Canada To Introduce Pre-Approval System For Visa-Exempt Visitors
Posted on April 27, 2015
In a move that had been mooted since 2011, the government of Canada has announced in the official Canada Gazette that it intends to introduce electronic travel authorization (eTA) for individuals exempt from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa (TRV) before they may enter Canada.
The system, which is scheduled to come into full operation on March 15, 2016, is similar to the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) currently in use by the United States of America. Individuals will be able to apply for the eTA from August 1, 2015, and the eTA will be required for visa-exempt travel on and after March 15, 2016. Until now, visa-exempt foreign nationals seeking entry to Canada are not systematically screened for admissibility until they arrive at a Canadian port of entry.
The Canadian pre-approval system will only be required for TRV-exempt individuals seeking to enter Canada by air to visit on a temporary basis. A fee of CAD $7.00 will be required for processing. Electronic travel authorization will be valid for a period of five years from the day on which it is issued to the applicant or until the earliest of the following days, if they occur before the end of that period:
- the day on which the applicant’s passport or other travel document expires,
- the day on which the electronic travel authorization is cancelled, or
- the day on which a new electronic travel authorization is issued to the applicant.
The eTA will include the applicant’s name, date and place of birth, gender, address, nationality, and passport and/or travel document information. If the applicant is unable to make the application by means of the electronic system because of a physical or mental disability, it may be made by another means, including a paper application form.
A number of exemptions from the requirement to obtain pre-approval to travel will be in place, including:
- nationals of the United States,
- individuals already in possession of a Canadian temporary resident visa,
- certain foreign diplomats,
- commercial air crew,
- citizens of France who are residents of St. Pierre and Miquelon,
- individuals in possession of a visa to enter the United States on a flight bound for that country in transit through Canada, where the sole purpose of the flight stopping in Canada is for purpose of refuelling,
- individuals transiting through Canada as a passenger on a flight who are in possession of any visa required to enter the country of destination;
- individuals carrying out official duties as a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act,
- study or work permit holders re-entering Canada following a visit solely to the United States or St. Pierre and Miquelon, and
- Her Majesty in right of Canada and any member of the Royal Family.
The number of visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada on a temporary basis per year is significantly larger than the number of visa-required travellers. For example, visa-exempt foreign nationals, excluding U.S. citizens, represent approximately 74 per cent of foreign nationals who arrive by air in Canada.
In 2012–2013, the total number of visa-exempt foreign nationals who arrived in Canada and were deemed inadmissible for entry at air ports of entry was 7,055. This resulted in significant expense, delay and inconvenience for these foreign nationals, other travellers, the airlines and the Canadian government. Reasons for refusal can include membership in terrorist organizations, espionage, participation in war crimes or crimes against humanity, international human rights violations, membership in organized crime groups, criminality, or issues endangering public health, such as tuberculosis.