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Visa-Exempt Visitors to Canada Advised to Submit Their Own Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) Requests

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New pre-screening system will be mandatory for certain visitors as of September 29, 2016
In just a few weeks, it will be mandatory for visa-exempt visitors to Canada to apply for an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) before departure if traveling by air. Recent reports highlight the need for eTA applicants to disclose their own information rather than relying on third parties such as travel agents, employers, friends or other organizations. These third parties may not be fully aware of the applicant’s history, which may include, among other things, prior criminality.

Potential visitors to Canada may designate another person or party to complete the eTA application on their behalf. However, unless the person or party completing the form is a regulated Canadian immigration representative — and unless the applicant is willing to disclose fully truthful information to the person or party completing the form — it is advised that they complete it themselves.

By not disclosing relevant information on an eTA application, the would-be visitor to Canada runs the risk of perpetrating misrepresentation. Not only may this lead to him or her not being allowed into Canada, but it may also result in a longer-term ban from entering Canada.

For example, an individual may book a flight to Canada through a travel agency, which may offer services that include completion of the eTA application. Other organizations may also say to potential visitors to Canada that they will take care of these steps. One of the pieces of information required when applying for an eTA is the applicant’s passport number, which the aforementioned third parties may have on file.

These third parties may believe they are doing their clients, staff, or members a favour by taking on this responsibility, but ultimately they may be inadvertently scuppering the chances of the visa-exempt visitor successfully landing and being admitted to Canada. Take, for example, an applicant who — unbeknownst to the person or party completing the eTA form — has a prior criminal conviction. The conviction may have occurred years previously and may have been for an offence that the applicant considers to be minor, such as petty theft or reckless driving. If and when the applicant’s true history becomes known to Canadian immigration authorities, he or she may be found to have perpetrated misrepresentation.

What is an eTA?

The eTA system aims to provide stress-free travel for visa-exempt individuals by requiring them to complete an online form before departure. Visa-exempt individuals seeking temporary entry to Canada are asked to complete a short online form, in which they provide some personal information and answer a few basic questions relating to criminality or medical issues, as well as questions about their immigration history.

As of September 29, 2016, visa-exempt travelers flying to or transiting through Canada by air will require an eTA before boarding their flight. Exceptions include U.S. citizens and persons with a valid Canadian visa. Until September 29, 2016, visa-exempt travellers who do not have an eTA can board their flight as long as they have appropriate travel documents, such as a valid passport.

What do applicants need?

To complete the online form, applicants need:

  • a valid passport from a visa-exempt country;
  • a credit card to pay the $7 CAD fee;
  • a valid email address; and
  • access to the internet and a few minutes of time.

A fee of CAD $7.00 is required for processing. In most cases, the eTA will be granted within minutes of applying and linked electronically to the applicant’s passport. The eTA is then valid for a period of five years from the day on which it is issued to the applicant or until the earliest of the following days, if they occur before the end of that period:

  • the day on which the applicant’s passport or other travel document expires;
  • the day on which the eTA is cancelled; or
  • the day on which a new eTA is issued to the applicant.

The eTA includes the applicant’s name, date and place of birth, gender, address, nationality, and passport and/or travel document information. If the applicant is unable to make the application by means of the electronic system because of a physical or mental disability, it may be made by another means, including a paper application form.

To learn more about the eTA, please consult this comprehensive electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) FAQ sheet.

Avoiding misrepresentation

“Don’t assume that your agent, colleague, friend, or even your partner knows every necessary detail about your life and your circumstances. Even if you have no prior criminality or medical concern, a mistake on the eTA application — such as a typo in the passport number or date of birth, or writing the wrong country or city of birth — could lead to unnecessary hassle and delays. For visitors to Canada who do wish to have their eTA application submitted by another party, ensure that the third party in question has a track record of submitting personal information to the government of Canada,” says Attorney David Cohen.

“In addition, potential visitors to Canada who have criminality or medical concerns are encouraged to seek legal advice on their case. Every day, would-be visitors to Canada are turned away, frustrated that they didn’t do their due diligence on criminal inadmissibility and act accordingly.”

Who is visa-exempt, and who needs an eTA?

Unless otherwise exempt, citizens of the following countries must obtain an eTA in order to enter Canada as of September 29, 2016:

AndorraAnguillaAntigua & Barbuda
AustraliaAustriaBahamas
BarbadosBelgiumBermuda
ChileCroatiaCyprus
Czech RepublicDenmarkEstonia
FinlandFranceGermany
GreeceHungaryIceland
IrelandIsraelItaly
JapanKorea (South)Latvia
LiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourg
MaltaMonacoNetherlands
New ZealandNorwayPoland
PortugalSan MarinoSingapore
SlovakiaSloveniaSpain
SwedenSwitzerlandTaiwan
Turks and CaicosUnited Kingdom

Mexico is scheduled to join the above list of countries on December 1, 2016, with Romanian and Bulgarian nationals also in line to be designated visa-exempt in the near future. Citizens of countries that are not visa-exempt (i.e. citizens of any country that is not in the above list) are required to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) before traveling to Canada.

To use the Visiting Canada Tool and determine what you need to do to visit Canada, click here.

If you have any questions or concerns about the process of obtaining an eTA and gaining entry to Canada, please send a detailed email to eta@canadavisa.com.

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