Beginning March 15, 2016, visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to or transit through Canada will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).
This new eTA requirement seemingly exists because of the Canada-United States Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan, which requires that Canada and the United States establish a united approach within the screening of visa-exempt foreign nationals before they travel by air to either nation. Additionally, amendments made to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations has stimulated this new eTA requirement, which will be in effect as of March 15, 2016.
WHO REQUIRES AN ETA?
Subject to the exceptions listed below, all visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to or transit through Canada would need an eTA. A listing of visa-exempt countries whose citizens will require an eTA can be found at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website.
Notably, citizens of the United States do not need an eTA or a visa to fly to or transit through Canada; however, all lawful permanent residents of the US must obtain an eTA once traveling to or through Canada by air.
Certain people are also exempt from the eTA requirements, and includes some, but not all, transportation crew members, accredited diplomats, members of the Royal Family including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II naturally, and certain other people traveling through Canada on the way to a final destination, such as:
- a foreign national wanting to transit through Canada as a passenger on a flight scheduled to stop in Canada for the sole purpose of refueling and: (i) they are in possession of the documents required to enter the US, and their flight is bound for that country, or (ii) they were lawfully admitted to the US, and their flight originated therein; and
- a foreign national wanting to transit through Canada as a passenger on a flight that, owing to an emergency or other unforeseen circumstance, is forced to make an unscheduled stop in Canada; and
- a foreign national who seeks to transit through Canada as a passenger on a flight if the foreign national: (i) is transported by a commercial transporter and there is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in effect between the Minister and the commercial transporter concerning the transit of passengers through Canada without a Canadian visa, (ii) holds a passport or travel document that was issued by the country of origin for the foreign national as a citizen, and that particular country is listed in the MOU, and (iii) is in possession of any visa requirements to enter the country of destination.
HOW TO APPLY
As its name implies, applying for and getting an eTA will conveniently be handled on-line. A person should log into this link on the CIC website, complete the application form, and pay a modest $7.00 processing fee.
Travelers that apply for the eTA on-line will receive a confirmation email from CIC indicating the standing of their application. The person is not required to print the eTA status confirmation. because the eTA will be automatically linked to their passport.
An eTA will be valid for 5 years from the issued date, or until the traveler’s passport (or another travel document) expires, whichever comes first. The eTA could even be canceled by an appropriate immigration officer sooner, if the officer determines that the traveler is, in fact, inadmissible.
Visa-exempt foreign nationals who file an application for either a Canadian work permit or study permit will automatically be considered for an eTA, and are not required to submit a separate application.
In terms of processing time, CIC anticipates that most travelers should receive a confirmation of their status within a few minutes. However, CIC notes that some applications may require a little more time to process. It is also quite likely, in very few cases, that CIC might ask for more information from the traveler before their application can be approved.
It is important to make it clear here that having an eTA does not essentially grant or guarantee entry into Canada. As always, that determination is left to the examining immigration officer attending the port of entry.