canadian Embassies to get your visa. The duration of this process will depend on how busy the embassy is. After you get your passport mailed back, you are good to go!

Traveling to Canada

From Rochester, there are a few ways to travel to Toronto. You can either take a bus, drive or fly. In general driving is a lot easier and cheaper. If you are driving, make sure you have your license, registration, and your insurance documents. If you are flying, Air Canada is a good airline to buy your tickets because there are direct flights from Rochester to Toronto. With this being said, if you ever need to fly from your country to Rochester or fly from Rochester to other countries, Toronto is a convenient connecting stop. You do not need a visa for connecting flights in Toronto, but it would helpful if you have one to make the Custom process goes faster.

Other tips for traveling 

Other tips for traveling to Canada are to consider your phone plan and GPS. For you mobile carrier, you need to confirm with them if you will be able to use your phone over in Canada and how your data works in Canada. Using GPS is crucial for me during traveling, so I always make sure that I can use my data and Google maps.

Also, some places in Canada accept US dollars. However, they will treat it as Canadian dollars (it’s 1 USD to 1.3 CAD) and that’s a lot different. It’s convenient if you have some Canadian dollars or you can call your bank to see if there are any Canadian bank alliances that you can use to get Canadian bills.

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