Effective August 1, 2015, the electronic travel authorization program will be implemented in Canada. This program will require foreign nationals who currently do not need a visa to enter Canada to obtain an electronic travel authorization (eTA) prior to entering Canada by air. The eTA program is similar to the digital travel verification program implemented in the United States and Australia.

Application

The first stage of the program will run from August 1, 2015, to March 14, 2016. During this period, the online eTA application will be available for eTA-required foreign nationals to obtain, but it will not be mandatory. Starting on March 15, 2016, all eTA-required travelers will be obligated to have an eTA before entering Canada.

With limited exceptions, the eTA program will only apply to travelers from visa-exempt countries entering Canada by air. Visa-exempt countries include France, Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea. A complete list of countries can be found at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp.

The current eTA regulations will only apply to eTA-required travelers flying to Canada. Foreign nationals from visa-exempt countries who are entering Canada at land or sea ports will not be required to submit an eTA application before arriving in Canada.

Exceptions

Citizens of the United States will be exempt from the eTA program. As a result, American passport holders will not need to submit an electronic travel authorization application prior to entering Canada. Similarly, Canadian citizens currently do not have to register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, also known as ESTA, prior to entering the United States.

Furthermore, an application for a work permit or study permit will be deemed to constitute an application for an eTA. Hence, those foreign nationals who will be applying for a work or study permit will not need to submit a separate electronic travel authorization application.

Diplomats, members of flight crews and residents of St. Pierre and Miquelon will also be exempt from the eTA.

The eTA requirement will not apply to foreign nationals who are from countries whose citizens require a visa to enter Canada. These foreign nationals still must obtain a temporary resident visa at a Canadian visa office.

Application process

The eTA application will be available online, through the CIC website (www.cic.gc.ca). Before entering Canada, the applicant will be required to submit his or her biographic, passport and background information, in addition to a processing fee of $7 CAD.

Those unable to apply electronically due to a physical or mental disability can submit a paper application form.

Validity

The eTA will be valid for five years from the day of its issuance or until expiration of the applicant’s passport or travel document.

Of note, the Canadian government will have the discretion to cancel an eTA based on inadmissibility factors and public policy considerations. This will include instances where a foreign national provides false information in an eTA application, where evidence indicates that a foreign national is inadmissible to Canada or where permitting the foreign national to travel to Canada presents a security risk.