Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics: Avoiding Immigration Problems at the Canadian Border

We are happy to provide a guest post by Henry J. Chang - my "go to" Canadian immigration lawyer called in both Ontario and California;

As the 2010 Vancouver Olympics will begin on February 12, 2010, it is important to remind travelers of several important issues that may affect their ability to enter Canada. 

Canadian Visa Requirements

The first thing that foreign visitor should determine is whether he or she will need to obtain a temporary resident visa.  The following individuals do not require a temporary resident visa to enter Canada:

a)      A citizen of Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden or Switzerland (Mexico and the Czech Republic were recently been removed from this list);

b)      A British citizen;

c)       A British overseas citizen who is re-admissible to the United Kingdom;

d)      A citizen of a British dependent territory who derives his or her citizenship through birth, descent, registration or naturalization in one of the British dependent territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena or the Turks and Caicos Islands;

e)      A person holding a British National (Overseas) Passport issued by the Government of the United Kingdom to persons born, naturalized or registered in Hong Kong;

f)       A person holding a valid and subsisting Special Administrative Region passport issued by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China;

g)      A person holding a passport or travel document issued by the Holy See;

h)      A national of the United States or a person who has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence;

i)        A foreign national holding a national Israeli Passport;

j)        A citizen of Lithuania or Poland if they hold a machine readable passport issued by one of these countries, which contains a contactless integrated circuit chip; and

k)      A holder of a passport that contains a diplomatic acceptance, a consular acceptance or an official acceptance issued by the Chief of Protocol for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on behalf of the Government of Canada and are a properly accredited diplomat, consular officer, representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies, or of any international organization of which Canada is a member;

With only limited exceptions, all other foreign travelers must obtain a temporary resident visa from a Canadian consulate prior to seeking admission to Canada.

Identification Documents

Virtually all non-Canadians are required to present a valid passport or equivalent travel document to enter Canada.  However, some exceptions to this rule appear in Subsection 52(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.  The two most notable exceptions are United States citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States. 

United States citizens are not required to present a United States Passport to enter Canada.  However, they must present proof of their identity and United States citizenship (e.g. photo identification and a United States Birth Certificate, Certificate of U.S. Citizenship, or Certificate of U.S. Naturalization). 

Similarly, lawful permanent residents of the United States are not required to present a valid passport to enter Canada from the United States.  However, they must present their Form I-551s (green cards) to be admitted to Canada.  In addition, Form I-551s are only acceptable when entering from contiguous territory and are not valid for international flights from outside Canada, unless accompanied by a valid passport or travel document.

Notwithstanding the above, as a result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (“WHTI”), United States citizens are now required to present one of the following documents to United States Customs & Border Protection in order to re-enter the United States:

a)      United States Passport;

b)      A passport card;

c)       A valid trusted traveler program card (FAST, NEXUS, or SENTRI);

d)      An enhanced driver’s license;

e)      A Military ID with official travel orders; or

f)       A U.S. Merchant Mariner Document.

U.S. permanent residents are also required to present valid passports to be readmitted to the United States.  Therefore, regardless of Canadian laws, United States citizens and U.S. permanent residents should be in possession of a valid passport or other WHTI-compliant document to ensure their readmission to the United States at the end of their trip. 

Children Travelling without both Custodial Parents

In order to discourage international child abduction, parents who share custody of their children (and who are not travelling with the other custodial parent) are required to present:

a)      Copies of their legal custody documents; and

b)      A letter from the other custodial parent, authorizing them to take the child on a trip to Canada.  The other parent’s full name, address and telephone number should be Included in the letter of authorization.

Adults who are not parents or guardians should have written permission from the parents or guardians to supervise the children.  The permission letter should include addresses and telephone numbers where the parents or guardians can be reached.

Inadmissibility to Canada

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act contains several grounds that may render a person inadmissible to Canada.  A full discussion of these grounds of inadmissibility appears  at the following link -  However, the most frequently encountered grounds involve criminal offenses and medical problems. 

An individual who has committed (even if not convicted) or been convicted of a criminal offense should obtain a legal opinion from a qualified Canadian immigration lawyer prior to applying for admission to Canada.  Even a single drunk-driving offense is considered a ground of inadmissibility to Canada (a full discussion of drunk-driving convictions and inadmissibility appears at the following link -

An individual may be inadmissible for health grounds if his or her health condition:

a)      Is likely to be a danger to public health;

b)      Is likely to be a danger to public safety; or

c)       Might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.

As a result, any foreign national who suffers from a serious medical condition should obtain a legal opinion from a qualified Canadian immigration lawyer prior to applying for admission to Canada. 


Foreign nationals planning on attending the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics should take early action to ensure that their travel plans are not adversely affected by any of the above issues. 


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