Prior to 2016, travelers from visa-exempt countries wishing to travel to or transit through Canada could do so without the need of a visa. In April 2015 however, Canada adopted an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) program that is in line with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in the United States and the Electronic Travel Authority(eTA) in Australia. Since August 1, 2015, eligible travelers were able to apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for visiting Canada. And, starting 15 March 2016, it was made mandatory for travelers from visa-exempt countries to be in possession of an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to board a flight to Canada. Let us further elaborate on the process of eTA by way of some frequently asked questions:
What is an eTA?
An eTA or an Electronic Travel Authorization is an electronic endorsement given by the Canadian Immigration authorities to visitors from visa-exempt countries to fly to Canada. It is an automated procedure that allows Canadian Immigration authorities to examine and screen passengers before they disembark in Canada and ascertain their eligibility to enter Canada to evade any security risk.
Which are the Visa-exempt Countries for Canada?
Citizens from the following 55 countries could travel to Canada visa-exempt before March 2016:
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, British citizen, British National (Overseas), British overseas citizen (re-admissible to the United Kingdom), British overseas territory citizen with citizenship through birth, descent, naturalization or registration in one of the British Overseas Territories, British Subject with a right of abode in the United Kingdom, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City State.
Why was eTA introduced by the Canadian government?
Before the formulation of the eTA program, the Canadian Government had a limited competency to screen overseas visitors. Citizens of visa-exempt countries could not be examined until they arrived at the port of entry in Canada. Later in March 2016, the Canadian government kicked off an eTA program, which helps them customize their screening requirements based on threats posed by travelers, making it faster and easier for authentic low-risk travelers from visa-exempt countries to travel to Canada.
What do I need to apply for an eTA?
You would need: a valid passport from a visa-exempt country, a valid e-mail address (to receive notifications from immigration) and a valid credit/debit card (such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, UnionPay, JCB card or Interac) to make a payment towards the eTA processing fee.
What are the points I need to remember while filling up the eTA application form?
Some important tips while filling up the form are:
- You can only apply and pay for only one person at a time. E.g., if you have a family of three, you need to fill out and submit three different forms.
- Print your receipt as soon as you are done with the process, as it is not available afterward.
- You would receive any notification my mail only. Make sure you check your spam or junk folder to make sure that spam filters have not blocked automated emails from IRCC.
- You have limited time to complete the form, and your information can not be saved. If you need more time, make sure you click the “Continue session” button, when the “Session timeout warning” box appears.
- Make sure you enter the passport details correctly, as your eTA is electronically linked with your passport and you won’t be allowed to board the flight if you entered a wrong passport number.
- It is highly advisable to fill out any personal and passport related information cautiously, as any information on the eTA form cannot be modified once the form is submitted.
How much time does it take to obtain an eTA?
Most applicants get their eTA approval (via an email) within minutes so that an eTA application could be submitted near to the intended date of departure. However, since some requests can take several days to process if you're asked to submit supporting documents, it is advisable that travelers apply for an eTA well in advance of the intended date of departure.
Who needs an eTA to travel to Canada?
You need an eTA if you are one of the following:
- A visa-exempt foreign national, flying to Canada or transiting through Canada.
- A Permanent resident of the U.S., flying to or transiting through a Canadian airport.
- A Citizen of Brazil, Bulgaria or Romania, flying to or transiting through a Canada if you have been in possession of a Canadian visitor visa in the last 10 years, or presently are in possession of a valid US non-immigrant visa.
How long can I stay in Canada with an eTA?
An eTA is valid for a period of five years for multiple entries, with each stay not exceeding 6 months, starting from the day on which the eTA is issued or until:
- the day your passport expires, or
- the day your eTA is canceled, or
- the day a new eTA is issued to you.
Whichever is the earliest, if they occur before the end of the eTA validity period of 5 years.
Who is exempt from the eTA requirement?
Following do not need an eTA to visit Canada:
- Visitors with a valid Canadian visa or the ones with a valid status in Canada (e.g., worker, visitor, or a student) who re-visit Canada after visiting the US or Saint Pierre and Miquelon.
- French citizens who reside in St. Pierre and Miquelon and are taking a flight directly to Canada from Saint Pierre and Miquelon.
- Non-Canadian passengers headed to, or coming from, the US (on a flight that halts in Canada only to refuel) and possess appropriate documents to enter the US, or were legally permitted to enter the US.
- Non-Canadian passengers on a flight that makes an unplanned halt in Canada that was not scheduled.
- Non-Canadian passengers who transit through a Canadian airport under the “Transit Without Visa Program” (TWOV) or “China Transit Program” (CTP).
- Accident investigators, Crew members of the flight, and civil aviation inspectors who would be working in Canada.
- Members are constituting Armed Forces of any country designated under the “Visiting Forces Act” visiting Canada to execute their official duties.
- Diplomats certified by the Canadian Government.
What are the Basic requirements to enter Canada?
You will need to meet the following basic requirements to visit Canada:
- Be a citizen of a country that is exempt from having to obtain a temporary resident visa.
- have a valid travel document, such as a passport
- have a valid eTA
- have documents to convince the Border Services Officer (BSO) that you have ties—such as a job, studies, home, property, financial assets or family in your home country that you would go back to
- have documents to convince the BSO that you will leave Canada at the end of your approved stay, such as an onward ticket or a return ticket to your home country
- have documents to validate that you have sufficient funds to sustain your stay in Canada
- have no convictions related to crime or immigration.
Does an eTA guarantee entry to Canada?
An eTA doesn’t guarantee entry to Canada. You could be denied entry if you fail to furnish documents asked by the BSO at the port of entry or fail to convince the border services officer that you have enough finances to support your stay in Canada or if you fail to convince him of your timely exit from Canada. Also, you won’t be admissible if you try to sneak false or incomplete information.
What are the possible reasons, my eTA could get refused?
The following reasons might bring about an eTA denial:
- Providing a wrong passport number, i.e. a passport number that is lost or stolen
- Having a history of visa denial
- Having a history of inadmissibility into Canada
- Having overstayed in Canada on a previous visit
- Having links with criminal or terrorist organizations
- Having engaged in unauthorized work on a previous visit
- Not having convincing reasons for you to visit Canada.
Can I still travel to Canada, if my eTA is denied?
If your eTA is denied, you could still apply for a temporary resident visa at the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate in your country. You might be issued a “Temporary Resident Permit” based upon why you were deemed inadmissible in the first place and the continuing justification for travel.
What should I be prepared for once I enter Canada?
When you arrive in Canada, airport authorities will check your identity to ensure that you are the same visitor who has been approved to visit Canada, in the following ways:
- Your fingerprints might be checked automatically at a primary inspection kiosk, which will help the system verify your identity against the data collected when your eTA application was submitted.
- You would be approached by a CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) officer at the port of entry, who would ask to see your passport and travel documents.
- If you are a minor (below 18 years of age), the officer will check your passport, birth certificate and a letter of authorization, signed by both parents or by your legal guardian. This letter of authorization should list your parents’ details such as an address, telephone number, and similar details of the adult who would be your local guardian in Canada.
If you succeed the identity check and meet the entry requirements, the BSO may stamp your passport for 6 months or let you know how long you can stay in Canada, depending upon the motive of your visit to Canada.