I’m often asked how long an individual can remain in Canada under immigration rules. It may surprise you to learn that there is in fact no maximum period of time for which a foreign national can be admitted as a visitor.
However, as a practical matter, after a person has visited Canada for six to twelve months, gaining an extension of a visitor visa will be tough indeed. Why? Because the visa officer will question whether the individual is a bona fide visitor, that is, whether the person is truly a visitor or is in fact trying to remain the country without any other options to immigrate permanently.
Nonetheless, so long as an applicant meets the requirements, there can certainly be a longer term visitor visa granted.
There is an interesting case of Stanislavsky where the applicant had a permanent resident application filed at Vegreville. Processing times were long (as usual) and the applicant sought an extension of his visitor visa. The visa officer denied the extension because the temporary purpose was long.
The Court disagreed and quashed the visa officer’s decision.
The Court found that the applicant did indeed have a “temporary purpose” for remaining in Canada – that is, to await the decision on a permanent resident application. It made no difference that the length of the temporary purpose was longer than normal. As such, the visa officer was found to have made an error in denying the extension based on a lengthy – though temporary – purpose.
The visa officer could only deny the applicant if the visa officer found that the applicant no longer had a temporary purpose to remain in Canada. In this case, the visa officer made no such finding.
Even though visa officers have the discretion to extend visitor visas beyond the typical six or twelve month period, you must still be sure to submit any extension applications to the appropriate visa office (usually Vegreville) before your visitor visa expires. Otherwise, you may be out of luck, unless you still have time to submit a restoration application to restore your status.