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Electronic Travel Authorization for Passport Visa Exempt Air Travellers

At present, temporary residents seeking to enter Canada may either be required to seek a passport visa or may be exempt from the requirement of such. Those who require a visa apply to a Canadian visa office internationally to seek the determination of an official on their admissibility on a temporary basis (e.g., visitor, temporary foreign worker, international mobility worker, or foreign student). Those who are passport visa exempt currently have that determination made entirely at a port of entry by an official of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has announced an intention to amend the immigration Regulations to include an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) program, which is patterned after the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) implemented in the USA. With certain exemptions, the program – once implemented – would require passport visa exempt nationals to seek authorization from the Canadian government prior to seeking to board an airline to travel to Canada temporarily. At present, such passport exempt nationals may proceed to fly to Canada without any prior authorization or permission. It is presently expected that the system will be in operation as of August 01 2015, with the potential for travellers being refused admission after March 2016.

The government seeks to operate the system electronically and online (with exception possible when there is a demonstrated inability to apply in this fashion). The goal will be to evaluate the majority of cases automatically and to approve them within minutes. Cases that are not eligible for immediate approval will be sent to an official for manual review. Cases that are approved will be eligible for eTA’s valid for up to five years, unless the passport of the individual expires prior to such; the eTA is revoked; or a new eTA is granted. The fee for the service will be $7.

While it is expected that the eTA program will reduce the number of cases in which individuals are turned around at Canadian airports (there were 7000 in 2012 and 2013), it is important to bear in mind that the system is not a replacement for the admissibility decision made by the CBSA official. There is an expectation that this process of review at the port of entry will be streamlined by the eTA system, but it is not otherwise an immigration application.
At present, there are proposed exemptions to the requirement to apply for the eTA. Significant exclusions include:

– Nationals of the USA;
– Accredited diplomats;
– Accredited representatives or advisers in an aviation accident or incident;
– Residents of St. Pierre and Miquelon;
– Those seeking to transit through Canada;
– Members of the armed forces of a country designated under the Visiting Forces Act, unless they have been designated as a civilian component of those armed forces; and
– Those who hold a valid temporary resident visa or permit issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Date Posted: April 27, 2015 Posted In: Entry Visa

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