Visiting Canada: Visa vs eTA to Enter

Whistler Canada Hiking Wedgemount Lake
Wedgemount Lake near Whistler
As a Canadian living in Vancouver, I do recommend visiting my city, as well as other cities and town in Canada. While Canada is a Commonwealth realm country, most visitors will need a visa and/or an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) to enter the country; only U.S. citizens are exempt from both. This post will provide you with information and resources to plan your entry into Canada as I have seen way too many people argue with airline agents at the flight checkin about the eTA requirement. Even if you are a foreigner who lives in Canada, you may need an eTA.
Visa Vs. ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization):
  • Visa:  “Certificate issued or a stamp marked (on the applicant’s passport) by the immigration authorities of a country to indicate that the applicant’s credentials have been verified and he or she has been granted permission to enter the country for a temporary stay within a specified period.
  • eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization): An online pre-screening process for visa exempt visitors arriving to Canada by air.
How to find out if you need a Visa or an eTA:
Most people will need more than a valid passport to enter Canada, and thankfully, the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) has a quick and easy to use online survey to help you figure out what you need to visit:
While most visitors are used to the visa process or lack of requiring a visa, the eTA took a lot of people by surprise and caused issues for both travelers and airlines. It’s been fully implemented since November 2016 and yet some are still having their travel plans affected by it.  The media has reported that musicians missed gigs, and those who travel to Canada yearly to visit family for Christmas missed the holidays.  It affects visitors from about 50 countries including Australia, Japan, and European countries (including the United Kingdom).
How to apply for an eTA:
eTA Application Process
You can apply for an eTA online and the fee is $7CAD. You also need to have your passport and payment method ready as the online form cannot be saved and completed at a later time. Unless there are any issues, the CIC states that most applications are approved within minutes but like anything else, if you can, submit the application as far in advance as possible and they recommend you get an eTA before booking a flight to Canada. The good news is that once approved and obtained, the eTA is valid for 5 years or until the passport expires.
The eTA application form is a combination of drop down boxes and free-form text boxes to compile the traveler’s address, passport information, employment status/information, and if entry to Canada was previously grants. In addition, other questions as listed in the application guide include:
  • Have you ever been refused a visa or permit, denied entry to, or ordered to leave Canada or any other country/territory?
  • Have you ever committed, been arrested for, been charged with or convicted of any criminal offence in any country/territory?
  • Have you or a family member ever had or been in close contact with a person with tuberculosis?
  • Do you have a serious health condition for which you are receiving medical treatment?
Link to the application form/process, application guide, and FAQ:
Do you have any tips of additional information about the eTA process?

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