The government of Canada is delaying until the fall (autumn) the enforcement of a new electronic travel authorization (eTA) system for individuals exempt from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa (TRV) before they may enter Canada. The system was scheduled to be mandatory from March 15, 2016.
A notice that appeared on the government's website this week reads:
Visa-exempt foreign nationals are expected to have an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to fly to or transit through Canada, starting March 15, 2016. Exceptions include U.S. citizens, and travellers with a valid Canadian visa. Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, and Canadian permanent residents are not eligible to apply for an eTA.
However, from March 15, 2016 until fall 2016, travellers who do not have an eTA can board their flight, as long as they have appropriate travel documents, such as a valid passport. During this time, border services officers can let travellers arriving without an eTA into the country, as long as they meet the other requirements to enter Canada.
In effect, this means that the visitor protocol that has been in place until now remains in place until the eTA becomes mandatory. The department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC, formerly known as CIC) has not provided an exact date for full implementation of the system, nor was any reason for the postponement given. Until now, visa-exempt foreign nationals seeking entry to Canada are not systematically screened for admissibility until they arrive at a Canadian port of entry.
The system is similar to the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) currently in use by the United States of America. The Canadian pre-approval system will only be required for TRV-exempt individuals seeking to enter Canada by air to visit on a temporary basis. A fee of CAD $7.00 is required for processing. Electronic travel authorization is valid for a period of five years from the day on which it is issued to the applicant or until the earliest of the following days, if they occur before the end of that period:
- the day on which the applicant’s passport or other travel document expires,
- the day on which the electronic travel authorization is cancelled, or
- the day on which a new electronic travel authorization is issued to the applicant.
The eTA includes the applicant’s name, date and place of birth, gender, address, nationality, and passport and/or travel document information. If the applicant is unable to make the application by means of the electronic system because of a physical or mental disability, it may be made by another means, including a paper application form.
A number of exemptions from the requirement to obtain pre-approval to travel are in place, including:
- nationals of the United States,
- individuals already in possession of a Canadian temporary resident visa,
- certain foreign diplomats,
- commercial air crew,
- citizens of France who are residents of St. Pierre and Miquelon,
- individuals in possession of a visa to enter the United States on a flight bound for that country in transit through Canada, where the sole purpose of the flight stopping in Canada is for purpose of refuelling,
- individuals transiting through Canada as a passenger on a flight who are in possession of any visa required to enter the country of destination;
- individuals carrying out official duties as a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act,
- study or work permit holders re-entering Canada following a visit solely to the United States or St. Pierre and Miquelon, and
- Her Majesty in right of Canada and any member of the Royal Family.
The number of visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada on a temporary basis per year is significantly larger than the number of visa-required travellers. For example, visa-exempt foreign nationals, excluding U.S. citizens, represent approximately 74 per cent of foreign nationals who arrive by air in Canada.
In 2012–2013, the total number of visa-exempt foreign nationals who arrived in Canada and were deemed inadmissible for entry at air ports of entry was 7,055. This resulted in significant expense, delay and inconvenience for these foreign nationals, other travellers, the airlines and the Canadian government. Reasons for refusal can include membership in terrorist organizations, espionage, participation in war crimes or crimes against humanity, international human rights violations, membership in organized crime groups, criminality, or issues endangering public health, such as tuberculosis.
To learn more about eTA, read our comprehensive FAQ page.