Canada: Further Clarifications About The Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

Last Updated: March 24 2016
Article by Richard Leuce

Back in February of 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced the introduction of the electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for visa-exempt foreign nationals. This system mirrored the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), and was intended to pre-screen foreign nationals arriving to Canada by air. Voluntary participation in the program has been possible  since August 1, 2015, with mandatory participation scheduled for March 15, 2016.

Clarifications provided on March 15, 2016

On March 15, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released a program delivery update (PDU) providing several clarifications with respect to the mandatory implementation of the eTA.

The most important message stemming out of this PDU is that foreign nationals are expected to have an eTA as of March 15, 2016. However, until fall 2016, travellers who have not obtained an eTA will still be allowed to board their flight to Canada, provided they possess appropriate travel documents (i.e. passport) and are not otherwise inadmissible.

This recently issued PDU will also impact several other applications and immigration procedures. Below is an illustrative list of these implications:

Service Area of Process Affected

Notes

IRCC's eTA Client Service

IRCC lists the ways in which it seeks to achieve service excellence by providing eTA information. These are described in more detail by clicking HERE.

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) issuance

Should a foreign national be found inadmissible to Canada, their respective eTA will be annulled. A subsequent re-application for an eTA would be required. Questions about holding a valid eTA are now part of standard questioning for both primary and secondary inspections by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) fees

A foreign national requiring an eTA who is approved for an initial work or study permit will be issued their eTA at the same time as their work or study permit. As such, they will not be required to pay the CAD$7 processing fee. However, a foreign national's eTA will not be automatically renewed upon the issuance of a work and study permit extension. This is applicable for consular processing.

Parents and Grandparents Extended Stay temporary resident visa (TRV) (super visa)

Initial eTA will be granted for maximum five (5) years, despite the super visa's validity of ten (10) years. Applicant should ensure that they renew their eTA. Additionally, visa exempt nationals whom have submitted an IMM 5257 form to their respective consulate will receive a letter of introduction only (as no TRV is required); an eTA will not be issued automatically in these circumstances.

Temporary Foreign Workers: Validity Periods

Reiteration that if an application is made for an initial work permit, and if an electronic travel authorization (eTA) is necessary, then the eTA will be issued automatically with the work permit (for five years from the date of issuance or until passport expiry) and be fee exempt. For work permit extension applications, the eTA will not be automatically renewed.

Temporary Foreign Workers: Port of Entry (POE) applications

Clarification provided that visa-exempt nationals travelling to Canada by air will need to apply for an eTA in order to board their flight to Canada. Upon arrival at the air port of entry, and once a work permit is granted, they will also be automatically be issued new eTA with a new validity date.

Study Permits: Consular, POE, and Inland

Visa-exempt foreign nationals for whom the officer has approved an initial study permit will be automatically issued an eTA. No additional action is required on the officer's part to manually issue the eTA. An eTA will not be automatically renewed when a foreign national applies for a study permit renewal. While study permits and TRVs for study permits can go beyond the passport validity date, the eTA cannot.

Manual processing of eTA applications

Instructions have been provided with respect to the procedure of manually processing eTA applications by officers at IRCC's Operational Support Center (OSC). Full details can be accessed by clicking HERE. Of particular interest is the fact that officers can refuse eTAs and can create alerts, whereby "Do Not Travel" letters can be issued and flags for secondary processing.

Temporary Residents: Visitors

Explanation is provided with respect to the enforcement of the eTA requirement and the role the CBSA and commercial air carriers play. Specifically, the eTA information will be enforced using CBSA's Interactive Advance Passenger Information (IAPI) system. Air carriers will conduct usual check-in procedures, which will now also initiate an automated query in IAPI using the traveller's passport number and country of issuance. Before a boarding pass can be printed, IAPI must provide an "ok to board" message to the air carrier.

Conclusion

These examples were presented to highlight the effect that the implementation of the eTA will have on temporary residents and visitors to Canada. While the process may be straightforward, the importance of the eTA should not be underestimated. Considering that the March 15, 2016 cut-off has passed, it is important that eTAs are obtained in order to ensure compliance with Canadian immigration law, and avoid any potential delays. It is also important to note that there is still a grace period for obtaining the eTA until fall 2016, signalling that IRCC was not able to successfully mandate and implement this bold initiative in time. This grace period should hopefully allow IRCC to make improvements to its online application system, which continues to experience persistent technical difficulties, even when applying for eTAs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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