What is an Electronic Travel Authorization and who needs one?
The Canadian government has implemented an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) which is similar to the American ESTA. Since November 10th, 2016, the eTA has been mandatory for any foreign person exempt from a visitor’s visa who wishes to travel to Canada.
The eTA concerns all foreign persons who benefit from the visitor visa waiver programme. Those travellers must therefore have an eTA.
To find out if this concerns you (based on your nationality), you may use this tool.
If it does, you must apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (at a cost of $7 CAD) before your flight.
Without this eTA, you will not be allowed to board the plane. You must also obtain an eTA even for a simple stopover in Canada (unless the stopover is by boat, train or car, for example).
Temporary workers and students who benefit from the visitor visa waiver programme and who have obtained a POE letter automatically have an eTA linked to their passport.
Some people who have a POE letter still need to obtain an eTA before flying to Canada : those who have changed their passport between obtaining the work permit and leaving for Canada must apply for a new eTA (since the eTA obtained at the time of the application for the work permit was approved with another passport). To find out more, read this article: Passport validity when applying for a CanadianWorking Holiday Visa (or another IEC permit).
The eTA can usually be obtained in just a few minutes, but this does not mean you should wait until the last minute to apply for it.
When is an Electronic Travel Authorization required?
Depending on your situation, you may (or may not) be required to apply for an eTA.
Case 1 – International Experience Canada (IEC) participants
All IEC participants receive an eTA linked to their passport in their POE letter. Therefore, you do not need to apply for a new eTA to travel to Canada.
Case 2 – Permanent residents of Canada
You do not need to apply for an eTA but it is essential that you present your permanent resident card upon your return to Canada.
To find out more, you can take a look at these questions from the eTA FAQ page:
I am a permanent resident of Canada. Do I need an eTA if I leave and want to return to Canada by air?
Case 3 – Canadian citizens
Some of our site alumni have obtained Canadian citizenship before going to Canada. For those who now have dual citizenship (one of the two being Canadian), you will not need an eTA and will be able to enter Canada as long as you enter with your valid Canadian passport.
To find out more, you can take a look at this question from the Electronic Travel Authorization FAQ page: I am a Canadian citizen and a citizen of another country. Can I fly to Canada with my non-Canadian passport?
Who is exempt from obtaining an eTA?
Very few foreign nationals (with the exception of permanent residents) are exempt from obtaining an eTA. This includes French citizens of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and citizens of the United States.
Furthermore, it is not necessary to obtain an eTA if you intend to enter Canada by land (or even by boat). Fun fact: the Queen of England and her family are also exempt!
You can find a list of exempted people on the Canadian authorities’ website.
Never wait until your departure date to apply for an eTA as the Canadian authorities’ website is often under maintenance for a few hours. If you leave it until the last minute and maintenance prevents you from applying in time, you will not be able to board the plane.