July 9, 2015 – Canada will begin accepting applications for its new Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) program on August 1, 2015. As of March 15, 2016, foreign nationals from visa-exempt countries will be required to obtain an eTA prior to travelling to Canada as part of a new entry authorization system.
The program is the product of a joint U.S.-Canada border action plan to cooperate on prescreening of travelers in order to identify security threats. The Canadian system is similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for visa-waived nationals travelling to the United States.
Who is affected?
All foreign nationals from visa-exempt countries, as well as U.S. permanent residents, travelling to Canada by air must obtain an eTA prior to boarding their flight. U.S. citizens, as well as foreign nationals from visa-exempt countries who enter Canada by land or sea, are not affected.
How does it work?
Affected foreign nationals must apply online for eTA. An approved eTA may be issued within minutes and are valid for up to five years (or until the expiry of your passport, whichever is sooner). Starting August 1st, foreign nationals who are approved for a work permit or study permit in Canada will be automatically issued an eTA and will not be required to submit a separate application.
Foreign nationals already in Canada on work or study permits will need to apply for an eTA if they wish to leave Canada and return by air.
What should you do?
Although travelers may continue to rely on their visa-exempt status until eTAs become mandatory on March 15, 2016, affected foreign nationals are encouraged to apply during the transition period starting August 1, 2015 to avoid any last-minute rush.
If you would like more information about the eTA program, or require assistance in making an application, please contact Green and Spiegel LLP.