How to Travel to Canada with an Electronic Visa

Before we begin discussing how to use the Electronic Visa or the eTA as it is officially called, some background information will prove to be useful. Back in the summer of 2016, Canada passed legislation requiring travelers from foreign countries that do not require a visa to visit Canada to obtain an eTA. One additional condition placed on this group of travelers is that they will be entering the country by airplane. This legislation covers most foreign travelers who attempt to enter Canada without a visa. The remaining visitors are people who come by land into the country and are in a visa-exempt status.

Specifically regarding the United States, the legislation exempts U.S. citizens from the eTA requirement but not U.S. green card holders or those who are not legal residents. Green card holders must present both their green card and eTA before being allowed into the country whether by land or air.

Canadians who have dual citizenship in Canada and another country must be carrying their Canadian passport when traveling by plane, otherwise they will have to have an eTA before being allowed into the country. Permanent residents of Canada who do not have dual citizenship only need to present their Permanent Resident card to travel freely by land or air within the country.

With the basics out of the way, you should already know if you require an eTA before entering Canada. There is a simple guide to step you through this process at the website eTA Canada VISA.

While the process appears to be as easy as 1-2-3, researching random countries to find out how simple the process is seems to reveal some not-so-easy parts of the process. One example is France. When you go to their website you find several other caveats that are required before being accepted into the eTA program. One is that you need to be at least 18 years of age. If you are not, then you must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to be admitted into the country. Another is that the passport you present must be machine readable. A minor point given that most passports already meet this requirement, but it can cause problems for a minority of people. Finally, the eTA is restricted for use to short term business, personal, or medical travel. If you exceed the 180 day maximum your eTA will not be recognized. Your approved eTA will be valid for up to 5 years.

As France has had a recent spate of refugees entering the country, there had to be qualifications to include how refugees could qualify for an eTA. The basic rule is that you must be a French citizen to apply for an eTA. Travelers who are in a refugee status and wish to travel to Canada cannot get an eTA but instead must apply for a full Canada visitor visa, a process that will take substantially longer in most cases.

Those who are wondering how long getting an eTA will take, the answer is about 5 minutes. The reason is that passengers do not have to present any additional information or documentation to apply for an eTA. All the necessary documentation is already present in the system, so there are no long lines or delays to contend with.

However, it is highly recommended that French travelers make their eTA request a minimum of 72 hours prior to the departure of their flight. The official explanation is that should there be any unexpected delays or glitches that prevent a person from obtaining an eTA the problem can be resolved and not interfere with the flight plans of the passenger.

France is just one country that has been closely examined to discover the realities behind getting an eTA for entry into Canada. The simple 1-2-3 process based on the website:

  1. Submit the online application
  2. Wait for approval
  3. Get your eTA

This does not guarantee access into the country. The government may require a criminal background check, medical examination, or even a personal interview before being allowed to enter Canada. The short version of applying and receiving a Canadian eTA is it might not actually allow you entry into the country. It is only the first step in the process, but a necessary one. Understanding the eTA as an electronic pass to explore the country is often a mistake, so it is advisable to begin planning your flight and entry times well in advance of your actual expected departure date.


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