Canada: new electronic pre-clearance for visa waiver travellers

By Chris Chamberlin, March 16 2016

Canada's new mandatory Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) system is now in force, with visitors under the Visa Waiver Program expected to obtain eTA clearance online, prior to travel.

Similar to the USA’s ESTA scheme, Australian passport holders visiting Canada for business or leisure must now register their passport and personal details via the Canadian Government's eTA website before checking-in for their flight.

There's a small CAD$7 (A$7.02) charge attached per application which can be paid online by Visa, MasterCard and American Express, with the eTA then valid for up to five years or until your passport expires – whichever comes first – and an unlimited number of trips during that period.

Clearance to fly is typically given within minutes and separate applications aren’t required for business and leisure travel: so if you obtain an eTA through your employer to cover the odd Canuck business trip, you can use that same eTA should you visit again on holiday.

The Canadian Government's website highlights that "as of March 15, 2016, visa-exempt foreign nationals are expected to have an eTA to fly to or transit through Canada," but there are also provisions for those more forgetful.

"Until fall (September-November) 2016, you can board your flight without an eTA, as long as you have appropriate travel documents such as a valid passport. During this time, border services officers can let you enter the country as long as you meet the other requirements to enter Canada."

eTAs are also only required for passengers arriving by air – not for those crossing at land borders or on cruise ships – nor are they required for citizens of Canada, the United States or holders of Canadian work or study visas.

Individual applications must be submitted for each traveller regardless of age, including children, and if your itinerary includes a stop in the United States, you’ll also need to complete an ESTA application as the schemes aren’t interchangeable.

For more information, head to the official eTA website.

More on visas and international travel:

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

fxdxdy

fxdxdy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 219

Interesting how it is for flights only - land and sea entry don't require the same procedure.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 926

US ESTA is air travel only. Land crossing still require the old I94W green form and payment of the $9 USVISIT fee.

fxdxdy

fxdxdy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 219

Did't know that!

hutch

hutch

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1223

Are you sure about the I94W form for land crossings? I didn't need one last year and certainly didn't see anywhere for you to go in and fill one in.

fxdxdy

fxdxdy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 219

That's what it was like for me the last time I went between Mexico-US and Canda-US; just walk through, nothing to do.
However, that was a long time ago.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 926

ESTA and the I-94W

Q:

If a VWP traveler has received ESTA approval, does he or she also need to fill out an I-94W?

A:

The implementation of the ESTA program allows DHS to eliminate the requirement that VWP travelers complete an I-94W prior to being admitted to the United States. CBP has transitioned to paperless processing for VWP travelers arriving by air or sea who have obtained an ESTA authorization. Most travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program who have an approved ESTA will no longer need to fill out the I-94W form, nor will a green I-94W departure card be placed in their passport. The I-94W form will still be required at the land border.

CBP website

hutch

hutch

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1223

Yeah well, I certainly didn't leave my car or fill in a form when crossing into ND last Nov.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 926

That's odd. Every time I've crossed into the US by land, Amtrak bus and train crossings BC>WA, I've had to fill in the form.

The time I got the bus, it pulled up at the Blaine crossing, everyone got off with bags for CBP processing inside. I was the first off the bus and last back on because I was the only one who had to fill in paperwork (everyone else on the bus was American or Candian and exempt).

On the train, paperwork and customs checks were completed in Vancouver and the train stopped on the border for CBP to get on and take forms/stamp passports.

wingspan

wingspan

12 Oct 2011

Total posts 23

It's been years since I've had to fill in the form. Crossing via train, bus, and walking across several checkpoints from Canada to the US since 2012, forms have not been necessary. I've noted the CBP website does state that they are required, but that's not been my experience in practice for quite some time now.

sagidec

sagidec

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Nov 2011

Total posts 246

Seems like this pre-registration before entering is happening slowly to countries.

Australia, US, Canada, India, Turkey (I think), some ex-Soviet Countries, 

GoYouBlues

GoYouBlues

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

20 Dec 2013

Total posts 27

1. I fly from MEL-LAX-ANC

2. I cruise from ANC-Vancouver. On the way I drive a car from Skagway (USA) into Canada on a day trip, then back to Skagway. Will I need a Canadian eTA?

3. I  have completed the US ETA online which has been approved. Will I need any paperwork to renter the USA on my way back to Skagway?

4. At end of cruise in Vancouver I depart from YVR-LAX-MEL. Will I need a Canadian eTA to enter at Vancouver and go to the YVR airport?

GoYouBlues

GoYouBlues

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

20 Dec 2013

Total posts 27

ESTA that is.

aklrunway

aklrunway

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 334

You only need to apply if you are ARRIVING by air. So in this case you don't need a eTA.

aggie57

aggie57

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 152

It's deferred 6 months because of a lack of prior information and advertising. Says he sitting in Ottawa having flown in Saturday from the US. It's also not required at all for US citizens, regardless of how the get here.

readosunnycoast

readosunnycoast

05 Oct 2011

Total posts 179

HOW might this apply to APEC Card holders?

RaptorNation158

RaptorNation158

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

Everything is starting to get complicated!!!

Bogdan

Bogdan

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 1

To add, if you don't need a visa or you only require an ETA, then it’s possible to do it from anywhere you have a computer.

Applying for a visa is also mostly done online on the website https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp. You need to fill out an application, and then the system will tell you which VAC (visa center) to send your passport to. I tried my best to do it in person in NYC, but I've been told that Canada now doesn't maintain active consular staff to process visas (even Detroit and Buffalo border consulates are closed), and all your documents are only received by the designated VACs and then sent further to Canada. Each VAC covers a specific area of the United States, and residents of different states can only send their documents to specified consulates. I'm one of those poor souls that needed one to enter until recently. The whole process took about 10–12 days, and this is a timeline given that my visa took only one day to be approved, the remainder of days my passport spent traveling between Canadian officials (they do give you a tracker, that's how I know).

With this in mind, it should be simple enough to apply for a visa if you're a resident (temporary or permanent) of a specific state, and you can prove your residency. If you're a third country national on a tourist visa, you might want to call the VAC you're planning to apply from to confirm that you're allowed to do so.

Don't forget that you have to apply for Canadian visitor visa with the Canadian embassy website https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp, this way is cheaper than using some visa services such as https://etacanadaonline.com/.

You may not need a visa if you are from visa exempt country.

I hope it is helpful information.


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