Electronic Travel Authorizations (eTA) – What You Need to Know

Effective September 29, 2016, all foreign nationals, with the exception of U.S. citizens, will require a travel authorization to visit or transit through Canada by air. As of that date, airlines will require passengers to show proof of their travel authorization in the form of an eTA, a Temporary Resident Visa (Visitor Visa), a valid Permanent Resident Card, a valid Travel document, or a Canadian or U.S. passport. Without one of the aforementioned documents, airlines will no longer let passengers board a plane to Canada. It should be noted that the airlines have no discretion in this regard and will be told whether passengers are eligible to board based on entering their documentation into an automated system that will then advise whether or not the passenger is permitted to board.

Who is Affected

  • Foreign nationals from visa exempt countries (such as Germany, the UK, Australia, Japan) will have to apply for an eTA prior to arriving at the airport.
  • Foreign nationals from visa requiring countries will continue to have to apply for Multiple Entry Visas (MEVs) as part of their application for a Visitor Visa, or a Work or Study Permit.
  • Permanent Residents of Canada will require either a valid PR Card or Travel document to board a flight into Canada. Permanent residents will not be eligible to apply for an eTA. Foreign nationals who are issued a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (“COPR”) overseas will automatically be issued an eTA to allow them to fly to Canada to validate their COPR. The eTA will expire upon their being landed as permanent residents.
  • Dual citizens of Canada will have to have a Canadian passport to board a flight into Canada. Dual nationals will no longer be able to fly into Canada using their foreign passport nor will they be able to apply for an eTA.
  • U.S. Citizens are exempt from the aforementioned requirements and will continue to be able to travel to Canada with only their U.S. passport.
  • Existing work or study Permit holders from visa requiring countries will have to apply for an eTA in order to return to Canada.
  • Applicants for initial work or study permit issued overseas on or after August 1, 2015, will automatically have an eTA issued as part of their work or study permit application.
  • Applicants for initial work or study* permit to be applied for on arrival at a Canadian airport port of entry will need to apply for an eTA prior to flying to Canada. At the air port of entry, when their work permit is issued, they will automatically issued a new eTA with a new validity date. Applicants who apply at a land or sea border will get an eTA automatically when their work or study permit is approved.
    *Only the following foreign nationals are eligible to apply for a study permit at a port of entry, all other foreign nationals must apply overseas through the appropriate visa office:

    • National or permanent residents of the U.S.;
    • Persons who have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence; and
    • Residents of Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon
  • Applicants for a work or study permit extension in Canada will need to apply separately for an eTA if they do not already have one linked to their passports. If work or study permit holders wish to exit and re-enter Canada by air, they will need to ensure that their eTA is still valid by consulting the Check Status Tool
  • Applicants who are unsure as to whether they have an existing eTA or who want to check on the status or expiration date of their eTA can use the Check Status Tool.

How to Apply

In order to apply for an ETA, foreign nationals must have a valid passport, a credit card, and an email address. ETAs are valid for up to five (5) years (dependent on passport expiry date) and cost $7. ETAs are tied to a foreign national’s passport. Consequently, foreign nationals with new passports will have to apply for a new ETA. In most cases, ETAs are confirmed within minutes. However, some applications may take longer to process. As such, we recommend applying for your ETA well in advance of your intended travel date.

Foreign nationals should be advised that an ETA is an immigration application, and should carefully consider the accuracy and truthfulness of all information being provided to CIC. Failure to answer a question completely and truthfully could lead to a finding that the foreign national has “misrepresented” which could result in a 5-year ban from Canada.

Foreign nationals can be denied an ETA or refused entry to Canada for being inadmissible for reasons including, criminality or medical issues. Failure to answer all questions completely and honestly could result in a finding of misrepresentation which carries with it serious consequences. The lawyers at Capelle Kane are able to assist foreign nationals with properly completing ETA applications and to provide advice on admissibility issues.

In addition to applying for an ETA, foreign workers who are LMIA exempt and who intend to apply for a work permit at the port of entry should also ask their employers whether they have completed an “Offer of Employment” through the CIC Employer Portal. Proof of submission of the “Offer of Employment” and a copy of the compliance fee receipt will have to be provided upon arrival in Canada. Additional information on the new CIC Employer Portal can be found in our New CIC Employer Portal for LMIA Exempt Work Permits blog post.
Foreign nationals entering by land and sea do not require ETAs.

Foreign nationals should be aware that an ETA does not guarantee admission to Canada. Rather, it only permits the foreign national to board the flight to Canada. Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) officers, make the final decision to permit entry to Canada after assessing all applications for admission. An ETA also does not replace the need for a work or study permit. Processing times for work or study permit applications submitted in advance vary by visa office.

Further information on ETAs can be found on CIC’s website here.

Documents Required to Travel by Air to Canada After September 29, 2016

  • eTA
  • Temporary Resident Visa
  • Valid Permanent Resident Card
  • Valid Travel Document
  • Canadian passport
  • U.S. passport

Technical Glitches

Note that a technical glitch is currently causing applicants who apply for an eTA prior to flying to Canada, and who then apply for a work permit at the port of entry, to have their initial eTA cancelled and a new eTA issued. This does not negate the requirement that visa exempt foreign nationals who intend to apply for a work permit at a port of entry must apply for an eTA prior to flying to Canada.

Medical or Criminal Inadmissibility

If an eTA application raises questions with regards to an applicant’s medical or criminal admissibility, their application will be referred to a visa office for further review.

If a foreign national has a criminal record, they will have to submit a separate application for criminal rehabilitation or a temporary resident permit prior to applying for an eTA. Certain applicants who are deemed rehabilitated by operation of law will also need to make submissions to IRCC through the IRCC web form to explain why they are not inadmissible to Canada. Only once they have received confirmation that their application or submissions have been approved can they apply for an eTA.

eTA Refusal

If a foreign nationals’ eTA is refused, the only way to challenge that decision is through judicial review to the Federal Court of Canada.

Permanent Residents

Permanent residents are advised to apply to renew their permanent residence cards well in advance of the expiry dates. Current processing times for permanent residence cards are in excess of three (3) months.

Permanent residents are also advised to submit complete and thorough applications to renew their permanent residence cards as applications are removed from the normal processing queue when IRCC requests additional information or supporting documentation. Applications that are removed from the normal processing queue are not subject to any processing time standard and can languish for months.