The short answer is no. You do not need an eTA to travel to Canada as a Canadian citizen. However, there is more to this issue than meets the eye, and we recommend that you read the rest of this article to ensure you have all the facts.
As of November 10, 2016, the Canadian government has implemented a new electronic system to verify the validity of travel documents for passengers boarding flights to Canada. The system checks the travel documents automatically during check-in.
The purpose of this change was to ensure that all passengers travelling to Canada have the correct travel documents to enter the country. For Canadian citizens, dual citizens included, having an acceptable travel document that confirms that they are Canadian citizens is compulsory.
How to prove Canadian citizenship at the port of entry
When a traveller arrives at a Canadian port of entry, a border services officer must ensure that travellers meet the requirements to enter Canada. They do so by asking questions and examining documentation. Canadian citizens, as well as permanent residents and individuals registered under the Indian Act, have to provide a Canadian passport, permanent residence card, Canadian birth certificate, citizenship card, valid Certificate of Indian Status (CIS) card, or Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) card.
If a traveller who returns to Canada doesn’t have a passport, the following documents can be used as proof of citizenship and identity: FAST card, NEXUS card, Canadian temporary passport, Canadian emergency travel document, enhanced identification/photo card issued by a Canadian territory or province, Enhanced driver’s license, or Certificate of Canadian citizenship.
To establish Canadian citizenship, travellers can use a Certificate of Canadian citizenship (large form that was issued from January 1, 1947, to February 14, 1977), a Certificate of retention (issued from January 1, 1947, to February 14, 1977), Registration of birth abroad certificate (issued between January 1, 1947, and February 14, 1977, by Canadian citizenship authorities), Certificate of naturalization (issued until January 1, 1947), or territorial or Provincial birth certificate (individuals who were born in Canada). These documents should be accompanied by government-issued photo identification.
What is the situation if I have dual citizenship?
Canadian citizens who have dual citizenship are also not required to obtain an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) before travelling to Canada.
If you hold dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship and plan to travel to Canada, you must ensure that you have either a valid Canadian passport or U.S. passport with you – preferably both.
Additionally, you must meet the rest of the Canadian entry requirements. If you only bring your U.S. passport, you will be required to carry identification proving your Canadian citizenship and may have to undergo immigration screening.
Therefore, you should carry both passports to make your travel between the two countries easier. Being able to show both passports serves as proof of citizenship and entitles you to enter Canada or the U.S. without undergoing immigration screening.
It is important to note that even if the country of origin mandates the use of a government-issued passport for entry and exit, a valid passport for Canada is still required to board a flight to that country — another reason why it’s a good idea to always have both passports with you when travelling.
What if I am unsure whether I am a Canadian citizen?
If you were born outside of Canada to a Canadian parent or you are uncertain about your citizenship status, this section is for you.
There are several ways through which an individual can become a Canadian citizen without actually applying for it. While that may be the case, it is still advisable to obtain proof of citizenship because it is not unheard of for people to believe that they are Canadian citizens when they are not. If it turns out that you are one of them, you might still qualify to apply for Canadian citizenship.
If you fall into any of the following categories, you most likely already have Canadian citizenship:
- You were born in Canada
- You became a citizen as a result of changes to the Citizenship Act
- You applied for and were granted Canadian citizenship through naturalization
- You received Canadian citizenship as a minor when your parent or legal guardian applied for your citizenship
- You weren’t born in Canada, but at least one of your parents (either your legal parent at birth or a biological parent) was born in Canada or became a naturalized citizen before your birth.
Please note that if you were born in Canada to foreign diplomats or had your citizenship revoked, or renounced your Canadian citizenship and didn’t apply to get it back, you are most likely not a Canadian citizen.
If you were born outside Canada to Canadian parents on or after April 17, 2009, but neither parent was born or naturalized in Canada, you are also not automatically a Canadian citizen.
In both cases, you may nevertheless be able to obtain citizenship through other means, including one of the following:
- Marrying a Canadian citizen
- Being adopted by a Canadian citizen
- Having your refugee claim accepted, or
- Living in Canada as a permanent resident for a significant period of time.
Special authorization to enter Canada
In certain cases, you might also be able to get special authorization to fly to Canada. That will be possible in any of the following situations:
- You don’t have a valid Canadian passport on the day of travel
- Your flight to Canada departs within ten days
- You hold a (valid) passport from a country that’s exempt from Canadian visa requirements
- You are not a dual citizen of the US and Canada
Additionally, you must also meet one of the following conditions:
- You previously obtained a Canadian citizenship certificate
- You were in the past issued with a Canadian passport
- You were granted Canadian citizenship after being a permanent resident of that country
Your info will be verified electronically to confirm your Canadian citizenship status. This authorization will remain valid for no more than 4 days from your selected travel date. You must apply for a second authorization if you don’t use it within that time.
If you do not meet the requirements for special authorization, there are no easy solutions to help you get on board a flight to Canada. Contact the nearest Canadian government office abroad to explore your options. Emergency travel documents or temporary passports will only be issued individually under extremely strict conditions.
Permanent Resident Status in Canada
Permanent residency is granted to those who have immigrated to Canada but are not Canadian citizens. Please note that temporary residents such as students or foreign workers do not enjoy permanent residency status.
To enter Canada, Permanent Residents (PRs) must carry and show their valid Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) or PR card when travelling on a commercial carrier. Failure to present these documents may result in denial of entry.
PRs are responsible for maintaining the validity of their PR card and renewing it when it expires. However, the expiration of your PR card does not automatically lead to the loss of your permanent resident status.
The Canadian Government-Assisted Refugee Program and the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program allow refugees who are resettled from overseas to become permanent residents in Canada.
Refugee claimants in Canada must obtain approval from the Immigration and Refugee Board before applying for permanent residency.
Understanding the Rights and Limitations of Permanent Residents
As a permanent resident, you are entitled to many social benefits that Canadian citizens enjoy, such as healthcare coverage. You can live, work or study anywhere in Canada and apply for Canadian citizenship. Permanent residents are protected by Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.