Canada to Require Electronic Travel Authorization
As of March 15, 2016, Canada will require Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for all visa-exempt foreign nationals entering the country by air. Effective this date, visa-exempt foreign nationals, other than U.S. citizens, must have an eTA prior to being processed by customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) and entering Canada.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Those impacted by this change
In the past visa-exempt foreign nationals could travel to Canada without any specific advance travel authorization. This changes on March 15, 2016, with the introduction of the new eTA requirements for visa-exempt foreign nationals, regardless of their age. Only U.S. nationals are exempt from this requirement. U.S. permanent residents (Green Card holders) require eTAs to arrive in Canada by air. For example, if you’re a visa exempt national of the UK or Japan you’re now required to have an eTA to enter Canada, even though you did not require any advance travel authorization in the past. Note that new eTA requirements also apply to tech stops in Canada, even if passengers do not leave the aircraft.
2. Reasoning behind the change
Governments around the world are trying to standardize enhanced vetting processes to better control who may access the particular country. For example, the U.S. has the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in place, and both Australia and Turkey have implemented electronic authorization programs for visiting foreign nationals. Canada’s eTA program takes this one step further in requiring electronic authorization for nationals, who in the past did not even require visas.
3. Obtaining eTAs
eTAs are obtained online, and we recommend submitting the application at least 72 hours in advance. In most cases, online applications are approved quickly, but in some cases, it may take up to 72 hours to receive a response. To apply for eTA you must have a valid passport and provide an email address. Once your eTA is approved and confirmed, it will be sent to you by email (to the address you provide), and it’s valid for five years or until your passport expires. eTA allows you to enter Canada unlimited times, so long as both the eTA and your passport remain valid. You may apply for an eTA on your own or use a 3rd-party provider to obtain it for you. To determine if you need a visa or eTA for Canada see the official website.
4. Delays or denials of eTA applications
If you do not receive a response within 72 hours, you can check the status online. There are cases where some otherwise eligible nationals will be denied a requested eTA. In this case you’ll be notified of the denial by email.
5. Documentation requirements
Once your eTA has been approved there’s no particular paperwork you need to carry it with you. An eTA is electronically linked to your passport. Note that you must always carry the passport you used to apply for the eTA with you.
6. Arriving in Canada without an eTA
If you arrive in Canada without a required eTA you may apply for one, via any computer or mobile device, prior to clearing the CIQ process. But, you will not be processed by CIQ until your eTA has been approved and confirmed.
7. Special considerations for certain nationalities
In some cases, citizens of Brazil, Bulgaria,and Romania – countries whose nationals require visas for entry to Canada – may be eligible to apply for eTA for travel to Canada by air. To be eligible for an eTA these nationals must show proof that they’ve held a Canadian visa within the past 10 years or that they have a current non-immigrant U.S. visa. If these requirements are not met they’ll need to obtain a traditional visa in order to enter Canada.
10/31/2016: Updated by the author.
8. Potential issues with the eTA program
Canada is always very strict on giving those with felony (even DUI charges) on their records entry into the country. If you have these issues you may not be able to obtain eTA and will not be able to enter Canada, even though you’re coming in from a country that does not require visas.
9. Additional information
It’s recommended to review the official website to better understand all elements of the new eTA requirements for Canada. This information is available in multiple languages.
It’s best to apply for an eTA as soon as you have a potential trip to Canada via air. Your approved eTA will be good for five years or until your passport expires. Note that you must always provide a valid email address in order to receive eTA confirmation from Canadian authorities. Be aware of the lead time and potential processing delays.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance arranging your Canadian eTA, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.