Certain prospective visitors to Canada are still encountering issues with the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), an electronic document that is required for most visa-exempt visitors to Canada.
Over the holiday period, many accounts emerged of travellers facing delays, or missed flights, because they were not aware of the eTA requirement. First introduced in August, 2015, the eTA became mandatory for most visa-exempt visitors to Canada coming by air as of November 10, 2016.
However, this lengthy roll-out period appears to have been insufficient to fully inform potential travellers of the new documentation requirement. The eTA is a pre-screening process that requires most visa-exempt travellers entering Canada by air to complete an online form and pay a fee of $7 CAD. The eTA is linked to the holder’s passport, and is valid for five years or until the expiry of the passport, whichever is earlier. Travellers from the United States, or from countries whose citizens require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) in order to enter Canada, are not required to obtain an eTA before travelling to Canada.
In most cases, the eTA may be issued within minutes. However, in some cases it can take significantly longer than this. In November, a British comedian live-tweeted his wait for an eTA, which caused him to miss his flight to Canada – and ultimately, a stand-up show he had booked in Toronto.
A year and a half after the introduction of the eTA, many travellers are still uninformed about the new requirement. A Nova Scotia resident, Mark Ashworth, had arranged for his father, David Ashworth, who lives in England, to join the family in Canada for the Christmas period. David Ashworth, who has mobility issues and required a wheelchair at the airport, was unaware of the eTA requirement when he arrived at Heathrow Airport in London for his flight to Canada. Without an email address or credit card, he was unable to apply for the eTA at the airport, even though the airline provided him with a tablet at the airport. Consequently, he was unable to board his flight.
Mark Ashworth, waiting in Canada, was unaware of his father’s plight as he watched the travellers from the flight disembark in Halifax. When his father was not among the passengers, he tried to trace him through the airline before resorting to calling the British police. His father finally got in touch after returning to his home.
The Ashworths later found out that Mark would have been able to apply for an eTA on his father’s behalf while his father waited in the airport. The eTA form offers the option to indicate if the applicant is applying on behalf of a friend or family member who is travelling to Canada.
The Ashworths lament that they were not informed of the eTA requirement at any stage of the ticket booking process, by the airline or the travel agency. Similar accounts of a lack of information have emerged repeatedly during the roll-out period. In the case of David Ashworth, the travel service through which he booked his flight stated that “we advise [travellers] of any applicable travel authorization [including visas and eTAs], as well as applicable fees.”
“It is crucial that travellers to Canada inform themselves of the requirements in order to enter Canada, to ensure a smooth trip for themselves and their families,” says Attorney David Cohen. “The eTA process is ultimately designed to ease travel to Canada, and individuals who prepare in advance are likely to have a smooth journey and an enjoyable time in Canada.”
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