As explained in our earlier article, starting on March 15, 2016, visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada by air will require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Air carriers will be checking travellers and passengers who do not have an eTA or do not qualify for an exemption will not be permitted to board the aircraft. Government has now released further details about the eTA system as outlined below.
- Foreign nationals who require a temporary resident visa to enter Canada are exempt
- Citizens of the United States are exempt Note: US permanent residents / Green Card holders do require an eTA
- According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”), foreign nationals who hold a study or work permit issued on or after August 1, 2015 have automatically been issued an eTA. However, a work or study permit holder’s eTA currently can only be verified on the CIC website if they were also sent a letter from CIC showing the eTA number. Many study and work permits are being issued without this letter, so those who are unable to verify their status may need to take steps to apply for a new eTA to seek clarification Note: Visitor record holders must apply for a separate eTA, regardless of when it was issued
- Permanent residents who hold a valid permanent resident card do not require an eTA
- The eTA will not be required for travel to Canada by sea or land
The eTA application process is fully electronic, costs CAD $7.00, and takes a few minutes for most applicants to complete. For families, it is important to note that every family member must complete an eTA application, regardless of age. Government has promised same day processing in most cases, with requests for further information to be sent by CIC within 72 hours. The eTA will be issued for up to five years and will be electronically linked to the traveller’s passport. Since no physical document will be issued, it is prudent to print and carry the confirmation acceptance emails transmitted by CIC during the application process.
Applications may be submitted at the following website:
Alternatively, authorized representatives are permitted to apply on behalf of their clients.
Inadmissibility to Canada
Foreign nationals who are inadmissible to Canada due to criminality will be denied an eTA. These travellers will need to apply for a temporary resident permit or rehabilitation. Travellers with serious health conditions may also be required to take additional steps in order to be issued an eTA and be admitted to Canada.
Permanent residents of Canada
With the introduction of the eTA on March 15, permanent residents are expected to face new difficulties trying to board flights to Canada without valid permanent resident cards. Permanent residents are not eligible to apply for an eTA, and CIC has recently confirmed that finalizing the permanent residence process of “landing” will actually invalidate a previously issued eTA. Yet, the current processing time for new permanent resident cards is approximately 100 days, while renewals are currently taking over six months. Government has advised that permanent residents who do not hold a valid permanent resident card will be required to apply for a separate “travel document” from a Canadian visa office abroad to confirm their status with airlines prior to boarding.
Permanent residents applying for renewals of their permanent resident cards should lodge their applications as early as possible. All travellers should confirm their status with air carriers prior to travel to ensure they will be permitted to board flights back to Canada and consider travelling to Canada by land if there are no other options.
The eTA and employers
Employers are advised to review current immigration status documentation held by any non-US foreign workers and permanent residents against upcoming travel needs. Current employees who require an eTA or permanent resident card to enter Canada should be reminded to apply as early as possible. Employers should also be cognizant when making a new offer to employ or engage a foreign national in Canada that any admissibility concerns will be amplified by the eTA regime, thus requiring additional time and effort to overcome.
Meera Thakrar, Harris & Company LLP