Who is exempt from needing a Canada eTA?

Updated: Jan 08, 2024 | Tags: Canada eTA Requirements, Canada Entry Requirements, Cancel eTA Application

Travellers from many countries don't require visas when travelling to Canada. Instead, residents of these nations must apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization, or eTA. However, not everyone from a visa-exempt nation needs an eTA. This article provides a brief guide to Canada's eTA exemptions.

Canada's Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is a crucial entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling to Canada by air. However, there are specific categories of individuals who are exempt from this requirement. This comprehensive article explores who is exempt from the eTA and the reasons behind these exemptions.

Overview of the eTA System

Purpose of the eTA

The eTA is an entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals flying to or transiting through Canada. It's linked electronically to the traveler's passport and is valid for up to five years or until the passport expires.

The eTA Application Process

Applying for an eTA is a simple, inexpensive process that is done online. Most applicants get their eTA approval (via email) within minutes, though some requests can take several days to process.

Who is Exempt from the eTA and Why

Canadian Citizens and Dual Citizens

  • Reason for Exemption: Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, cannot apply for an eTA. They must enter Canada with a valid Canadian passport.
  • Consideration: Dual citizens should always carry their Canadian passport to prove their citizenship at the Canadian border.

Permanent Residents of Canada

  • Reason for Exemption: Permanent residents of Canada are exempt as they already hold status in Canada.
  • Consideration: Permanent residents must travel with their valid Permanent Resident Card (PR Card) or a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD).

U.S. Citizens

  • Reason for Exemption: Canada's nearest neighbour provides a high percentage of its yearly visitors, both for work and leisure travel. Fortunately for these travellers, American citizens need neither a valid visa nor an eTA to enter Canada. They simply need to show their US passport. However, permanent residents of the US do need to get an eTA if visiting Canada by air.
  • Consideration: U.S. citizens must carry proper identification such as a U.S. passport.

Certain Foreign Diplomats

  • Reason for Exemption: Accredited diplomats are exempt due to international agreements and conventions.
  • Consideration: They must carry valid diplomatic identification and a passport from their home country.

Air Crew

  • Reason for Exemption: People who travel to Canada as part of their work in the travel industry or on official business are exempt from eTA requirements. This group includes flight crew and other individuals who work in the aviation industry, such as aircraft inspectors or accident investigators. These travellers are exempt from the eTA requirement as long as they are working while in Canada.
  • Consideration: They must be on duty or have arrangements to join their vessel in Canada.

French Citizens Residing in St. Pierre and Miquelon

  • Reason for Exemption: Residents of St. Pierre and Miquelon, who are French citizens, can enter Canada without an eTA if they directly fly from these territories.
  • Consideration: They must carry proof of residence in St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Travelers with a Valid Canadian Visa

  • Reason for Exemption: Travelers with a valid Canadian visa do not require an eTA, as the visa serves a similar purpose.
  • Consideration: The visa must be valid for the intended period of stay.

Certain special cases

  • Reason for Exemption: Special cases include Heads of State, certain American Indians, and other rare exceptions. In addition, diplomats who have received accreditation from the Canadian government are exempt from eTA requirements. Other foreign government personnel exempt from having to apply for eTA include members of foreign armed forces coming to Canada as part of their duties. This exemption only applies to countries named in the Visiting Forces Act.
  • Consideration: These exemptions are based on specific legal provisions and international agreements.

Other foreign nationals

There are a number of other situations in which a foreign national may not need an eTA to enter Canada. Some of these cases apply to travellers who are only stopping in Canada on their way to another destination. For instance, foreign travellers who have permission to enter the United States are allowed to enter Canada enroute as long as their aircraft stops only to refuel. The same applies to travellers from the United States on their way to another destination. Foreign nationals who make an unscheduled stop in Canada also don't have to apply for an eTA to enter the country.

Some special programs apply in which travellers don't need to apply for an eTA to enter the country. Travellers in the Transit Without Visa program (TWOV) do not need a visa as long as they do not exit the airport's international transit area and remain in Canada for less than 24 hours. This program applies only to travellers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan or Thailand who are on their way to, or returning from, the United States. A similar program is the China Transit Program, which allows Chinese passport holders to enter Canada on their way to and from the United States as long as they travel on approved flights through approved airports.

Understanding the Implications of Exemptions

Impact on Travel

The exemptions are designed to facilitate travel for certain groups due to their status, diplomatic relations, or specific agreements between Canada and other countries.

Legal Considerations

Understanding who is exempt from the eTA is crucial for compliance with Canadian immigration laws and to avoid issues at the border.

Special Circumstances and Considerations

Transit Through Canada

  • Scenario: Individuals transiting through Canada typically need an eTA, but there are exceptions, especially for U.S. citizens and certain visa holders.
  • Consideration: Always check your specific situation before assuming an exemption.

Children and Dependents

  • Scenario: Exemptions apply to all individuals regardless of age; hence, children of exempt individuals are also exempt.
  • Consideration: Ensure that all travel documents for children are in order.

Changes in Circumstances

  • Scenario: If the circumstances of an exempt individual change (e.g., loss of diplomatic status), they may no longer be exempt.
  • Consideration: Regularly review your exemption status, especially if your situation changes.


The exemptions from Canada's eTA are designed to streamline the entry process for certain individuals while maintaining the integrity and security of Canadian borders. Understanding these exemptions is essential for smooth travel to Canada, compliance with immigration regulations, and for ensuring that your journey to Canada is hassle-free. Always check the latest Canadian immigration policies before traveling, as rules and exemptions can change.