What is an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
An Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is a Canada travel requirement for visitors by plane who did not have to get a visa. The eTA is virtual in that it links electronically to your passport.
Who Needs an eTA. Who Needs a Visa.
As of March 15, 2016, all foreign visitors of all ages flying into Canada, or having a flight stop over in Canada, have required either a visa OR an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)*.
*Note: A leniency program was in effect for travellers who did not get their eTA, but ended on November 9, 2016. As of November 16, 2016, the first news reports of travellers being turned away before boarding their plane for not having their eTA were being reported.
Travellers from certain countries need a visa to visit Canada, including those from the People's Republic of China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and many others. This visa requirement for certain nationalities has not changed. They will still need to get their Canadian visa before they arrive in, or transit through, Canada, by air, land or sea.
What *has* changed is the need for visa-exempt foreign nationals (those people from countries that do not need to get a Canadian visa, like Germany, Japan, Australia, Britain among others) to get an eTA in order to arrive in, or travel through Canada by air. Land and sea requirements for visa-exempt foreign nationals have not changed.
U.S. citizens and visitors with a valid Canadian visa do not need to apply for an eTA.
If you are a dual Canadian citizen used to travelling to or transiting through Canada by air with a non-Canadian passport, you will no longer be able to do so. You will need a valid Canadian passport to board your flight.
The Government of Canada's Citizenship & Immigration website has information on who needs an eTA and who doesn't.
*Basically, all foreign visitors to Canada, except U.S. citizens need either an eTA or a visa.
If you need a Canadian visa, you don't need an eTA. If you need to get an eTA, you don't need a visa.*
How To Apply for an eTA
To apply for an eTA, you need Internet access, a valid passport, a credit card and an email address.
Go to the Government of Canada eTA website, answer a few questions and submit your information. You will be charged a Cdn $7 fee - regardless whether you are approved or not.
You will find out by email within a few minutes if you are approved or not for an eTA.
Parents or guardians can apply for their children, but each application for each person must be separate.
What Happens Next?
If you are approved, your eTA becomes automatically electronically linked to your passport.
You don't need to print anything out to bring with you to the airport.
When you board your plane headed for, or through, Canada, simply present your passport (the same passport that you used to apply for the eTA).
How Often Do I Have To Reapply for My eTA?
Your eTA is good for 5 years from the date of approval or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.
What if my eTA is not Approved?
If your eTA application is refused, you will receive an email from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) with the reasons for your refusal. In this case, you should not plan or undertake any travel to Canada, even during the leniency period. If you decide to travel to Canada with a refused eTA during the leniency period, you may experience delays or be prevented from entering the country.
Some applications may not be approved right away and need more time to process. If this is the case, an email from IRCC will be sent within 72 hours explaining the next steps.
When Should You Get Your eTA?
You need to get your eTA before you board the plane, so to avoid stress and headaches, you should apply for it as soon as you know your travel plans. Though the approval process usually takes only a few minutes, if your application is refused, you may need to address the reason for the refusal and submit further documents, which will take time.
eTA requirements went into effect as of March 15, 2016. A leniency period was in effect as people learned about the program, but as of November 9, 2016, the leniency period was over and some travellers were being turned away at their flight gate and missing their plane because they did not have their eTA.