If you’re planning a holiday or other trip to Canada, it’s important to make sure that you have the correct kind of travel document. Depending on where you’re from, what kind of passport or other travel document you have, and other factors, you may need either an electronic travel authorization (eTA) or a visitor visa. The two types of travel document differ in their requirements, cost, and application processes, even though they typically relate to the same kinds of visit.
Canada Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
An eTA is usually simpler, less time-consuming, and more affordable to apply for than a visitor visa. It is an electronic document, linked to a specific passport, that allows a visitor to enter Canada for short stays, usually up to six months. It doesn’t grant the visitor the right to work in Canada, so this type of authorization is usually used for tourism, visiting family, and similar purposes. An eTA applies only to travellers who enter Canada through an airport.
Canada eTA Eligibility
The most important criterion that determines whether a visitor to Canada needs an eTA or a visitor visa is country of origin. More than 50 countries are eligible for eTA, including Australia, Great Britain, France, and most other European countries. In some cases, some travellers from a country may need an eTA while others do not. Probably the most common example of this is the United States: US permanent residents need an eTA to travel to Canada, while U.S. citizens do not. Similarly, some travellers from Romania may be eligible for an eTA if they have electronic passports, while those who hold older passports may require a visitor visa.
Citizens of qualifying nations are not eligible for eTA if they are also Canadian citizens. A Canadian citizen who has dual nationality must enter Canada on a Canadian passport rather than using eTA.
Canada eTA Duration
An eTA covers individual stays of up to six months, but the same eTA can cover multiple visits within its duration. The eTA lasts for up to five years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.
Applying for an eTA
Applications for eTA are completed online and require a current email address; the applicant answers a short series of questions, pays an application fee, and submits the application. An email confirming that the application has been approved arrives usually within a few minutes. However, this isn’t always the case as some applications can take a few days to be approved.
Common eTA application errors
The most common reason for problems with an eTA is an error in submitting the application. Because the eTA is linked to a particular passport, any error in the passport number means that the eTA will not be valid. Travellers should always check the passport number associated with their eTA carefully. If it’s incorrect, the application will have to be submitted again.
Canada visitor visa
A visitor visa can be used for all forms of travel to Canada. Travellers from over 100 countries, including India and China, require a visitor visa. Unlike an eTA, a visitor visa is a physical document that is placed in the traveller’s passport.
Canada visitor visa eligibility
Travellers from most countries, as well as stateless individuals and holders of alien passports, are eligible to apply for a visitor visa if they wish to travel to Canada.
Canada visitor visa duration
Like an eTA, a visitor visa covers a visit of up to six months, although border services can increase or reduce this duration under certain circumstances. A modified duration will usually be shown by a stamp in the visitor’s passport. Once in Canada, a person on a visitor visa can apply to extend the visa, but must apply at least 30 days before the visa expires.
Applying for a visitor visa
The visitor visa application process is much longer, more complicated, and more expensive than the process for applying for eTA. Applications can be either online or by mail, but applicants who can use the online system definitely should. Applying online is faster and simpler than applying by mail, with easier procedures for providing additional documents if needed. The applicant’s passport will also be needed for a shorter time, which could be useful for applicants who need to travel during the application period.
Applying for a visitor visa incurs several costs. Each applicant must pay an application fee (currently CAD $100). In addition, the application also often requires biometric information including a photograph and fingerprints. Some applicants may not have to provide this information — for instance, if their biometric information is already on file — but most will have to, incurring a further biometrics fee. This fee is currently CAD $85 for an individual applicant, but the total fee for a family is capped at CAD $170.
The amount of time it takes to apply for a visitor visa is also significantly greater than the amount of time to takes to apply for an eTA. Application processing can take weeks or even months; each type of application is different, but it’s possible to check specific processing times online. This processing time is only for the actual application; submitting biometric information, posting time and other factors can all increase the processing time still further. Travellers who need to apply for a visitor visa should begin their application process well in advance.
Common visitor visa application errors
Because the visitor visa application process is a little longer and more involved, applications can be delayed by factors including missing documents and requirements for additional information. Because these can delay the application process significantly, one of the most common errors in visitor visa application is not to leave enough time.
Although there are a number of differences between applying for a visitor visa and applying for eTA, the most important differences are the time and cost savings of an eTA. Applicants from a visa-exempt countries should therefore aim to utilise the benefits of applying for eTA.