Do I need an eTA or visa for Canada?

Updated: Nov 30, 2023 | Tags: Canadian Visa, Canadian eTA

Applying for foreign travel authorisations can be confusing, especially if you’re not sure which type fits your situation. Depending on your nationality, purpose of visit, and duration of stay, you may need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or a visa. This comprehensive guide will help you understand whether an eTA or a visa is required for your trip to Canada, detailing the differences, requirements, and application processes.

Do I need an eTA or visa for Canada?
Do I need an eTA or visa for Canada?

Understanding the eTA and Visa

Canada eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization)

An eTA is a requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling to Canada by air. It's an electronic system linked to your passport and is valid for up to five years or until your passport expires. It allows travelers multiple short stays, usually up to six months per visit.

Canadian Visa

Visas are required for those who are not from visa-exempt countries. Different types of visas are available, including visitor visas, study permits, and work permits. The visa process is more detailed and requires documentation such as financial evidence, reasons for travel, and, in some cases, medical examinations.

Canada eTA route

Eligible Nationalities

  • Visa-exempt countries (like the UK, Japan, and others) require an eTA.
  • Non-exempt countries (such as India, China, or those in Africa and the Middle East) require a visa.

Purpose of Visit

  • For tourism, business, or transit less than six months, visa-exempt nationals need an eTA.
  • For longer stays, work, or study, a visa is required regardless of nationality.

Mode of Entry

  • The eTA is only applicable for air travel.
  • If entering by land or sea, visa-exempt travelers do not need an eTA but may need a visa if they are from a non-exempt country.

Canada eTA Application Process

  1. Apply online on the official Government of Canada website.
  2. You will need a valid passport, a credit/debit card, and an email address.
  3. You will then need to pay the applicant processing fee.
  4. The process is quick, and approvals are often granted within minutes.
  5. Upon approval, an eTA is valid for five years or until your passport expires.

Canadian Visa route

Types of Canadian Visas

Visitor Visa: For tourism or family visits.

Study Permit: For academic purposes.

Work Permit: For employment opportunities.

Application Process

  • Applications can be submitted online or at a Canadian Visa Application Centre.
  • Required documents include a valid passport, financial proofs, photographs, and other specific documents based on the visa type.
  • Processing times vary by country and visa type.
  • Each visa type has a different application fee.

Tips for a successful visa application

Complete and Accurate Information: Ensure all information is accurate and complete to avoid delays or rejections.

Supporting Documents: Provide clear and relevant documents to support your travel purpose and financial stability.

Health and Security: Some applicants may need to undergo medical exams or police checks.

Plan Ahead: Apply well in advance of your travel date to accommodate processing times.

Differences between a Canadian eTA and a Canadian visa

A Canadian eTA is not the same type of authorisation as a Canadian visa. A visa is a physical authorization, such as a stamp or a sticker that is placed in your passport so that you are allowed to enter a foreign country. Usually, you either request an advance visa from an embassy or obtain one at the border. A visa requires longer application forms and approval from an immigration officer. Canada requires citizens of many countries to obtain visas to enter Canada.

An eTA, on the other hand, is a bit simpler. If Canada does not require a visa from citizens of your country, then you will likely need to get an eTA. There is an exception for U.S. citizens, who only need to bring passports to the border in order to enter Canada. However, lawful residents of the U.S. who are not citizens will need to apply for an eTA.

A Canadian eTA is a simpler and quicker process than applying for a Canadian visa. An eTA is electronic rather than physical, and it is automatically linked to your passport once your application is approved. The most common Canadian visas are the single-use visa and the multiple-use visa. Most people receive a multiple-use visa that allows the recipient to visit Canada for up to six months at a time for a ten-year period, or until the passport expires. An eTA remains valid for five years. However, if you get a new passport, you will need to apply for a new eTA.

Advantages and disadvantages of each

Both a Canadian eTA and a Canadian visa have pros and cons. While it’s true that you don’t get to pick which one you apply for, since eligibility is based on country of citizenship.

Canada eTA is faster to obtain

You could potentially receive an approved eTA, valid for travel to Canada in under an hour. Applying for a Canadian visa is a more time consuming process. Additionally, you don’t have to send your passport anywhere or travel to an embassy or consulate for an interview nor collect your passport or visa.

Canada eTA is a lower cost travel authorisation

One other advantage of an eTA is that is also cheaper than a visa. The eTA processing fees are a small fraction of the Canadian visa processing fees, mainly due to the manual processing a visa entails on IRCC.

You cannot save Canada eTA applications prior to submission

You also must complete your eTA application in one sitting, so if you don’t have all your travel documents in order when you begin, you might have to start all over.

Candian visas are usually issued for longer durations

An eTA is valid for five years, and then you must reapply. A multi-entry Canadian visa is valid for ten years before you must renew it.

Applying for an eTA is usually simpler

Getting a visa is generally not as simple as getting an eTA. If you are a citizen of a country that requires Canadian visas, you will have to undergo a longer application process. For a single trip, this can seem like too much work. Although wait times vary, you can expect to wait for at least two days and as long as a month to receive your Canadian travel visa. Depending on your situation, you might also receive a single-use visa instead of the more common multi-use visa depending on the purpose of your travel and previous immigration or criminal history.

Frequently Asked Questions for Canada eTA Versus Canada Visa

Can I change from an eTA to a visa while in Canada?

Generally, you cannot change your status from an eTA to a visa within Canada. You must apply from your home country.

Do U.S. citizens need an eTA or visa for Canada?

U.S. citizens do not require an eTA or a visa for short visits.

What if my eTA application is denied?

If denied, you may need to apply for a visitor visa instead.

How long can I stay in Canada with an eTA?

Typically, up to six months per visit.


Deciding between an eTA and a visa for travel to Canada primarily depends on your nationality, travel purpose, and duration of stay. The eTA is a simpler and quicker process for visa-exempt travelers entering by air for short stays. In contrast, a visa is essential for longer stays, studying, working, or for those from non-exempt countries. Understanding these requirements, preparing the necessary documents, and applying in advance will ensure a smooth process in your journey to explore the wonders of Canada. Remember, compliance with Canadian immigration laws is not just a legal requirement; it’s a step towards an enjoyable and hassle.

Get the right travel authorization for Canada

If you hold a passport from a country that is eligible for the Canada eTA such as the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, or many other eTA eligible countries, you will need to obtain an approved eTA before your tourism, business or medical visit to Canada. Get started on your application, otherwise, visit the eTA requirements to learn more about the Canada eTA

Apply for Canada eTA