Canada to require electronic authorization for most visa-exempt travelers

23 Apr 15

CANADA

IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? Canada will introduce an electronic travel authorization (eTA) system next year for travelers who are exempt from temporary resident visa (TRV) requirements. U.S. nationals will be exempt from the new requirements.

What does the change mean? Most TRV-exempt travelers will be required to obtain an eTA online prior to traveling to Canada. Currently, TRV-exempt travelers are not systematically screened until they arrive in Canada.

  • Implementation time frame: Travelers will be able to apply for eTAs beginning Aug. 1, 2015. ETAs will be required for TRV-exempt travelers beginning March 15, 2016.
  • Who is affected: TRV-exempt travelers entering Canada by air for temporary stays.
  • Business impact: The Canadian government acknowledges that there may be minimal, short-term impacts on Canada’s tourism industry, but does not anticipate any long-term impacts on Canadian business.
  • Next Steps: TRV-exempt travelers can continue to travel without obtaining prior authorization until March 15, 2016. ETAs will be required for travel to Canada from that date forward.

Background: The move toward requiring eTAs had been “mooted” since 2011, but Canadian officials announced the change this week in the official Canada Gazette. The government has noted that thousands of travelers are deemed inadmissible upon arriving in Canada, resulting in “significant expense, delay and inconvenience” for travelers, airlines and government officials. The eTA program is meant to help root out those who are ineligible to enter Canada before they travel.

ETAs will be available online and will include a CA$7 processing fee. The eTAs will be valid for five years unless a traveler’s passport expires sooner or a new eTA is issued or is cancelled for another reason. Paper applications will be available for those who cannot apply online.

U.S. nationals will be exempt. Among others who will be exempt from obtaining an eTA are the following: those who possess a Canadian temporary resident visa, those returning from visits solely to the U.S. or St. Pierre and Miquelon who hold a study or work permits, certain foreign diplomats, commercial airline crew, French citizens who reside in St. Pierre and Miquelon, and those transiting through Canada who have a valid visa for their destination country.

BAL Analysis: Canada receives significantly more TRV-exempt travelers than travelers who require a TRV. Even considering the exemption for U.S. nationals (among select others), the new policy will require a large number of travelers to undergo pre-screening before traveling to Canada. BAL will continue monitoring the rollout of the new eTA program as the implementation date gets closer.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Canada. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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