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Canada operates a web-based travel verification system for visa-exempt foreign nationals that is known as the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). This program is just one of the many initiatives the Canadian government is undertaking as part of their joint agreement with the United States to better secure their borders.
The United States and Canada have adopted a policy to improve the security of their shared border and collaborate on sharing visa and immigration information on travellers visiting either country. The enforcement of Electronic Travel Authorization’s is Canada’s key initiative in response to this agreement. Citizens of the following countries are required to obtain an eTA prior to their departure to Canada:
Citizens of the following countries may be eligible for an eTA if they meet the following requirements:
- You have been granted a Canadian visitor visa within the last decade or you currently possess a valid nonimmigrant visa for the United States.
- Your purpose of visit to Canada is brief, for business or tourism (usually for periods up to 6 months).
- You will be flying to, or making a transit stop at, a Canadian airport with a valid passport from one of the approved visa-required nations.
If these conditions aren't all satisfied, a visitor visa will be required for your travel to Canada.
The Canadian eTA is similar to the digital e-visa programs that are in place in many developed countries such as the United States and Australia. As the name suggests, the eTA confirms an individual’s ability to travel to Canada without a visa, yet does not guarantee admission to Canada. Only Canadian border officials can determine admissibility of travellers crossing the border into Canada. An approved eTA is issued for a period of five years, or until the date of passport expiry, whichever date comes first. An approved eTA allows travellers to visit Canada for up to six months, however, the authorized time period of stay may vary based on the dates stamped in the traveller's passport by the Canadian border officials.
Foreign nationals from visa exempt countries will require an eTA, namely those from select European nations as well as New Zealand and Australia. U.S. citizens, Canadian citizens or Canadian permanent residents are exempt from needing a Canada eTA or a visa. Foreign nationals who currently require a visa to travel to Canada are not eTA eligible, and thus still require a visa to visit Canada for tourism, transit, business, work, medical or educational purposes. Answers to frequently asked questions are available to those wishing to apply for eTA.
An approved eTA is required prior to a traveller's departure to Canada. All eTA eligible visitors will require an approved eTA regardless of age. The entire eTA application process is completed online, including steps such as application form submission, payment processing and eTA issuance. Travellers will need to supply passport, travel and personal biometric information such as their name, birth date, address, as well as employment details on the eTA application form.
An approved authorization is usually generated within 30 minutes for most applicants. Once approved, an eTA is linked to the applicants passport.
Applicants with criminal records or medical conditions are able to apply and can further clarify their circumstances on the Canada eTA application form. Similarly, applicants that have previously been denied a Canadian eTA or visa, can also reapply for an eTA and clarify how their circumstances have changed since their last application. These applications take longer to process as they will often be reviewed by an immigration official.
The eTA program has assisted Canada in achieving the shared vision it has with the U.S. for improving border security and developing economic competitiveness, both of which are expected to accelerate the flow of both people and goods while maintaining the strength of their partnership.
The main objective of the eTA system is to provide eligible individuals with a convenient method of obtaining a travel authorization to Canada. The eTA system enables Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to more easily identify inadmissible travellers, such as those with no-fly orders or extensive criminal records and prevent these individuals from entering the country. The eTA system also provides IRCC with data to track the travel patterns of visa-exempt foreign nationals who are entering and departing Canada. The government had no capability to do this before the program launched as there was no pre-screening process for foreign nationals. Thus, the eTA system has provided IRCC with considerable border security enhancements.
The Interactive Advance Passenger Information (IAPI) system provides air carriers with a ‘board/no board’ message on all users requiring a visa or eTA to enter Canada. Travellers may not be allowed to complete check-in without providing passport and eTA authorization details. Travellers are advised to apply at least 72 hours before departure for an eTA as processing can take several hours or days, and without an approved eTA, boarding on Canada-bound aircraft will not permitted.