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Visitors to Canada to Require New Electronic Travel Authorization


By Lori Brienza and Andrea MacLean

Individuals planning to travel to Canada may soon have a new hoop to jump through before they can enter the country. New regulations passed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada require foreign nationals who are currently exempt from the temporary resident visa requirement to hold an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

The eTA program will launch on August 1, 2015. At that time, applications will be made available to travelers. The eTA will become mandatory on March 15, 2016.

How does the eTA program work?
The new program mirrors the United States' Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Travelers flying into Canada from visa-exempt countries will have to apply for an eTA before they enter. Applications will be made online and will cost $7. Travelers will have to submit biographical information from their passport and answer questions that are currently posed by officers at the airport.

Most applications will be approved automatically within minutes. However, an in-Canada processing centre will be created to allow officers to review non-routine applications. High-risk cases, which are expected to be very few in number, will be referred to overseas missions where more in-depth examinations or interviews may be conducted.

The eTA is valid for five years from the day on which it is issued or until the applicant's passport or travel document expires, whichever is sooner.

What are the eTA exemptions?
Those not required to apply for an eTA include:

  • U.S. Nationals
  • Foreign Nationals who hold a Canadian Temporary Resident visa
  • Accredited diplomats
  • Commercial air crew
  • French residents of St. Pierre and Miquelon arriving from St. Pierre and Miquelon
  • Foreign military personnel carrying out duties under the Visiting Forces Act
  • Visa-exempt foreign nationals presently in Canada on valid temporary status that are solely traveling to the U.S., St. Pierre or Miquelon and returning directly to Canada
  • Foreign nationals who are passengers on a flight stopping in Canada for the sole purpose of refueling

This new program means the Canadian government will be collecting more personal information from those wanting to visit the country than they have in the past. The government says the eTA requirement will also act as a deterrent to inadmissible travellers subject to the eTA requirement as they will be required to undergo screening prior to travel.

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