The government of Canada has introduced a new entry requirement, known as an electronic travel authorization (eTA) which will be mandatory effective March 15, 2016. The program is the product of a joint U.S.-Canada border action plan to cooperate on pre-screening of travelers to identify security threats.  The Canadian program is similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for visa-waiver nationals travelling to the United States. Below is a summary of the eTA program. 

Who is impacted?

All foreign nationals from visa-exempt countries (such as Germany, United Kingdom, Australia) , as well as U.S. permanent residents, travelling to Canada by air must obtain an eTA prior to boarding their flight. Entry requirements for other methods of travel (land, sea) have not changed.

Foreign nationals already in Canada on work or study permits, issued before August 1, 2015, will need to apply for an eTA if they wish to leave Canada and return by air. To determine if an eTA is required, please visit: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp.

Who is exempt from the eTA requirement?

The following foreign nationals are exempt from the eTA requirement:

  • Citizens of the United States (does not include Permanent Residents).
  • Travelers with a valid study or work permit issued after August 1, 2015.
  • Accredited diplomats, consular officers, representatives or officials of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies, or of any international organization of which Canada is a member.
  • Visitors, students and workers, who seek to re-enter Canada after solely visiting the United States, provided that they return to Canada by the end of the period initially authorized for their stay or any extension to it.

For a fulsome list of exempt individuals from the eTA requirement, please visit: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas-all.asp.

When should travelers apply for an eTA?

The application process for an eTA became available as of August 1, 2015. On March 15, 2016, this entry requirement will become mandatory and travelers will need an eTA before they can board a flight to Canada.

Although travelers may continue to rely on their visa-exempt status until eTAs become mandatory on March 15, 2016, affected foreign nationals are encouraged to apply now to avoid potential issues such as system disruption as the deadline date approaches.

The online eTA application form can be accessed at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta-start.asp. Paper applications are available to applicants who have a physical/mental disability.

When does an issued eTA expire?

The eTA is electronically linked to the traveler’s passport and is valid for five years or until his or her passport expires, whichever comes first. Since the eTA is electronically linked to the traveler’s passport, no physical document or proof will be issued to holders of a valid eTA but it would be prudent to carry proof of filing.

What information do travelers need to apply for an eTA?

Applicants must have a valid passport, an email address and a credit card to complete the online form. The applicant will be asked questions regarding their biographical data and background questions assessing their admissibility to Canada. Applicants can only apply for an eTA for one person at a time. For example, for a family of three people, an application for an eTA will need to be completed and submitted three times.

How long does the application take and when is an application decision made?

Applying for an eTA is a simple and inexpensive ($7 Canadian) online process that will take just a few minutes. Most applicants will get their authorization within minutes of submitting the online form. However, some requests may need more time to process. If this is the case, applicants can expect an email from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) within 72 hours that informs the applicant of the next steps such as a request for additional supporting documents or an interview. An applicant may be found inadmissible if they present security concerns, have previous criminality, serious health concerns, insufficient financial resources or have made a misrepresentation in the application. As the eTA program is new, definitive processing times are not yet available.