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Monday, August 20, 2018

Canada Tourist Visa Application for Filipinos

8/20/2018 12:42:00 AM 2 Comments
Canada was not on top of my list this year. All the documents I prepared were originally for the purpose of getting a UK Visa. But as day passes by, I started to have a change of heart. I mean, UK is still a part of Europe. Why not visit another continent this time? While I was doing my research, I also found out that getting a Canadian Visa will be less tedious. I don't have to print a lot of documents as requirements can be submitted online. I don't have to get a confirmed flight tickets as well. A few more research and I found myself submitting my application to the CIC website haha. :)

Toronto Skyline - Photo Credits to Tourism Toronto

Prior to application, I followed a few steps in the website:

  • Find out if you need a visa - just answer all the questions, then it will identify the type of visa you need to apply for
  • Option to apply online or apply on paper - I chose to apply online
  • Find out if you are eligible and apply online - again you have to answer all the questions. Please answer carefully and truthfully as this is where they will base your eligibility and your document checklist or personal checklist for your application.
  • Important! Don't forget to download or print the personalized document checklist. To apply online, you will need the Personal Reference Code printed on the top of the checklist. It also has the list of documents you need to submit. 

To apply online, you must have access to the following:
  • A scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your documents
  • A credit card

These are the requirements I was asked to submit:

  1. IMM5257 or the Application for Visitor Visa Form
    • just fill out the form electronically, don't worry about the signature just put the date of completion and then Validate
  2. IMM5645 or the Family Information Form
    • same with IMM 5257, a signature is not required just the date
  3. Passport
    • Scanned passport photo page and all pages with visas and stamps.
  4. Photo
    •  Your scanned photo should be passport-sized, neutral face and in white background.
  5. Travel History
    • Scanned current and expired passports including all pages with visas and stamps
    • My electronic visas from Australia and New Zealand since they didn't issue visa stickers on my passport
    • My round trip boarding passes to Australia and New Zealand since I also don't have passport stamps from their immigration. Everything was done electronically!
  6. Proof of Means of Financial Support
    • Bank Certificate - I requested my bank to reflect my account opening date and ADB. Not really required but I think this will give an edge to my application.
    • Bank Statement - for the last 4 months. If you have an online banking account, you can save or print as pdf from there. For passbook accounts, scan it.
    • Credit Card Statements - for the last 4 months. This is optional but I decided to include this to show my good credit standing and my substantial credit limit to let them know I have alternate means to afford this trip.*
    • Certicate of Employment
    • Income Tax Return 2017
  7. Purpose of Travel
    • Flight Details - not necessarily a confirmed booking, it can only be a reservation
    • Hotel Booking Confirmation - you can book one with a free-cancellation policy
    • Day-to-Day Itinerary - your itinerary should match the amount of money you have in your account so you won't seem questionable
  8. Optional Documents
    • Cover Letter - explaining the purpose of your travel and your planned length of stay. This will help you to explain your honest intentions on why and how long you're visiting their country*

Those marked with asterisk (*) are optional requirements that I submitted which I believed could positively affect my visa application.

Please also note that requirements may vary from person to person. It will depend on the answers you provided on the eligibility questionnaire.

Additional Notes: 
  • CIC website has a file size limit. The size of each document must not exceed 4MB.
  • Each document type should be uploaded as a single file only. For example for Proof of Means of Financial Support, I merged my bank certificate, bank statement, credit card statements, COE and ITR as one PDF file before uploading.

Helpful Websites for Optimizing your Files:

Once your done preparing your documents, you can now proceed to the online application.

How to Apply Online:

Step 1: Create a GCKey (CIC) account

When you click the link above, you will be redirected to the CIC website and you should see this:

Scroll down until you see the Continue to GC Key button then click on Register.

Sign up for a new account. Make sure to register your most frequently used email address because this is where you will receive updates regarding your application.

After completing your registration, you will be ask what you would like to apply for. Select Visitor Visa. If you already checked your eligibility prior to registration like me, you can already provide your Personal Reference Code right away. If not, just follow the instructions and answer the questionnaire.

Step 2: Upload your documents

After entering your Personal Reference Code, it's finally time to submit your Application Form and Supporting Documents!

This is how it would look like after your submission.

Step 3: Pay the Visa Fee

Once your done uploading your documents, you can now proceed to paying your visa fee. It is CAD 100. All major credit cards are accepted. Just fill out the credit card details then click "Process Transaction". Just be patient because it may take a while. Don't double click to avoid getting charged twice.

You will be prompted "Transaction Approved" after your payment and you can print that page as your transaction receipt. The conversion of CAD 100 at the time that I paid was PHP 4,115.

Step 4: Submit your passport to VFS.

VFS is the third party agency that processes paper visa applications and accepts the online applicants passport submission for Canada.

But don't submit it right away! Monitor your account and wait for the Embassy's notice requesting you to bring your passport. Don't worry, you will also receive an email every time there's an update being made on your application.

Wait for this!
Once you receive that message, you may now proceed to submitting your passport to VFS:

Canada Visa Application Centre

VFS Services Phils. Pvt. Inc.
Mezzanine Floor Ecoplaza Bldg.
Chino Roces Ave Ext.
Makati city 1231

Hours of Operation:

Application/Passport Submission: 7:00-15:00
Passport Collection: 15:00-16:00

You just need to bring your passport and the passport request letter you received (downloadable from your CIC account). Upon arrival you will be given a Consent Form and a Personal Info form where you will indicate your delivery address for the courier.

I paid for the following fees:

Php  576.00 - Passport Transmission
        303.00 - Courier
          69.00 - SMS Fee
Php  948.00 - Total Paid

Courier is optional but I find it more convenient and more cost efficient. Grab is super expensive nowadays that my cost of going back and forth to VFS actually costs more than the courier fee. But you can always go there personally to collect your passport if you want to.

I guess SMS fee is also optional but whatever. I just availed it haha. Though I would say that it is not helpful at all unlike the SMS service of the NZ VAC.

Processing Time

My visa processing took 10 business days. Not bad, right? For a country with tons of applicants everyday, this is pretty fast.

They granted me a Multiple Entry visa valid until my passport expires. It would have been so much better if I still have several years left on my passport but it's expiring next year huhu! But still, I'm very happy with the outcome of my application. Besides, I don't think I can still wait for 2019 before visiting Canada. :)

Note: I deleted crucial information from the photo because this visa will still be valid until my passport expires.

My Application Timeline:

May 07 - submitted online application
May 15 - received notification that a decision has been made and the original passport request
May 22 - dropped my passport to VFS and paid processing fees
May 25 - received my passport back with the visa

I didn't bring my passport to VFS right after I received the original passport request notice (I was traveling hehe). Because of that, the processing time took longer than it should be. But all in all, it only took 10 business days. 7 business days from the time I submitted online and got the request to bring my passport to VFS. Then 3 business days from the time I submitted my passport to VFS up to the day it was delivered back home with my visa. I consider the entire process a little bit easier than the others.

Honestly, Canada is an expensive place to travel. But there is nothing you can't do as long as you are well-prepared and you are saving smartly. I also have to feed that curiosity of why there are so many Filipinos who chose to live in that country. What is so great about this cold country in the North? I already heard interesting stories from the people I met in VFS when I submitted my passport but I can't wait to see and know more.

On a lighter note, I'm also excited to see the filming locations of Goblin in Quebec haha! I have to go guys, gotta find that portal that will lead me to Gong Yoo. :)

Scenes from Goblin filmed in Canada :)

Curiosity, especially intellectual inquisitiveness, is what separates the truly alive from those who are merely going through the motions.