Updated: Jul 05, 2023
One of the most important responsibilities of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Canada's immigration service, is to protect the health of the Canadian public. To support this goal, IRCC collects medical information from potential immigrants and can prevent people believed to have dangerous conditions from immigrating to the country. However, the same restrictions generally do not apply to travellers entering Canada with an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). If you plan to enter the country with an eTA, you're unlikely to be at risk of having your travel cancelled on medical grounds. In most cases, you won't even be required to undergo a medical exam and therefore won't be at significant risk of having your entry denied on medical grounds.
However, although the average eTA holder doesn't need to undergo a medical exam before coming to Canada, there are some cases where a medical exam is called for. Whether you need to take a medical exam – and therefore potentially have your travel cancelled for medical reasons – depends on the reason for your visit.
If you come from one of a list of visa-exempt countries, you may be eligible to apply for an eTA, which will allow you to enter Canada without the need for a separate visa. An eTA lasts for up to five years, allowing its bearer to enter Canada for up to six months at a time. Applying for an eTA does not typically require a medical exam. All you need to complete your application is your passport from an eligible country, an email address, and a credit or debit card.
However, there are a small number of exceptions to the general principle that you won't need a medical exam if entering Canada with an eTA. Although many travellers who enter Canada using an eTA are tourists or visiting Canada as part of their existing job, it is possible for eTA holders to work in Canada, provided they also obtain a work permit for their employment. Like any other traveller to Canada using an eTA, these temporary workers are limited to staying in Canada for six months.
If you are one of these temporary workers, you may need to take a medical exam. Whether or not the exam is required depends on the job you're doing in Canada. The government requires medical examinations for jobs that involve working with vulnerable individuals, such as jobs in health care or child care.
Additionally, you may need a medical exam if you're an agricultural worker entering Canada from a part of the world where certain health threats are more common. The exam is required if you have spent six months of the last year in one of the listed countries, whether you are a resident of that country or not.
IRCC can rule an applicant medically inadmissible on several different grounds. Each category of inadmissible applicant reflects a different possible risk to Canada's public health. These decisions can be based not only on the medical exam but on any follow-up examinations or other information requested by medical officers.
IRCC can deny your application because they believe you might pose a danger to public health. This typically reflects the possibility of infecting others with a dangerous disease, such as tuberculosis. You don't necessarily have to be carrying the disease yourself in order to be ruled inadmissible; close contact with someone who is infected could also be a factor in the decision.
Additionally, you could be ruled medically inadmissible if medical officers believe you could be a danger to public safety. This could occur if you suffer from a medical condition that means you could suddenly become incapacitated or one that causes you to behave in a violent or erratic way.
Finally, you could be ruled medically inadmissible if medical officers believe that your condition is likely to place an excessive burden on Canada's public health system. However, this concern more commonly applies to people who intend to stay in Canada for longer periods of time.
If IRCC believes that you might be medically inadmissible, they will send you a document called a procedural fairness letter. This letter outlines why the medical officer thinks you may not be inadmissible and invites you to respond within 90 days. This could be by providing more information about your condition, explaining changes to your condition or treatment, or anything else that might be relevant.
Although the idea of being denied entry into Canada for medical reasons can cause worry, it's important to remember that only a small proportion of eTA travellers are even required to undergo a medical exam and that only a small proportion of that group might be denied entry into the country on medical grounds. Although it's not impossible, the likelihood is low for tourists and other short-term visitors – the majority of eTA travellers.
One important thing to remember is that although an eTA saves you the effort of getting a visa for each trip to Canada, it doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will be able to enter the country. Although the overwhelming majority of travellers with an eTA will be able to enter Canada without any difficulty, the final determination technically belongs to a border services officer at your port of entry.
Again, although it is technically possible for border services to deny you entry to Canada, it's very uncommon, and the vast majority of eTA travellers enter the country quickly and easily without even having to take a medical exam.