Do I need an eTA when sailing to or around Canada?

Updated: Jan 10, 2024 | Tags: Canada Entry Requirements, Canada eTA Requirements

Whether you're planning a private yacht adventure or a public boat expedition, it's vital to understand the requirements for entry into Canadian waters. Specifically, you may wonder if the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), usually required for air travel, applies to maritime entries as well. This article seeks to clarify the need for an eTA and other crucial immigration considerations when sailing to Canada.

The eTA: An Overview

The Canada eTA is a requirement for entering Canada by air. It is intended to enable visa-free travel for those who do not require a visa to enter the country. It is electronically linked to a traveller’s passport and is valid for five years or until the passport expires. An eTA provides ease of travel and speeds up the process of entering Canada.

Do Sailors Require an eTA?

Here's the key point: the eTA requirement only applies to air travel. Travelers arriving by sea do not require an eTA. Whether you're aboard a private yacht or a public boat, if you're sailing directly into Canada, the eTA requirement does not apply. Instead, you will have to adhere to other immigration protocols, depending on your nationality and the type of boat you're traveling on.

Required Documentation for Sailors

While the eTA might not be necessary, all foreign nationals sailing to Canada must carry proper identification and travel documents. You should have a valid passport and possibly a visa, depending on your citizenship. Furthermore, you should also carry any other relevant paperwork, such as your boater's license or permit. For U.S. citizens, a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document may be sufficient.

Reporting to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

Upon arrival in Canada, all boats must report to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). For private boaters, the master of the vessel is responsible for reporting to the CBSA Telecentre at the telephone reporting site/marina immediately upon arrival in Canadian waters. Failure to report can result in severe penalties, including fines, seizure of the boat, or criminal charges.

Public or commercial boats, on the other hand, generally have specific immigration and customs protocols to follow, which include pre-arrival notice, crew and passenger manifests, and more. As a passenger, the boat operator or crew will guide you through the process.

Other Entry Considerations

Although you don't need an eTA when sailing, you must still meet the standard admissibility criteria to enter Canada. This includes proving your intent to leave Canada at the end of your visit, having sufficient funds for your stay, and not posing a security risk.

The CBSA officer at the port of entry will assess your admissibility. Any criminal record, including DUI convictions, could impact your admissibility. It's recommended to consult with an immigration attorney if you have any concerns.


In the end, sailing to Canada, whether on a private yacht or public boat, does not necessitate a Canada eTA. Instead, sailors must focus on carrying appropriate identification and travel documents, and properly reporting to the CBSA upon arrival. By understanding these requirements, you can ensure a smooth voyage and a warm Canadian welcome upon your maritime arrival.