Starting November 2016, the Canadian government introduced the eTA, or Electronic Travel Authorization, affecting almost every non-Canadian traveller visiting the country.
This puts Canada in line with many other countries that require visitors to obtain an online travel authorization before arrival in lieu of a visa. These “invisible” authorizations—invisible because they are often attached to your digital file and are not accompanied by any hard copy—are generally issued almost instantly and cost a modest amount. Australia is one that would be familiar to any Canadian who’s visited.
Canada introduced its own eTA in March 2016, but after an initial grace period it only became mandatory to have one to enter the country on November 11, 2016. From that day on, any person coming to Canada on any passport other than a Canadian or a U.S. one must be in possession of either a visa (if you’re from a country that requires you have a visa to enter Canada) or an eTA.
Does This Affect Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents?
Canadian permanent residents who are travelling on international passports do not require visas or eTAs to return to Canada, but must be carrying either their permanent resident card or their permanent resident travel document.
That means all non-Canadian or Americans must now carry one of the above-mentioned documents—either a visa, eTA or permanent residence documents—or they will not only be denied entry to Canada, but will likely be denied boarding their flight by their airline.
How Do I Get an eTA?
The eTA costs $7 and is available on the Government of Canada’s website. Although the website suggests that most eTA applications will be “approved with minutes,” when the program was introduced, many travellers complained that their approval was taking as long as 11 hours, with some claiming they missed their flights as a consequence.
It’s still unclear whether these delays happened because of initial system hiccups or because the traveller’s history raised red flags—regardless, we advise all travellers to apply for their eTAs as soon as their travel has been booked to reduce stress.
Who Needs an eTA?
Citizens of approximately 150 countries currently require a visa to enter Canada, while citizens of almost 50 countries now require an Electronic Travel Authorization obtained online prior to travel.
To be clear, the list of travellers who now require an eTA includes U.S. permanent residents and citizens of the United Kingdom, as well as all citizens from countries within the European Union.
While the Canadian government made the announcement in early 2016 and many airlines have been reminding passengers booked to come to Canada of the new requirement, it’s clear many people are still unaware of the change and are encountering difficulties when travelling to Canada.
Other Changes to Canada’s Entry Documentation
On November 11, 2016, the government made at least one other major regulatory change for anyone arriving in Canada by air—its passport regulation.
This change meant that Canadian citizens will now only be permitted entry to Canada by air if travelling on a Canadian passport.
The only Canadian citizens this affects are Canadian dual citizens who, while still permitted to have multiple passports, may now only return to Canada on a Canadian passport—and not on the passport of any of their other citizenships.
This applies to all Canadian citizens, whether residing in Canada or overseas—except for Canada/U.S. dual citizens, who may still travel on a U.S. passport.