If you’ve been following my crazy Aeroplan adventure, you’ll know I spent last weekend in Accra, Ghana. It was my first-ever trip to Africa, and to say it was an eye-opening and illuminating trip would be in no way doing it justice.
Many African countries have visa requirements for Canadians looking to visit on business or pleasure, and for the moment, Ghana is one of the countries that requires a full visa application in advance of your trip. While the Ghanaian government indicated in 2017 that the country plans on introducing e-Visas, that procedure hasn’t yet materialized as of the time of writing.
In this post I wanted to share my (relatively straightforward) experience getting a Ghana visa, in the hopes that it’ll helpful for any of my fellow Canadian travellers looking to visit.
The Ghana Visa
The Ghana visa is handled by the Ghana High Commission to Canada, which has an embassy in Ottawa and a consular office in Toronto. The applications can be made in-person at these offices, although if you live outside of these two cities, you’ll likely want to schedule extra time to apply by post.
There are six different types of visas available, each of which can be obtained with Normal or Express service. On paper, Normal service takes five business days while Express services takes two business days. However, it’s worth noting that when I applied via Express service, I was told to pick up my visa on the very next business day, so the processing times might be a little faster than what’s advertised.
The visa fee schedule is as below. In addition to regular visas for stays of up to 30 days, you can also get transit visas for a two-day stay or less, which would be suitable should you decide to schedule a 24-hour layover in Accra.
Before You Apply
You’ll need to prepare a few important documents to include with your visa application form. These include:
Your passport, with at least six months’ validity until the expiration date and at least two empty pages
Two 35mm x 45mm passport photos
Payment with money order addressed to the Ghana High Commission (cash, credit, and debit are not accepted)
A photocopy of the biodata page of your passport
Proof of yellow fever immunization
Copy of full flight itinerary
Invitation letter from host in Ghana, or hotel reservation
Copy of Ghana government-issued photo ID of host in Ghana*, or copy of passport biodata page and resident permit of a non-Ghanaian host residing in Ghana
Prepaid self-addressed courier envelope (if applying by post)
In addition, if you’re applying on behalf of a minor, you’ll also have to include the minor’s birth certificate, in addition to a letter of consent signed by, and copies of the passport biodata pages of, both parents or legal guardians.
The above is all quite self-explanatory, although the point about the Ghana government-issued photo ID bears some clarification. If you’ll be staying with a Ghanaian host, then the host should provide his or her Ghana government-issued photo ID. If your host is a non-Ghanaian residing in Ghana, then they should provide copies of their passport and resident permit.
Meanwhile, if you’re staying at a hotel, then technically the visa application requires an endorsement letter from the hotel manager and a copy of his/her Ghana government-issued photo ID as well, in addition to the copy of your hotel reservation.
However, when I emailed the Marriott Accra to request these documents, they were only able to provide an endorsement letter on hotel letterhead confirming my reservation. They weren’t able to give me a hotel manager’s photo ID, and also said that I should go ahead and submit my visa application without it, since it usually goes through successfully.
I took their word for it and submitted the application successfully without that time, and it was processed successfully. So it appears that if you’re staying at a hotel, then they’re rather lenient on the requirement to include a Ghana government-issued photo ID.
Lastly, you’ll need to include your proof of yellow fever immunization. When I applied there was a nationwide shortage of the vaccine in Canada, so I paid $125 at my local clinic for a fractional dose that’s valid for one year. The normal yellow fever vaccine is valid for 10 years. Either way, you’ll get a small yellow booklet that confirms you’ve been immunized against yellow fever, which you should submit as part of your visa application and also bring along with you to enter Ghana.
The application form is available on the Ghana High Commission to Canada’s website. You need to submit two copies of the application, with one 35mm x 45mm photo affixed to each.
The form is mostly quite straightforward to complete, except item number 10, which asks you to the name, address, and phone number of two references in Ghana. If you’re like me and don’t know anyone in Ghana, you can just put the contact information of any two hotels in Ghana (one can be the hotel you plan to stay at). That’s what I found based on some quick research on TripAdvisor, and it worked well for me.
For item number 14, if you’re applying by post then include your home address, otherwise you can just write “in-person pick up” if you’re applying at the Ottawa embassy or Toronto consular office.
There’s also a helpful checklist of necessary documents to include alongside the application.
When you’re done, either put it all into a package (together with a self-addressed prepaid courier envelope) and send it off in the mail, or bring it to one of the Ghana High Commission offices to submit. Remember to include your money order for payment as well – you can get these at your local bank branch. I ended up applying for my Ghana visa with very little time to spare before my trip, so I had to shell out $150 for the Express service.
I visited the consular office in Toronto, which is located in an office building at Yonge/Sheppard. It’s worth noting that the office lists a phone number and email address on the website, but neither was responsive to my queries. Now that I think about it, I imagine the Ottawa-based embassy might be a more responsive channel to address any questions you may have throughout the application process.
The office is pretty small, with one counter that’s open to service visa requests. At first, the lady working there appeared to give me a bit of a hard time about not having made a photocopy of my yellow fever document, and not having a Ghana government-issued photo ID with my hotel reservation.
But then, the guy who was sitting next to her (who appeared to be her boss) turned to her and said light-heartedly, “Give him the visa, okay?” We shared a laugh and pretty soon the lady was marking down the date on the visa retrieval slip. I returned a few days later to pick up my passport, which had the Ghana visa glued-in and stamped:
Overall, applying for a Ghana visa as a Canadian is a relatively straightforward process, although some of the requirements are in fact quite relaxed. Specifically, it seems that some parts of the application are geared towards visitors who plan to stay with a host in Ghana, so if you’re staying at a hotel, then having a photo ID of the host isn’t actually necessary, nor is providing specific references for item number 10 in the application.
Until Ghana introduces smoother visa procedures, it’s my hope that my experience obtaining a visa will be helpful to anyone who’s also looking to visit the West African country.