Visa for Canada a job and a half

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toronto REUTERS People walk in front of the skyline after a rain storm in Toronto.

I love travelling. So when my sad friend in Canada (recently divorced, landing alongside me in the single parent ranks) invited me to visit, I was sorely tempted.

“Let’s take the kids to Toronto, then we can head off to Montreal for New Year and after that you guys can come home with us to Winnipeg,” she suggested.

But the joy, the elation that comes with planning a holiday, was quickly dampened when I was handed a wad of printed information that I would need to apply for Canadian visas for my six-year-old and I.

Opting not to pay R1 400 to an agency to do my application, I thought I’d tackle it myself. How hard could it be?

So, what documentation is required?

Valid passport for the applicants. A photocopy of the picture page. A copy of your itinerary. Proof that accommodation has been booked and paid for. A letter from your employer to say you have been granted leave, that they know you are going to Canada and, yes, you are expected to report back after your holiday. A letter from your child’s school stating that the school is aware of her plans to holiday in Canada, but that she is registered to start Grade 1 in the new year. Three months’ bank statements – originals, not copies. A letter of invitation from your host containing all the trip details and dates, properly signed. A copy of your host’s passport and a copy of her utility bill. Two photographs of each applicant, fitting particular stipulations such as no smiles or head tilting etc.

I consulted the website – www.canada.co.za – and found the forms I needed to download, and the instructions on how to apply. And there I found a phone number, with an invitation to call if I needed any assistance. But all I got was a pleasant voice recording telling me that everything I needed could be found on the website.

The cost for two single entry visas is R1 040. But, I was warned, I could not pay by internet transfer and they don’t accept cash or cheques. I had to get a bank draft made out to the Canadian High Commission. Bank charges on this transaction were R55.

This entire application bundle, now nearing the weight of a brick, has to be delivered in person to the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria on a weekday between 8am and 10am.

Applicants are accepted one by one, and the bright-eyed woman ahead of me informed me that the process ahead is simple and you get your visa in a day.

In the guardhouse I was searched and scanned with a hand-held metal detector. My bag was searched. My phone was taken and locked away.

I braced myself as the friendly woman behind the counter called me. She went through my heavy pile, said it was all in order and I could come back to fetch the passports and visas… in a week. Not four weeks like the travel agent told me. Not six weeks like the website warned.

A week later it was faster and easier. People were served quickly. When I was helped I gave only my name and was quickly handed back our passports with a smile.

The relief was great.


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Anonymous, wrote

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05:11pm on 11 February 2012
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All to keep the "riff raff" out..... i'm all for it!. Lets start to do the same vetting on our foreign visitors to SA, many of whom out stay their welcome and forget to go home. Which of course was their intention in the first place. A little checking would prevent many of these overstays happing. Sounds like Canada does its due diligence properly. About time SA did the same.

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mosh, wrote

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12:49pm on 11 February 2012
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@ peter who wrote at 09:43pm on 9 February 2012: Assuming SA authorities had given a hard time to foreign tourists with visa applications, expect these comments, " Totally disorganised", " Third world country", " This would never had happened prior 1994" etc

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Anonymous, wrote

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08:57am on 11 February 2012
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Not as bad as new zealand who will simply refuse to let south africans on the plane without a visa when it is supposed to be 3 months visa free. This refusal was by a new zealand immigration officer stationed at KL airport in malaysia. She said it was standard practice to deny south africans boarding. There is no new zealand consulate in malaysia to get the visa and the airline will deny a refund of any part of your fully paid return ticket. You have been warned. New zealand visa take weeks to get.

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Anonymous, wrote

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03:34am on 11 February 2012
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I am fortunate enough to be an ex South African now with a Canadian Passport. The pleasure of the Canadian Passport is you get into most countries without applying in advance for a visa (including US, UK, Europe, SA even CUBA) and nearly always without a fee. Though I did recently have to apply and pay for a Business Visa on trip to South America ($80). But given Canadians get this great treatment elsewhere by other countries shouldn't Canada be fair and also treat other countries citizens the same. Also nobody wants to pay CAD$100 (R1040) for a visa and have to go to Pretoria at least twice to drop and pickup your documents. Getting to Pretoria can be a pain. What if you live in Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein etc. and I would hate the idea of posting or couriering the documents in SA with all the theft and identity theft going on. Unfortunately I think the US dictates some of the rules and security checks in place that Canada applies. All to protect the common boarder between the two countries. I am real glad to hear that the author found the Canadian embassy was a pleasure to deal with though. Once he had collected all the required documents, paid the fee and got to Pretoria. What started out as a winge article really was quite complimentary towards Canada at the end.

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mark, wrote

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10:54am on 10 February 2012
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The UK impossed a visa requirement due to the shambles that Home Affairs is in and all the fake SA passports in circulation. It is a real pity that corruption is so rife is most of our government departments that the few South Africans who can afford to travel have to start with a wasted amount of money on these visa's. Perhaps we should take a stand against corruption?

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:53am on 10 February 2012
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Its the same process applying for USA visa. If you have all you documents in place its not a mission.

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dbnnet, wrote

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09:51am on 10 February 2012
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I really try and stay well away from countries that make me jump through hoops to get a visitors visa. I prefer to spend my hard earned cash in countries that wish to encourage tourists... not punish them !!

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Anonymous, wrote

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08:49am on 10 February 2012
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My daughter who wanted to visit Holland had the same problem i.r.o. bank statements required from her host. She did not even know these people personally, they were family of her boyfriend - how can one ask virtual strangers for their bank statements??

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Roger, wrote

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08:02am on 10 February 2012
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@ Anonymous - Nothing to do with the SA passport. They apply the same process to all nationalities who need a visa to enter. The simple fact is a combination of terrorism and as mentioned below, unwanted 'visitors' who dont want to go home have made visa requirements more stringent for many countries. I recently had near similar requirements to visit Cuba and they are our big mates. Bottom line, irrespective of the passport you have, if you are visiting a country that requires a visa expect to behave like a circus pony to get your visa.

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kevin francis, wrote

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06:21am on 10 February 2012
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Like Australia, Canada has a continual problem with visitors who just don't go home. I don't blame them their laws can never be tough enough. SA should do likewise.

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Anonymous, wrote

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05:20am on 10 February 2012
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The reputation of the SA passport is getting worse and worse, what do you expect?

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You got it easy, wrote

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03:23am on 10 February 2012
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Having dealt with that office for the past 4 years - I promise you that you had an easy ride. My study permit took 3 times longer than their fairytale posted time frame. And the my legs still ache from the hoop jumping. Their excuse is that they're understaffed. But that doesn't explain everything. That office is sitting on a very high horse and having spoken to numerous people who have had dealings with them, the story is ALWAYS the same.

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Me, myelf and I, wrote

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10:58pm on 9 February 2012
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"for my six-year-old and I"???? Is that correct? I was taught that to establish whether one uses "I", "me" or "myself" remove the second person and see if it makes sense. So it becomes "I was handed a wad of printed information that I would need to apply for a Canadian visa for I". Hmmmm. Something looks and sounds wrong. But what do I know as I am not a paid pro jounrno who writes for a living. Must be a sign of the times.

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Peter, wrote

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09:43pm on 9 February 2012
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What is your point?? Most visas follow a similar process. Your whining sounds like this is the first time you have left the country.

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