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Canada

Frequently Asked Questions

Traveling abroad is a complex matter. Careful preparation will help you avoid many problems. Here are some answers and other sources of expert information on many of the issues and problems you may encounter. The questions are arranged in alphabetical order according to subject. You can also search the page using keywords.

If there are questions you cannot find an answer for, please e-mail us: voyage@dfait-maeci.gc.ca


Adoptions (International)

After-Hours Assistance

Alcohol and Recreational Drugs
Arrest and Detention

Canadian Government Offices Abroad

Cancellation of Travel

Children and Travel

Deaths Overseas

Disabled Persons (Travel by)

Dual Nationality

Elections

Emergency Situations

Financial Assistance

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered travel

Immigration

Insurance

Mail

Marriage Overseas

Medical Matters

Passports

Purchases, Souvenirs and Personal Goods

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Safety Issues

Telephoning Home

Transportation Issues

Visas

Voting While Residing Abroad

Adoptions (International)

Q: How do I make arrangements to adopt a child in another country?

A: First you must contact the authorities of the province or territory in which the child will reside. While adoption is a provincial/territorial responsibility, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is responsible for allowing an adopted child into Canada. Entry can be refused if the child does not hold an immigrant visa, and an immigrant visa will not be issued without the prior approval of the province or territory. Obtaining this approval from outside the country can be a difficult and lengthy process; agreement may be denied even if the adoption has already been completed.

For more information, contact your provincial/territorial authorities or a CIC call centre at:

Montreal:
(514) 496-1010
Toronto:
(416) 973-4444
Vancouver:
(604) 666-2171


For toll-free access anywhere else in Canada, call 1-888-242-2100 or check the CIC Web site (http://www.cic.gc.ca).

Related Links

Human Resources Development Canada

 

After-Hours Assistance

Q: How can I get help from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade after regular business hours?

A: The Emergency Operations Centre responds to consular emergencies and provides travel information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

From Canada, call: 1-800-267-6788 (in Canada) or (613) 944-6788.
From ouside Canada, call collect: (613) 996-8885.

In a number of countries, you can also call the 24/7 Operations Centre toll-free.

Alcohol and Recreational Drugs

Q: I understand that in some Islamic countries alcohol is not available. May I bring my own supply of alcohol when travelling to those countries?

A: In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the importation, possession and use of alcohol is strictly forbidden. To determine whether alcohol is permitted in the country you'll be visiting, contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of that country before you leave Canada. Contact information for representatives of foreign governments in Canada is available in the Department's destination-specific Country Travel Reports.

Q: In many countries, marijuana and other recreational drugs are openly sold and used. Why do you recommend that Canadians not use such drugs?

A: Although these drugs may be readily available in some countries, their purchase, consumption, import and export are prohibited virtually everywhere. Buying or using such drugs, even if it's a common practice in a particular place, can lead to criminal charges, arrest and imprisonment. Local authorities often mount "sting" operations against foreigners.

Q: The Government of Canada has authorized me to use marijuana for medical reasons. May I can take a small personal supply with me when I travel abroad?

A: Importing or using marijuana is illegal in all countries. The Government of Canada does not and cannot authorize Canadians to use marijuana for medical purposes in other countries. Canadians are subject to the laws and judicial systems of the country in which they are travelling.

Q: I've heard that in Peru it is legal to use cocaine and other coca plant products above a certain altitude in the Andes mountains. Is this true?

A: At altitudes of over 3,800 metres, native Peruvians are permitted to chew coca leaves in accordance with their ancestral traditions. Otherwise the use of cocaine and all other drugs is illegal in Peru.

Arrest and Detention

Q: How do I get assistance if I'm arrested abroad?

A: You should clearly inform the arresting authorities that you wish to have Canadian consular officers notified immediately of your arrest. The arresting authorities have an obligation, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to advise you of your rights of access to a consular representative and to make arrangements for such access. They are not required to inform a Canadian diplomatic or consular office of your detention or arrest unless you specifically ask them to do so. Click here for the telephone numbers of Canadian government offices abroad and the Department's Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa.

Q: Can consular officials arrange for my release from prison?

A: You are subject to the criminal justice system of the country in which you are travelling. Canadian consular officials can provide assistance and support to Canadians in jail abroad, but they cannot arrange for your release, seek preferential treatment for you, or try to exempt you from the due process of local law. Click here for the booklet Guide for Canadians Imprisoned Abroad. 

Canadian Government Offices Abroad

Q: Where are Canadian government offices located overseas?

A: The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade can provide consular services in over 270 cities in approximately 180 countries. These consular "service points" are found in Canadian embassies, high commissions (an embassy in a Commonwealth country), consulates general, consulates, consulates headed by honorary consuls, and offices. These offices provide different levels of service. The various types of offices are fully explained in the Description of Canadian Government Offices Abroad section.

In some locations, Australian offices have agreed to provide consular assistance to Canadians. These locations include Bali (including Barat, Nusa and Tengarra), Cambodia, East Timor, Hawaii, Kiribati, Laos, Micronesia (including Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, Marshall Islands and Palau), Burma (Myanmar), Nauru, New Caledonia (including French Polynesia), Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. In return, Canada provides consular services to Australians at other locations.

Q: How can I contact a Canadian government office abroad?

A: A list of all Canadian offices abroad can be found in the List of Canadian Government Offices Abroad section. The list provides the address, telephone numbers, fax numbers, e-mail address and Internet address (URL), where available, for each Canadian government office abroad.

All of these offices provide assistance to Canadians during normal business hours. After-hours service can be obtained by telephoning the office in the country concerned and following the recorded instructions. In most cases, your call will automatically be routed to our 24-hour Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa, where an officer is always available to assist you. If the emergency is a serious one, the operations officer in Ottawa will contact an official at the overseas office and arrange for assistance. 

Cancellation of Travel

Q: What can I do if I want to cancel my trip?

A: Cancelling a scheduled trip abroad could cost you money. Before cancelling a scheduled trip, you should discuss the matter with your travel agent, travel insurer or the airline. The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. 

Children and Travel

Q: I'm afraid a custody dispute might arise while my child is outside the country. What should I do?

A: If you or your partner are travelling to another country with your child and there is a possibility that a custody dispute might develop, you should talk to a lawyer before the child leaves Canada. You should also consult the publication International Child Abductions: A Manual for Parents and the section Children's Issues

Your child custody arrangements in Canada may not be recognized in another country. In extreme cases, you or your child may not be allowed to leave that country. Check your status with the country's embassy or consulate in Canada before you travel. In regard to custody questions, contact the Department's Consular Case Management Division at 1-800-387-3124 (in Canada) or (613) 943-1055.

Q: What documents are required for a child travelling alone or with one parent?

A: Foreign officials and transportation companies are vigilant concerning documentation for children crossing international borders. Generally, persons younger than 18 years of age could be considered as children.

Unless a child is accompanied by both legal parents, the following documentation should be carried by the child or the accompanying adult:

• a valid Canadian passport for the child.

• a document proving that the child has the permission of the lawful parent(s) or guardian to travel and including contact information for the parent(s) or guardian. This document must be specific to each trip. Two sample documents are provided for parents to use as a model to draft their own consent letter: (1) child travelling with one parent and (2) child travelling without either parent. A child of divorced or separated parents who is travelling without either parent can use either one letter signed by both parents or two separate letters.

• if only one lawful parent accompanies the child, certified consent from the absent parent must be presented in addition to a copy of any separation or divorce decree. This consent is required even if the separation or divorce documents award custody of the child to the accompanying parent.

• if a legal guardian accompanies the child, then a copy of the court order granting guardianship must be presented.

• a legal copy of the child's birth certificate if the certificate shows that there is only one parent named and the child is travelling with that parent.

• if one parent has died, a legal copy of the death certificate should be presented.

Copies should be certified and/or stamped by an appropriate authority (barrister, notary public, Canadian Consul, or local authorities recognized by the consular section of the Canadian government office).

Remember that customs officials are looking for missing children and may ask questions about the children travelling with you. Make sure you carry the proper identification for yourself and any children travelling with you, including any documents required by the country you intend to visit. Proper identification includes birth certificates, passports, citizenship cards, records of landing, and certificates of Indian status. These will help prove your citizenship and residency when you return to Canada. 

Death Overseas

Q: How do I have the remains of a relative returned to Canada?

A: Having the remains of a relative returned to Canada requires the assistance of qualified funeral homes in Canada and in the country where the death occurred. You should contact the appropriate Canadian government office abroad for assistance as well as the Department's Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa.

The length of time required for the repatriation of remains can vary greatly and is determined by a number of factors including the cause of death, location of death, etc. When death is the result of natural causes, remains can be more quickly repatriated. When death is the result of a crime, a suicide or an accident, repatriation of remains can take much longer.

Q: What should I do if I am notified of the death of a Canadian relative travelling abroad?

A: You should contact the Department's Emergency Operations Centre. 

Disabled Persons (Travel by)

Q: Are there any government travel services for disabled persons?

A: Many Government of Canada departments and agencies offer information and advice for travellers with disabilities. Please check the links below for more information.

In-flight safety for persons with disabilities - Frequently Asked Questions
www.tc.gc.ca/pol/en/Accessibility/PersonswithdisabilitiesFAQs.htm

Access to Travel - Your Special Needs and Information Source
www.accesstotravel.gc.ca/main-e.asp

A Guide for Persons with Disabilities - Taking Charge of the Air Travel Experience
www.cta-otc.gc.ca/access/guide/index_e.html

Persons with Disabilities Online
www.pwd-online.ca/en/menu.jsp

If you have a disability, consider self-identifying when making your reservation. This will give the carrier time to provide extra assistance to help make your journey trouble free. Take advantage of the opportunity to pre-board. The crew will be able to provide you with an individual safety briefing that addresses your special needs.

Entry Requirements

When travelling with a guide dog, travellers must check with the nearest foreign government office in Canada of the country or countries to be visited to obtain the specific requirements for entry. Permission to enter another country is the sole prerogative of that country. Conditions are subject to change. The Government of Canada does not have any jurisdiction over entry requirements to other countries.

Parking Permits

If you plan to travel by car in Europe, you should know that there is a reciprocal parking agreement for people with parking privileges. Contact Transport Canada (www.tc.gc.ca/pol/en/accessibility/Resolution97.htm) for more information. 

Dual Nationality

Q: I am a Canadian, but I am also a citizen of another country. What special problems should I be aware of, if I visit the country of my second citizenship?

A: Having another nationality is legal in Canada, but it may not be legal in the country of your second citizenship. Contact the foreign government office in Canada.

Also, you may have outstanding obligations such as military service or taxes in your country of second citizenship. You should research this before leaving Canada.

When travelling abroad, you should always travel as a Canadian citizen and use your Canadian passport. If you do not, there may be serious limitations in our ability to assist you if you encounter difficulties. Also your Canadian passport guarantees your easy re-entry into Canada.

Note: People whose parents hold citizenship of another country and people who were born abroad should check on their citizenship status in the country they are going to prior to their departure. Contact the foreign government office in Canada to determine your status. 

Elections

Emergency Situations

Q: It's an emergency and I need help. Who should I contact?

A: For fast and reliable direct communications with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, consult the Emergency Assistance section. 

Financial Assistance

Q: If I have financial difficulties while overseas, will the government pay to bring me back home?

A: No! However, we may assist you in making arrangements to obtain money from your bank or from your relatives or friends.

If these arrangements are not possible, the government will loan you sufficient funds for a one-way ticket to Canada. This loan must be repaid as soon as possible after you return to Canada. In making the loan, we will also retain your passport and deny you future passport services until the loan is repaid. However, keep in mind that each case is considered individually, and the Canadian government is not obligated to make this loan.

See the Financial Assistance section in Problems Abroad.

Q: How can I send money to a Canadian overseas?

A: You can make the arrangements using one of the many commercial agencies, such as Western Union, that perform this service for a fee. The transfer can also be done through a Canadian government office abroad, in which case there will be a fee of C$75. The Department's Emergency Operations Centre can provide details, at 1-800-267-6788 or (613) 944-6788. Generally, three or four days are required for these transactions, but in an emergency they can be done in less than a day. 

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Travel

Q: Are homosexual acts illegal in some countries?

A: Homosexual activity is a criminal offence in some countries. Those convicted may be sentenced to a prison term, a fine, a lashing, deportation, or death. Country-specific information is available in the Department's Travel Reports. Further information is also available on the Amnesty International Web site. 

Immigration

Q: Who is responsible for the entry of non-Canadians into Canada?

A: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is responsible for all matters relating to the entry of non-Canadians into Canada. This responsibility includes persons seeking to enter Canada as an immigrant, visitor, refugee, student or worker. Further details can be found on the CIC Web site.

Q: Do all non-Canadians require a visa to enter Canada as a visitor or for business purposes?

A: No. Canada has exempted the citizens of some countries from the visa requirement. Check before leaving your country of nationality whether you will need a visa to enter Canada.

Q: Are there visa officers at all Canadian offices overseas?

A: Canadian visa officers are located at some of our offices overseas. At offices without visa officers, arrangements are made to forward visa applications to the nearest office with a visa officer.

Q: How much time does it take to obtain a Canadian visa?

A: The time varies with the nature of the visa requested. You should check this with the appropriate office.

Insurance

Q: What special insurance arrangements should I make before leaving Canada?

A: Arranging adequate insurance coverage is one of the most important things you should do before leaving Canada. Your Canadian insurance — medical, life, disability, driving, vehicle — most likely is not valid outside the country. You should carefully research your requirements before leaving Canada and make arrangements to buy all the insurance you can afford. It is the best investment you can make. Medical costs outside Canada can be extremely expensive. In most cases, your provincial health coverage will not cover the total cost of hospital fees or medical evacuation. Additional information can be found in our publication Bon Voyage, But... 

Mail

Q: Can I get mail sent to me while I'm abroad?

A: If you are travelling for an extended period, you can arrange to have your mail sent to a post office box. 

Marriage Overseas

Q: Can I get married in a foreign country?

A: Yes. However, you must meet all the requirements for marriage established by that country. Most countries will require you to produce a certificate stating that there are no Canadian impediments to your marriage. You should arrange to get the certificate in Canada before your departure. Canadian government offices abroad can issue such certificates.

If you marry a foreign citizen, you must make arrangements with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to have your spouse enter Canada. These arrangements can take months, so plan accordingly. Contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada for more information. 

Medical Matters

Diseases

Q: Where can I get information about diseases in a particular country?

A: For information on diseases in foreign countries, consult the Health Canada Travel Medicine Program Web site.

Medication

Q: Should I take my prescription with me?

A: Carrying a duplicate of your original prescription is highly recommended,­ especially when travelling to a country that is particularly sensitive about drugs. Also carry an extra prescription that lists both the generic and trade names of the drug, in case your medication is lost or stolen.

Q: How should I pack my medication?

A: Do not try to save luggage space by combining medications into a single container. Keep all medications in the original, labelled container to avoid problems.

Q: Will I be able to buy my medication abroad?

A: Find out whether your medication is sold in the country you are visiting. Also check to see that it is legal. Some medications that are purchased over the counter in Canada are illegal in other countries or require a prescription. Be sure to pack an extra supply in case you are away for longer than expected. Obtaining a note from your doctor that states the medical reasons for your prescription and the recommended dosage is also encouraged.

Q: How can I find out if my prescription medication is legal and available in the country I am travelling to?

A: Before you leave Canada, contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you'll be visiting. Contact information is available in the Department's destination-specific Country Travel Reports.

Q: I am a diabetic and need to inject insulin regularly. Will travelling with syringes create problems with airline security and customs officers abroad?

A: Carry a note from your doctor indicating that the syringes and medication are for medical use. This should alleviate customs officials' concerns. As syringes may be difficult to purchase abroad, take enough to last your entire trip. It is possible that you won't be allowed to take syringes on a plane for security reasons. Contact the airline before departure to verify their regulations concerning syringes in carry-on luggage.

Vaccination/Preventive Medications

Q: Where can I find out if I need any special vaccination or preventive medications before I leave?

A: For information on vaccinations, consult the Country Travel Report for your destination and contact Health Canada.

Before travelling to any destination, find out well in advance of your trip if you need any special vaccinations or preventive medications for such illnesses as yellow fever, typhoid, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis or malaria. For instance, a meningococcal vaccination is required for pilgrims travelling to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual hajj; and an International Certificate of Vaccination for yellow fever is a legal requirement to enter certain countries.

You may need to start receiving your vaccination shots or taking medication six to eight weeks before you leave. Also ensure that your routine immunizations ­ diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella ­ are up-to-date. Other immunization requirements for travel will vary according to your age, existing medical conditions and the nature and duration of your trip.

If you are travelling with infants or small children, you may need to arrange an alternative or accelerated childhood immunization schedule for them. Talk to your pediatrician, family doctor or travel medicine clinic. 

Passports

Q: How do I obtain a Canadian passport?

A: Information on Canadian passports is found on the Web site of the Canadian Passport Office.

Q: Should I carry a Canadian passport?

A: You should have a valid Canadian passport for all trips outside Canada. It is the only worldwide acceptable document that proves who you are and that you have a right to return to Canada. Some countries do not require a passport for entry but do require photographic identification. This can vary from country to country. The only reliable and universally accepted document for identification is a passport. Carry one and keep it protected at all times.

Q: What about the validity period of my passport?

A: A Canadian passport is generally valid for a five-year period starting on the day it was issued. In some instances, passports are issued for shorter periods. Note that some countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months beyond the date you expect to leave those countries. Information on which countries impose this requirement can be found in the Country Travel Reports.

Q: What should I do if I lose my passport while I'm outside Canada?

A: Report the loss to the local police and obtain a written report on the circumstances. Then report the matter to the nearest Canadian government office abroad and apply for a replacement passport. To do so, you will need to complete the application form, provide your birth certificate or naturalization/citizenship certificate, supply two photographs and pay the full fee. If you do not have an acceptable guarantor, additional fees will be charged for the additional forms that will have to be completed.

Q: If I have citizenship of another country, should I use that country's passport when travelling abroad?

A: No! The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade strongly recommends that Canadian citizens use only their Canadian passport when travelling abroad. Not to do so could create problems and could limit the willingness of foreign authorities to permit us to assist you when you have difficulties. In some countries it is illegal to have a second citizenship. Also your Canadian passport is the only document that will guarantee your re-entry into Canada.

See the "Dual Nationality" section.

Q: Why is it important to fill out the "In case of accident or death notify" section in my passport?

A: This information will enable your passport to be returned to you if it's lost. Also, it will enable consular officials to establish contact with your next of kin in case of an emergency. 

Purchases, Souvenirs and Personal Goods

Q: What goods from abroad cannot be brought back to Canada?

A: For information on what you can and cannot bring back into Canada, contact the following government departments:

Q: Are there any personal goods I should not take with me when I travel abroad?

A: For this information, contact the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency 

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Q: What is it?

A: The Department provides a registration service for Canadians who expect to be in a foreign country for more than three months. Canadians are also encouraged to register in a crisis situation. This lets the local Canadian government office abroad (embassy, consulate or high commission) know that you are in the country, in case they need to contact you. The registration service is available for most countries except for those in western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Q: How do I register?

A: To register, a Canadian should contact the appropriate Canadian government office abroad, which will provide a registration form. The registration form is also available online. The office will contact registered persons once a year to update its records. The information will also be used in the event of a natural or civil emergency to contact Canadians and provide assistance and advice. 

Safety Issues

Q: How can I find out whether it is safe to travel in the country I plan to visit?

A: Check the Country Travel Reports for current information on conditions in over 225 foreign destinations. 

Telephoning Home

Q: What is the best way to call Canada from abroad?

A: Canada Direct service is offered by Canada's major telecommunications companies in association with Teleglobe Canada. On its international network, Teleglobe carries calls from more than 130 countries where Canada Direct service is available. The list of government offices abroad indicates (with a symbol) which countries these are. 

Transportation Issues

Flying

Q: What items can I take on the plane?

A: If you're planning to fly, the Government of Canada has practical information to help you prepare for a smoother trip. Consult the Protecting our Borders and Skies brochure for more information.

Transport of Dangerous Goods

Q: I have to transport some goods, and I would like to ensure that the items I'm packing are stored properly. Whom do I contact?

A: You should contact the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Directorate at Transport Canada for information.

Travel by Disabled Persons

See Disabled Persons (Travel by)

Visas

Q: What is a visa?

A: A visa is permission granted by another country for you to enter that country. Permission to enter another country is the sole prerogative of that country. Not all countries require Canadians to have a visa, but many do. Establish before you leave Canada whether a visa is required for the countries you are visiting. This information is contained in our destination-specific Country Travel Reports.

There are several categories of visas. The requirements and processing times for visas depend on the purpose of your visit. Plan accordingly.

Q: Where do I obtain a visa?

A: Visas are issued by foreign government offices in Canada. Therefore, you should contact the embassy or consulate in Canada of the countries you are going to.

Q: Do countries charge for visas?

A: Yes, all countries have visa fees. These vary from country to country and are levied in accordance with your purpose of entry. Visas for tourism are the least expensive, while those for permanent residency or working are the most expensive.

Q: Should I send my passport to the office of the foreign government?

A: Yes, all countries need to see your passport before issuing a visa. Most visas are stamped in your passport. To ensure the safe handling of your passport, mail it using secure mail facilities and enclose a stamped, self-addressed return envelope.

Q: Can I obtain a visa at the point of entry to a country?

A: A few countries will issue a visa upon your arrival, but this is rare and could cause delays. It is always best to obtain a visa before you leave Canada. 

Voting while residing abroad

Q: There’s a federal election coming up, and I currently live abroad. Can I still vote?

A: Canadian citizens 18 years of age or older, who have been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years since their last visit home, and who intend to resume residence in Canada, are eligible to have their names added to the National Register of Electors. The five-year time limit does not apply to federal or provincial public servants posted abroad, nor to expatriate employees of international organizations to which Canada belongs and contributes. It also does not apply to the spouses and dependants of these electors residing outside Canada, nor to the spouses and dependants of Canadian Forces personnel residing outside Canada.

Q: How can I vote?

A: In order to vote, you must first register at a Canadian government office abroad. You will be required to provide proof of Canadian citizenship, such as your passport. You will then be given a voting kit for the election, by-election or referendum. The onus is on you, as the voter, to return the ballot in time for it to be delivered in Canada on the day of the election. For further information, contact Elections Canada.

Once on the register of electors, Canadians living abroad will be sent information on how to vote in future federal general elections, by-elections or referendums.

Q: How can I get more information?

A: Contact Elections Canada directly at:
Elections Canada
257 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0M6

Telephone:
(613) 993-2975 from anywhere in the world

 
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