Canada: Mandatory ETA in 2016 for Visa Exempt Nationals

May 14, 2015

The government of Canada has announced its intention to implement a pre-entry screening process for those foreign nationals who are currently exempt from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa (TRV) before they enter Canada. This means that visitors will need to obtain an electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) before flying to Canada.  The electronic system will pull together information from various enforcement databases in order to conduct a risk assessment on the traveller based on various factors related to both criminality and public health.  The program is similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) currently operating in the United States and the Electronic Travel Authority in Australia and is due to be enforced on 15 March 2016.  The aim of the initiative is to enhance the safety and security of Canada”s border. The Canadian Federal Government has stated that “these amendments will enable Canada to adopt a strengthened methodology in order to better identify high-risk travellers, such as persons known to be foreign fighters, and prevent them from travelling to Canada.”

AThe new provision should not only aid Canadian immigration authorities in assessing the admissibility of foreign nationals but will also benefit travellers who might otherwise incur significant expenses and inconvenience as a result of being denied entry at the Canadian border.  Each year, a considerable number of visa-exempt nationals are turned away from the border as they are only screened for admissibility upon arrival.  In 2012–2013, the total number of visa-exempt foreign nationals who arrived in Canada and were deemed inadmissible for entry was 7,055. This had widespread time and cost implications for these foreign nationals and the Canadian government, not to mention the airline and other travellers. It should also be considered that the number of visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada on a temporary basis per year is significantly larger than the number of visa-required travellers. Visa-exempt foreign nationals, excluding U.S. citizens, represent 74 per cent of foreign nationals who arrive by air in Canada.  

Quick Facts:

·         The Canadian pre-approval system will only be required for TRV-exempt individuals seeking to enter Canada by air to visit on a temporary basis.

·         The eTA scheme will be available from 1 August 2015 and be mandatory from 15 March 2016.

·         Fee – CAD $7.00 

·         Electronic travel authorization will be valid for a period of five years from the day on which it is issued to the applicant or until the earliest of the following days:

o   the day on which the applicant”s passport or other travel document expires,

o   the day on which the electronic travel authorization is cancelled,

o   the day on which a new electronic travel authorization is issued to the applicant.

Exemptions from the eTA scheme:

·         nationals of the United States

·         individuals already in possession of a Canadian temporary resident visa

·         commercial air crew

·         citizens of France who are residents of St. Pierre and Miquelon

·         individuals in possession of a visa to enter the United States on a flight bound for that country in transit through Canada, where the sole purpose of the flight stopping in Canada is for purpose of refuelling

·         individuals transiting through Canada as a passenger on a flight who are in possession of any visa required to enter the country of destination

·         study or work permit holders re-entering Canada following a visit solely to the United States or St. Pierre and Miquelon

If you have any questions about Canadian immigration, please contact us.