On September 30, 2016, the new Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) will become mandatory. The eTA has been set up by the government to act as a security screen for foreign nationals from visa-exempt countries. Foreigners from many countries do not need to obtain a visa to enter Canada and can travel to Canada using their passport only. Previously these foreigners were not subject to any screening until they arrived at the airport in Canada. These foreigners will now have to obtain an eTA in their passport before they can get on a plane and travel to Canada. The eTA costs $7 to apply for, is valid for up to five years, and can be completed in minutes provided that there are no concerns the applicant may be inadmissible to Canada. Grounds for inadmissibility may include prior criminal convictions, a serious medical condition, past immigration refusals, or other potential security concerns.
There are concerns that the implementation of the eTA will catch many foreign nationals by surprise and result in the disruption of many travellers’ plans to visit Canada. Only when they reach the airport will people who formerly could travel with their passport only suddenly be informed that they need an eTA to be able to board the airplane.
Foreign travellers are not the only ones likely to be caught out by the implementation of the eTA. One of the effects of the eTA is that Canadian citizens who hold dual citizenship with another country will need to have a Canadian passport in order to travel by air to Canada starting September 30, 2016. Canadian citizens who hold a second nationality and a second passport will no longer be able to travel to Canada using the second passport, and may only use the Canadian passport. This is because Canadian citizens do not need to obtain an eTA and therefore cannot obtain one for their other passports. As a result, any passport other than their Canadian passport will be unusable for purposes of travelling by air to Canada.
Similar restrictions affect permanent residents of Canada. Canadian PR’s will no longer be able to travel to Canada simply using their visa-exempt foreign passports, because permanent residents don’t need an eTA. As a result, it will be necessary for a Canadian PR to have a valid Permanent Resident Card, or a Travel Document, as well as their passport, in order to board a plane to Canada.
An eTA can be applied for online through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website. U.S. citizens are exempted from the eTA requirement. An eTA is only needed for air travel, those entering Canada by land or water do not need an eTA.
Those denied an eTA because they are found to be inadmissible may be able to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit in order to enter Canada.
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