Grace period announced for Electronic Travel Authorization

3 Mar 16

CANADA

IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? Canadian authorities have announced that visa-waived nationals will be allowed to travel to Canada without an electronic travel authorization until this fall.

What does the change mean? Canada was expected to require an eTA for visa-waived nationals, excluding U.S. nationals, beginning March 15. The grace period will allow visa-waived nationals to continue traveling to Canada without an eTA until the fall. Visa nationals must obtain a visa to travel to Canada, not an eTA.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Electronic travel authorization.
  • Who is affected: Visa-waived nationals traveling to Canada (excluding U.S. citizens).
  • Business impact: In the short term, the grace period will allow business travelers with urgent travel needs to travel to Canada without an eTA. In the long term, travelers will benefit from the eTA program because eTAs are valid for five years and reduce repeat screening procedures.
  • Next steps: BAL will continue to follow the rollout of the eTA program, including any announcement of a date when eTA will become mandatory.

Background: The eTA program was modeled after the U.S.’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization and requires travelers to be prescreened before entering Canada.

The program was expected to become mandatory March 15, but a notice posted on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website states that “until fall 2016, travelers who do not have an eTA can board their flight, as long as they have appropriate travel documents, such as a valid passport.” Border officials will continue admitting visa-waived travelers to Canada provided that they meet the standard requirements to enter the country, such as having a valid travel document, no criminal record and enough money for their stay.

Visa-waived nationals may continue applying for eTAs, even though they will not be required until the fall. No precise date on when eTAs will become mandatory has been provided.

BAL Analysis: While the mandatory use of eTAs has been postponed, visa-waived nationals traveling to Canada by air are nevertheless advised to obtain an eTA as soon as possible in order to avoid future delays. Those with urgent travel needs, however, will be able to travel to Canada without an eTA for the time being.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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