Covid-19 restrictions complicate eTA travel

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Canada eTA restrictions due to COVID-19

Canada’s Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) system makes travel to Canada simple for travellers who don’t need a visa. Each electronic authorization is linked to a single passport and valid for up to five years. However, the travel restrictions imposed by Canada’s government to limit the spread of Covid-19 have caused important changes in eTA travel procedures. All travellers intending to travel to Canada using an eTA should familiarize themselves with these new changes, which came into effect at 11:59 PM on February 21.

Applying for an eTA during COVID-19

Although the application process for an eTA remains the same as before the new restrictions came into effect, applicants will now have much more to do once they’ve applied. After applying for an eTA, the applicant must then submit a web form, together with an acceptable supporting document, proving that they are eligible to travel under the current restrictions. Once that’s done, the applicant will receive an email telling them that their application has been approved or, if it hasn’t, what to do next.

Eligibility for travel to Canada on an eTA during COVID-19

Canada’s restrictions on international air travel, as well as closed borders with the United States, limit the reasons that allow travel into the country. Anyone wishing to travel to Canada must be able to prove that they are travelling for an approved reason.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents are always eligible to enter Canada, but they don’t need to apply for an eTA in the first place. Among foreign nationals, valid reasons for travel to Canada include immediate or extended family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, people travelling for compassionate reasons, and people travelling for non-discretionary purposes.

Not all of these categories have identical requirements. For instance, people travelling for non-discretionary purposes must either be able to prove that they are exempt from travel restrictions or must be coming directly from the United States. While these groups may not require any further authorization, other groups do. For example, extended family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents need authorization from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to enter the country, while those travelling for compassionate reasons need authorization from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Even those entering Canada as immediate family members of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident must provide evidence to prove both their relative’s status and their own relationship.

Exemption from travel restrictions

The list of travellers from overseas who are exempt from travel restrictions includes several different categories of traveller. These include some international students, temporary workers, diplomats and other representatives of foreign governments, aircraft crew, people making medical deliveries, and more. Travellers should be sure to consult IRCC guidelines to determine whether they are exempt from travel restrictions.

Testing and quarantine

People intending to travel to Canada have to do more than simply fill out the correct application during the eTA process. Anyone intending to fly to Canada will have to take a Covid-19 test up to 72 hours before their journey and provide proof of the test result before being allowed to board the aircraft. Additionally, all travellers arriving in Canada must quarantine for 14 days if they are not showing symptoms of Covid-19 or isolate for 14 days if they are showing symptoms or know they have Covid-19. Travellers arriving by air must spend the first 3 days of this period in an approved hotel, which must be booked before arrival. The hotel stay is to allow the traveller to wait for the results of the Covid-19 test they will take when they arrive in Canada.

Every traveller will need to demonstrate that they have a quarantine plan for their stay in Canada; those who don’t may be denied permission to travel, even though their eTA application has been approved. In order to submit both their plan and their test results, they’ll need to use ArriveCAN.


Before travelling to Canada, everyone who intends to enter the country will need to submit their travel information using ArriveCAN, Canada’s official travel app. Versions of the app are available for both Android and iOS devices; travellers who don’t have access to one of these devices can sign into ArriveCAN using a web interface. Required information includes travel and contact information, a quarantine plan and a self-assessment for possible coronavirus symptoms.

Anyone intending to travel to Canada after February 22 who has already downloaded ArriveCAN should update their app to make sure that they have the most current version.

Preparing to travel to Canada

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, travellers eligible for eTA faced a straightforward, accessible process for applying to travel to Canada. Although the eTA application itself has not changed, the new restrictions on travel resulting from the pandemic have created new layers of complication. Even experienced visitors to Canada will need to make sure they’re familiar with the new and existing eTA requirements.

Once potential travellers have established their eligibility to travel and had an eTA approved, the requirements don’t end. Arranging a Covid-19 test, creating a quarantine plan, and booking a hotel stay are all vital steps in preparing to travel to Canada. Only when all of these steps are complete will it be time to begin the journey. Restrictions and procedures have changed in the past, so would-be travellers should pay attention to updates from Canadian authorities.

Although the new requirements can seem daunting to travellers used to the ease of the eTA system, they play an important role in protecting both travellers and Canadian residents from the spread of Covid-19. Once the requirements are met, travellers can enter Canada legally and safely.