What is the change? On Aug. 1, Canada will begin accepting applications for Electronic Travel Authorization, or eTA, which will be required of visa-exempt nationals before travel as part of the country’s new entry authorization system.

What does the change mean? Travelers are encouraged to apply before it becomes mandatory on March 15, 2016. As of that date, visa-exempt nationals must have an eTA before boarding a flight to Canada. U.S. citizens will not be required to have an eTA or a visa, and will be able to enter Canada upon showing appropriate identification and proof of citizenship.

  • Implementation time frame: Aug. 1 and following.
  • Visas/permits affected: Electronic Travel Authorization.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals who are exempt from visitor visas (temporary resident visas).
  • Impact on processing times: Travelers must submit an online application before travel. An approved eTA may be issued within minutes of application and is valid for five years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever is sooner.
  • Business impact: The system may ultimately speed up entry procedures as travelers will be pre-screened and will not need to go through screening procedures every time they enter Canada.

Background: Canada’s eTA program was established as a result of a joint U.S.-Canada border action plan to step up screening of visa-exempt foreign nationals. The Canadian system is similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) used for visa-waived nationals traveling to the U.S.

Nationals who will be required to obtain an eTA can be viewed here. ETAs will be required for visa-waived nationals entering Canada by air only; those traveling by land or sea will not need an eTA.

Starting Aug. 1, applicants who are approved for a Canadian work or study permit will automatically be issued an eTA and will not have to submit a separate eTA application form. Foreign workers and employees already in Canada on a valid work or study permit will need an eTA if they wish to leave Canada and return by air.

U.S. citizens are exempt. U.S. permanent residents will require an eTA if flying to Canada. Permanent residents of Canada will not need an eTA as long as they travel with their permanent residence cards.

BAL Analysis: Although travelers may continue to rely on visa-exempt status until eTAs become mandatory on March 15, 2016, they are advised to obtain an eTA during the transition period to avoid any last-minute rush.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Canada. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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