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The Canadian government now requires visa- exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada by air to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) before boarding the plane. Starting August 1, 2015, visa- exempt travelers can apply online for an eTA and on March 15, 2016, an eTA will be mandatory for visa- exempt travelers before they can board their flight to Canada. The new travel authorization system will require persons planning to travel to Canada by air to give the Canadian government their personal information in order for Canadian authorities to check their names against databases to determine if they pose a threat to the health, safety or security of Canada. U.S. citizens, travelers with a valid visa, and travelers by land or sea, are exempt.

 

How do I Apply?

 

You must have a valid passport, an email address and a credit card to apply for an eTA. You must apply for an eTA online via the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website. The application will take a few minutes and you will need to pay a small fee ($7 CAD) with a credit card. It is important to note that you can only apply for one person at a time. For example, if you are travelling with a family of four, you will need to complete and submit the eTA form four times. 

Within minutes of completing the online eTA application most applicants will receive an authorization email notifying them that their eTA is approved. However, some eTA applicants will have longer processing times and in that case within 72 hours CIC will email to advise them of the next steps.  

How does it Work?  

Your eTA is electronically connected to the passport you used in your eTA application. As a result, you will need to present the same passport you used to apply for your eTA each time you board a flight to Canada. An eTA is valid for five years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Please note that an approved eTA does not automatically approve your entry to Canada. When you arrive at the Canadian port of entry, a border officer will still ask to see your passport or travel documents and ask you a few questions. The officer will then decide if you can enter Canada. 

Why the Change?  

The eTA’s goal is to identify security threats and prohibit undesirable or inadmissible travelers before allowing them to board on a plane to Canada. Persons deemed undesirable or inadmissible are those with criminal records, listed on no-fly orders, membership in terrorist or organized crime groups, participation in war crimes, human rights violations or an endangerment of public health.  

Furthermore, the eTA system will decrease the number of visa- exempt travelers being turned away at Canadian airports by border officers. Between 2012 to 2013, 7055 visa-exempt travelers were deemed inadmissible for entry at Canadian airports. This resulted in significant expense, delay and inconvenience for travelers, airlines and the Canadian government. Similar prescreening systems are already in effect in the United States and Australia. 

Copyright – Canadian Law Group – August 2015

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