The vast majority of foreign nationals who wish to travel to Canada must have a valid visitor visa before they will be allowed entry into that country. Citizens from certain countries are, however, exempt from this requirement. A few years ago Canada announced what is known as an eTA or electronic travel authorization system for visitors from visa-exempt countries who want to travel to (or through) that country by air.
Who requires a Canadian eTA?
The majority of visitors who do not need a Canadian visitor visa to enter that country now have to apply for an eTA when they plan to travel to or pass through Canada by air. A major exception to this rule are citizens of the United States. The latter are still allowed to visit or pass through Canada using a valid passport issued by the U.S.
Canada eTA Exemptions For U.S. Citizens
Citizens of the United States are able to enter Canada as long as they have a valid passport issued by their own country. This applies regardless of whether they are entering Canada by air, sea, or land.
Individuals who have legal permanent residency in the U.S. or who hold Green Cards are also exempt from applying for Canadian visas irrespective of where they have citizenship. When visiting Canada by air, however, they must have a valid Green Card and a passport, as well as an eTA.
People who have dual American-Canadian citizenship are able to enter Canada by using either their American or Canadian passports. People with Canadian citizenship who also have citizenship of any other country except the United States and who will be arriving in Canada by air need to do so on their Canadian passports.
Other Types of Canada ETA Exemptions
The following categories of travelers are also exempted from applying for a Canadian eTA:
Nationals of foreign countries who have been issued valid Canadian documents
This group includes:
- Travelers who hold a valid visa issued by Canadian authorities
- Travelers such as students, visitors, or workers with a valid Canadian status who return to the country after visiting the United States or St. Pierre and Miquelon
Nationals of foreign countries under any of the following circumstances:
1. Citizens of France who reside in Saint Pierre and Miquelon and who are on a direct flight to Canada from that location.
2. Citizens of other foreign countries who are on their way to or from the U.S. by air and whose flight makes a stopover in Canada for the sole reason of refueling – provided they have entered the United States legally or they have all the necessary documents to legally enter the United States.
3. Citizens of foreign countries who are passengers on an international flight that is forced to make an unplanned stop in Canada.
4. Citizens of foreign countries who are merely transiting via a Canadian airport under one of the following programs:
a) The China Transit Program
Individuals who have Chinese citizenship and who are passing through Canada from or to the U.S. typically do not need to apply for an eTA, provided they are traveling with a valid United States visa and they are traveling via a participating airport in Canada while on a flight of one of the participating airlines.
b) The Transit Without Visa Program
Individuals who are on a flight from or to the U.S. that stops over in Canada typically do not need to apply for an eTA. This exemption only applied to travelers from specific countries who are traveling via a participating airport in Canada while they are on a flight of one of the participating airlines.
Official and Travel Representatives
This group includes:
- Armed force members (excluding civilian members) of a nation specifically listed in the Visiting Armed Forces Act who are visiting Canada for purposes related to their official duties.
- Accident investigators, civil aviation inspectors, and flight crew members who are working in Canada or who will be working while in that country.
- Foreign diplomats who have received full accreditation from the Canadian government.
How Does One Apply For a Canadian eTA?
To submit an eTA application, you require an internet connection. You must also have access to your passport, credit card, and personal information such as your address. You can then proceed to complete the online application form. There is a $7 government fee involved, which has to be paid by credit card.
If your application is approved, the eTA will remain valid until the expiration date of your passport or five years, whichever happens first. If you have been issued with an additional passport or passports, you should use the passport to which your eTA is linked. Approval times for eTA applications can vary from a few minutes to a couple of days, so the best option is to apply well before your departure.