July 31, 2015
CIC’s New eTA Takes Flight
Amendments made to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act introduce a new entry requirement (Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)) for certain visa-exempt foreign nationals who wish to fly into Canada. Entry requirements for other methods of travel (land, sea) continue to remain the same.
The eTA program is a key commitment of the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan and mirrors the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program. Starting tomorrow (1 August 2015), certain visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada will voluntarily be able to apply for an eTA online. As of March 15, 2016 however, eTAs will become mandatory for these travellers arriving in Canada by air.
Although U.S. citizens will continue to not require an eTA or a visa to travel to Canada, U.S. residents will. A list of countries whose foreign nationals will require an eTA can be found here.
How it works:
The eTA applications are made online and cost $7 (Canadian). Submission of basic information, such as passport and biographic information will be requested. Most applications will be processed online within minutes; however, non-routine cases will be deferred to an office inside Canada for further processing before a decision is made. Generally, eTAs will be issued for 5 years, or until the expiry of your passport, whichever is sooner. Shorter durations could also be granted in cases where there are inadmissibility issues such as criminality or fraud.
Once issued, the eTA will be an electronic document listing your name, date and place of birth, gender, address, nationality, and passport and/or travel document information. Although you will receive an email indicating the status of your eTA, the eTA itself will be electronically linked to your passport.
Given the eTA is an electronic document, there is currently no way for airlines to determine if someone possesses the required eTA before boarding their flight. This too will change when the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) implements another new program – the Interactive Advance Passenger Information System (“IAPI”). IAPI will allow passengers on international flights to Canada to be screened prior to boarding. This will allow the government to confirm with airlines whether travellers requiring an eTA are properly documented for travel to Canada and prevent travel for those who are not.
For foreign nationals who are approved work or study permits in Canada, starting August 1, 2015, will automatically be issued an eTA (if required) and will not need to submit a separate application or fee for this purpose.