A Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization, more commonly referred to as an eTA, is a travel document that differs from traditional travel documents in the sense that it’s digital. To apply online for an eTA is fairly quick and effortless. Once approved, the eTA will be electronically linked to your passport and it will stay valid for as long as five years (or until your passport expires). If you are a permanent resident or visa-exempt foreign resident of the United States, you will have to apply for an eTA if you want to visit Canada.
If you plan to visit Canada in the future and you intend to apply for an eTA, you are most probably wondering how long the whole process will take. If that is the case, continue reading to find out how long you can expect to wait, from the moment you submit your eTA application to when it is approved by the Canadian authorities.
How long it normally takes for eTA applications to be approved?
It shouldn’t take you more than an hour to complete and submit the eTA application form. And the good news is that normally it will not take longer than a couple of minutes after hitting the ‘submit’ button to get an email response with the outcome of your application.
Although this is what most applicants can expect, a substantial number of people are asked to submit additional documentary proof to substantiate the information they provided on the form. If that happens, it will usually take a few days before you get the results of your application. This is just one more reason why you should not postpone your eTA application until the last minute. Even if an eTA application could theoretically be processed in less than an hour, it’s better to plan for all eventualities and allow a few weeks or even a few months for your application to go through the official channels.
How long will it take to fill out individual sections of the eTA application?
It does not take very long to fill out the Canadian eTA application form. Each section is broken discussed below along with an approximate time for completion.
Parent / guardian or representative details
In this first section, you will need to specify if you are applying on behalf of someone else, or for an individual under the age of 18. You will need to specify your relationship to the applicant as well as provide your name, mailing address, email address and telephone number. If you are not applying on behalf of someone else or a minor, you will not be asked to provide this information.
The time required to complete this section should be under 5 minutes.
In this section, you have to answer questions regarding your identity, such as your place of birth, birthdate, name, residency, citizenship, and contact information.
Here, you will also be asked to provide information regarding your passport. This includes the type of passport, passport number, issuing country, issue and expiry dates. If you are a legal resident of the United States, you will also be asked to provide information regarding your Green Card.
Lastly, this section will also request information on your other nationalities and marital status.
Depending on how quickly you can type, and if you have your passport in hand, this should only take around 10 minutes or less.
This section contains a few questions regarding your occupation. It will take most people no longer than a few seconds to choose their occupation from the form’s dropdown menu and provide contact information regarding their employer. Specifically, the form requests the Job title, Country/territory, City/town and start date of employment.
This section should not take more than 2 minutes to complete.
In the contact information section, you will be required to provide details of your mailing address as well as your residential address.
The time required to complete this section will usually not exceed 1 minute.
The fourth section is called ‘Travel Information’. Once again there is only a single question: you just have to say whether you already know the exact date on which you plan to travel to Canada and if the answer is ‘yes’, to enter that date.
Note: In most cases it’s not the best possible idea to purchase flight tickets to Canada before your eTA application has been approved. But should you purchase tickets in advance, you should enter the date and time the flight leaves in this field.
It can take you anywhere from a few seconds to hours to complete section four, depending on whether you have already bought the flight ticket and how easily you can locate it.
Once all your personal data and travel information have been provided, you have to complete a brief questionnaire about your travel history and health status. If you can answer ‘no’ to all 5 background questions in this section, you should be able to move on in a few seconds.
If you, however, answer ‘yes’ to any of them, you have to enter additional details and this can take some time. If any other country, for example, has in the past denied you entry, you have to explain the reasons. The same applies in case you have a criminal record.
Apart from that, if you have in the past had close contact with an individual who suffers from tuberculosis, you have to explain the nature of the relationship with that person and provide the date of contact (an approximate date is acceptable).
If you have to provide any additional information, you can use the optional fields of this section to do so. This section as a whole could take as long as 20 minutes to complete, depending on the amount of additional details you have to enter.
This section should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete.
In the final section you have to first read and then sign the declaration and consent. Once you’ve gone through the text, all that’s left is to sign the application.
This is a relatively short section and it shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to read and complete.
Submission and fee payment
Now that you have completed all the relevant sections of the eTA application form, all that remains is to submit it, pay the necessary fee, and then wait for an email update. You will also be able to check your eTA application status online whenever you want by visiting the status check web page.
Providing payment details should take no longer than 5 minutes.
Total time to complete the application
Based on the summation of the estimates above, the Canada eTA application should take individuals approximately 30 minutes to complete on average. Some applicants may spend more or less time in individual questions based on their understanding of what is being requested. Also, some applicants have auto-complete configured on their browsers to assist with form filling fields for information that is commonly asked such as contact or payment details.
How long will it take to get the necessary documents ready?
Before you start filling out the eTA application form, make sure you have all the necessary documents. The whole process, including gathering documents, should not take longer than 45 minutes. If you, however, have to run around searching for documents, it can take much longer.
You only need 2 documents with you before you submit your eTA application: your travel itinerary (if you have already bought flight tickets) and your passport. That’s why it’s a good idea to always keep your flight tickets filed where you can easily find them.
Getting your passport could take much longer, particularly if you haven’t used it recently and you have to search through suitcases and closets to try and find it. And if you find it and you discover that it has since expired, you will of course have to apply for a new one. Depending on where you live, it could take weeks or even months before you get a new passport. The majority of countries take between four and six weeks to process new passport applications – but a few take much longer.
If you are lucky, your country might offer an expedited passport application service. This enables you to pay an additional fee and then receive your new passport in a much shorter time.
Timelines for processing an eTA application
If everything goes according to plan, you will get the results of your eTA application in your mailbox within a few minutes. But as we have already emphasized several times in this article, it’s always better to plan for complications that might delay the process.
If your application is, for example, flagged by the system during the security check stage, you will be asked to submit additional documents. Depending on the seriousness of the matter, this could delay the whole process by several months.
If you expect to have a security-related issue because of e.g. a previous application that was rejected, a criminal record, or concerns about tuberculosis, you should submit your eTA application a few months before you intend to travel to Canada.
It normally does not take a lot of effort or time to fill out an eTA application. If there are no issues to complicate matters, you should have an approved eTA in your mailbox within an hour.
As explained above there are, however, many issues that could potentially add days, weeks, or even months to the processing time. Which is why we want to say for the last time: it’s always better to plan for the worst and submit your application as early as possible.