Canada’s New Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) Entry Requirement

A FAQ for the eTA

Last updated: 30 July, 2016 4:11am Tokyo time

I created this page because the same few questions keep coming up over and over again in discussion forums, and it would be useful to have answers together in one place.

In addition, as a Canadian I feel bad for travellers suffering through what was once one of the easiest border crossings in the world. Sorry, eh!

First, a caveat: I am not a lawyer, and I don’t work for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency, or any other government agency responsible for the new Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Nor, for that matter, am I in any way connected to any of the “agencies” which have sprung up online to assist with the eTA application process. However, as an active member of a few online travel forums, and a travel blogger and writer, I find myself being inexorably pulled into – sometimes heated – discussions on Canada’s newest entry requirement.

So this FAQ brings together the best understanding based on personal experience, first-hand accounts, and research from government and other sources.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of confusion, misinformation, and strongly felt but misguided opinion about the eTA, amongst would-be travellers to Canada – and sometimes the well-meaning people who try to help them.

These problems are compounded by some confusing word choices in official government sources, chiefly from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The recently announced leniency period, while it should have resolved these issues at least in the short term, has often just added to the confusion by introducing another level of complexity.

Here, I will attempt to offer as best I can my understanding of the eTA as it develops. Please note that this page is a work in progress: I will do my best to tell you what I know, and where practical will include sources of information. My understanding will change as new information and first-hand accounts become available.

Finally, as your teachers told you in school, don’t believe everything you read – especially online, always check the sources yourself!

Also, a request: please feel free to share your own research and personal experiences in the Comments space, so that others can benefit. However, this is not the place to ask questions related to your eTA application: discussion forums such as Thorn Tree and, in particular, the Canada forum at TripAdvisor are already full of threads on precisely this topic. I will structure this information based on generic questions which address the topics which seem to be coming up most frequently online.

 

Warning: Avoid online agencies selling assistance with the eTA application process. The government of Canada website, which has .gc.ca in the URL, only charges $7 for the application. (28/07/16)

Discussion forums are full of rip-off stories and hassles. Check out this thread, for example, on TripAdvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g153339-i49-k9522033-Canadian_eta_beware_of_scams-Canada.html.

As I noted, government of Canada websites end with .gc.ca. Anything else, especially .com, and it’s not an official government site but something else – such as a profit-making company. For the record, the cost of an eTA application directly through the government website is $7. ‘Nuff said. I hope… Here’s the URL for the government’s site with a link to the TA application page, amonf other resources on the eTA   http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp If you’re wondering, the “cic” in this case means Citizenship and Immigration Canada, a department of the federal government.

Do I need to apply for an eTA during the leniency period? (28/07/16)

The official word from CIC is “yes,” but it will be very interesting to hear any first-hand reports from travellers who arrive without having started the application process. Please add your experience in the comments below!

Here’s what the CIC says on the matter, from http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=1235&top=16 (accessed 28/07/16, 10:03 am Tokyo time):

(Note that what they do not explain is whether a flight agent or border officer can and will check to see that an application has been made, if still pending)

Do I really need an eTA to fly to or transit through Canada since there is a leniency period?

Yes, visa-exempt foreign nationals are expected to have an eTA to fly to or transit through Canada.

However, until September 29, 2016, you can board your flight without an eTA, as long as you have appropriate travel documents such as a valid passport. During this leniency period, border services officers can let you enter the country as long as you meet the other requirements to enter Canada.

Before you travel to Canada—even if it is when you check in for your flight—you can apply for an eTA using any device with an internet connection, including a mobile phone. It takes just a few minutes to complete the form. All you need to apply is a passport, a credit card, and an email address.

In most cases, the eTA will be granted within minutes of applying and will be electronically linked to your passport. Once approved, an eTA is valid for five years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. You can make multiple visits to Canada with a valid eTA. It is best to get an eTA as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, this explanation, like several others connected to the eTA, uses ambiguous language: What does it mean, exactly, to say that travellers are “expected” to have an etA, even during the leniency period? If it is essential to at least start the application process before arriving in Canada, why not simply say so? For example, the same condition could be spelled out more clearly by stating “Yes, visa-exempt foreign nationals must have applied for an eTA to fly to or transit through Canada.” Here, as on some other pages, ambiguous word choice is creating confusion about what is required of travllers during the leniency period.

Note that this page is part of a larger Help Centre which provides the CIC’s official answer to this and a bevy of related questions at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/results-by-topic.asp?st=16.7 (accessed 28 July, 2016 10:08 am Tokyo time)

How long does it take to receive an eTA? (28/07/16)

This is one of the most variable, and therefore frustrating aspects of the experience for travellers. CIC claims a turnaround time of “a confirmation within minutes” in “most cases” (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=1063&top=16). In other cases, such as when additional documentation is required, you should expect an email with next steps within 72 hours (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=1084&top=16). However, the actual processing time seems to vary widely: on this discussion thread on TripAdvisor “(eTA Application” https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g153339-i49-k9318890-o110-ETA_Application-Canada.html) some applicants are reporting wait times of a few weeks to as long as a month – though ultimately successful!

 

Can I still travel to Canada if approval for my eTA is pending? (29/07/16)

Yes. This question appears to have a blissfully straightforward answer: the leniency period seems to have been created to meet just this case. Hence the wording

Until September 29, 2016, travellers who do not have an eTA can board their flight, as long as they have appropriate travel documents, such as a valid passport. During this leniency period, border services officers can let travellers arriving without an eTA into the country, as long as they meet the other requirements to enter Canada. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/results-by-topic.asp?st=16.7

Do Canada and the US share visa and travel permit info? (28/07/16)

The answer, somewhat surprisingly, appears to be yes. I quote from a Citizenship and Immigration Backgrounder online at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/backgrounders/2012/2012-12-13.asp (accessed 28 July, 2016 9:22 am Tokyo time):

The adoption of the Immigration Information Sharing Treaty enables our two countries to share systematically information from third-country nationals who apply for a visa or permit to travel to either country…

When a third-country national applies to Canada for a visa or a permit, or claims asylum, Canada will send an automated request for data to the United States. The request will contain limited information, such as name and date of birth in the case of biographic sharing, or an anonymous fingerprint in the case of biometric sharing. If the identity matches that on a previous application, immigration information may be shared, such as whether the person has previously been refused a visa or removed from the other country. All information shared as part of the initial request will be automatically purged from U.S. systems regardless of whether a match has been found.

The same process would apply in reverse when a third-country national applies to the U.S. for a visa or claims asylum.

Can I travel to Canada anyway during the leniency period if my eTA has been refused? (28/07/16)

Apparently, no. Here’s the word from the Citizenship and immigration Canada page www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp… (accessed 28 July, 2016 10:08 am Tokyo time) on the status of refused eTA seekers during the leniency period:

“If your application was refused, you should not plan or undertake any travel to Canada, even during the leniency period. If you decide to travel to Canada with a refused eTA during the leniency period, you may experience delays or be prevented from entering the country.

We encourage you to reapply for an eTA only once you have addressed the reason(s) leading to the refusal of your application.”

That “may experience delays” at first sounds encouraging, but I wouldn’t want to arrive just to be turned back at the border. Under the circumstances, I would not travel to Canada during the leniency period if my application were refused unless it were a dire emergency: a serious family crisis or the like. Just my toonie.

 

Why might my eTA application be refused? (28/07/16)

a brief overview of reasons for inadmissibility: cic.gc.ca/english/…index.asp (accessed 28 July, 2016 10:42 am Tokyo time)

a more detailed description: cic.gc.ca/english/…who.asp (accessed 28 July, 2016 10:42 am Tokyo time)

 

Does an eTA guarantee entry to Canada? (29/07/16)

This topic, more than any other, seems to exercise some of the regular members of online discussion forums. The problem, the confusion, seems to stem from the variety of terms being used in different places and times by people, with varying degrees of rigour as to their literal vs. connotative meanings. Thus, an eTA is an “authorization to travel,” meaning you have permission to board an airplane to travel to Canada. It is also at times called an “entry requirement”, and while this seems straightforward I believe what is meant is that you require an eTA to board an airplane, which is the first step in the entry process to Canada by air. At this level, the vexed forum discussions seem rather pedantic…

Of more concern is cases where travellers hope that a successful eTA application will over-ride conditions which previously prevented travel to Canada such as a criminal conviction.  THIS DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE THE CASE. Think of it this way: an eTA will get you to the stage of an interview with a border services officer at the airport in Canada. However, in that interview you must still satisfy all the conditions previously in place for admission to Canada. If you were barred from entry before because of an issue such as a criminal conviction, you will likely be barred again – that hasn’t changed. What HAS changed is that now you must prove you qualify to be interviewed for possible admission before you even arrive in Canada. Hope that helps…

Media and Other Sources of Ongoing Interest

Travel discussion forums have lit up with the topic of the eTA, especially as frustrated and confused travellers have started to run into problems with the application process. Two discussion forums which I participate in and have threads on the eTA are Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, and TripAdvisor.

Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Canada Forum https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/americas-canada/canada has some discussion on specific aspects of the eTA application process, such as on paying fees and juggling passports for dual citizens.

TripAdvisor’s Canada Travel Forum https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g153339-i49-Canada.html has been extremely active on the subject of the eTA, and continues to have several threads with sometimes quite heated exchanges on many aspects of the eTA. There’s some useful information here, from people who have researched the topic as well as from – a hopefully growing number of – people who have shared their first-hand experience.

“Canadian government ‘very concerned’ as fake eTA websites scam hapless travellers for 17 times the cost”   Scam Alert: fake eTA websites (National Post; July 17)   http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-government-very-concerned-as-fake-eta-websites-scam-hapless-travellers

“Canada’s New Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) Procedure: Obtain an eTA Before You Fly…But No Enforcement Yet”   eTA’s “soft deadline” (Lexology.com, legal newsfeed service; from April 11, 2016)  http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=a3c76d4b-b7a9-44bf-ac87-ae970045cb82

 

 

Upper Berg Lake Trail

Big “S” Scenery in the Canadian Rockies: this is what we came for!

Berg Lake
Berg Lake

The upper Berg Lake Trail runs from about the  Emperor Falls at kilometre 16 campground to Robson Pass campground at kilometre 23. From there, days trails continue on to Mumm Basin, the famous Snowbird Pass, and other routes – including into neighbouring Jasper National Park and points further afield.

The scenery along the upper Trail, in the Rocky Mountain subalpine zone at about 1600 metres elevation is what brought us here in the first place: glacier-fed lakes, river flats, subalpine forests of pine and spruce and, higher up, alpine meadows of glacier-scoured rock and wildflowers, all presided over by the inscrutable Emperor’s Face of Mount Robson and haunted by grizzly, caribou, mountain lion, and mountain goat: this is what brought us here in the first place, two middle-aged backpackers, one  of us camping for the first time, in the cold and the rain and the bugs and the truly disgusting freeze-dried food…

The trail itself is fine: well traveled and mostly easy to follow although sometimes requiring a wary eye for rock cairns. There’s a bit of up and down here, but no serious gain or loss in altitude until you reach the Valley of a Thousand Falls, and suddenly everything changes…

Other posts in the Berg Lake Trail series on Exit Booted

Berg Lake

Berg Lake Trail, Mount Robson Provincial Park B.C.

berglake.jpgOn a backpacking trip to one of the most photogenic places in Canada, my favourite picture… so far! Still selecting and editing pictures on my computer… more to come.

Check out more pictures on Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/tokyoaaron/?hl=en

Or follow the story as I continue to post it on Exit Booted   https://exitbooted.wordpress.com/tag/berg-lake-trail/

Berg Lake Trail Pics on Instagram!

Pics now on Instagram!

berglakebyair.jpg

Someone has created an app to allow uploads to Instagram from Lightoom! Thanks, someone! I’ve inaugurated my Instagram account with an ongoing selection of the very best pictures from my recent backpacking trip on the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park. Drop on by for a gander @ https://www.instagram.com/tokyoaaron/?hl=en

Berg Lake Trail #3: Backcountry Campsites

Accessible backpacking and backcountry camping on the Berg Lake Trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Robson Pass Campground

I dunno: maybe it’s because I originally hail from the relative  flatlands of southern Ontario, or because I do most of my mountain trekking as day trips or by staying at huts. Maybe it’s because the pictures I’ve seen of the area look so… remote, and on top of that are haunted by the icon of mountain wilderness, the grizzly bear. In any case, for these reasons and more I was a little concerned about taking R. on her first camping trip to such a wild-seeming locale – especially given the persistent rain that has been uncharacteristically falling in the Rockies this season.

No worries. Despite its designation as wilderness camping, the facilities at the seven campgrounds along the Berg lake Trail were consistently in good repair and user-friendly for newbies and mountain men alike. The Robson Pass site, where we camped the first night, had a simple, open-but-roofed day use shelter for getting out of the rain and drying clothes and equipment, a communal fireplace and picnic tables under a tarp, outhouses, access to water, and bear-proof food lockers. The tent pads were a little close compared to what I’m used to in wilderness parks such as Frontenac and Algonquin back in Ontario, but this had the advantage of alleviating some of the bear fear of camping in grizzly country. As it turned out, there were enough people on the trail and in the campgrounds along the way that our bear terror was kept to a respectable level of alertness rather than trip-ruining paranoia.

One other – controversial? – advantage to backcountry camping on the Berg Lake Trail for time-pressed adventurers is helicopter access: a couple of times a week, Robson Helimagic flies daytrippers and campers into Robson Pass, near the last campground on the Berg Lake Trail. R. and I were on a tight schedule this year, and wouldn’t have been able to do the hikes in and out and still make our flight back to Tokyo. Besides, as I mention in the first post in this series, slowly flying through the mountains in a glass-bubble helicopter cockpit is an awesome experience! Just saying…

More information about camping on the Berg Lake Trail can be found online at

Berg Lake Trail Info http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/mt_robson/berg.html

Trail Map http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/mt_robson/berg_lake.pdf

Other posts in this series:

Trail #1: by Air   https://exitbooted.wordpress.com/2016/07/24/berg-lake-trail-1-by-air/

Trail: Mumm Basin   https://exitbooted.wordpress.com/2016/07/24/berg-lake-trail-2-mumm-basin/

Berg Lake Trail #2: Mumm Basin

Mumm Basin Scenic Viewpoint on the Berg Lake Trail from Robson Pass, Mount Robson Provincial Park B.C.

Mumm Basin
Berg Lake

It’s a bit of a scramble – apparently about 300 metres/900 feet up – from Robson Pass (1649 metres/5410 feet) on a steep trail to a glacial, cirque-like meadow, a cave, and Toboggan Falls, and great views of Mumm Basin, Robson Glacier, and the iconic view of Berg Lake.  We did the shorter 7km loop to Berg Lake.

Also view Part 1: by Air.

 

 

 

Berg Lake Trail #1: by Air

Berg Lake Trail, Mount Robson Provincial Park, B.C.

Berg Lake Trail by Air
Berg Lake Trail by Air

This July, R. and I spent two nights backpacking the Berg Lake Trail, from Robson Pass to the trailhead 22 kilometres away. Because we were on such a tight schedule, we flew into Robson Pass with Robson Helimagic. This first set of pictures is from that flight. Itt was my first time in a helicopter, and all I can say is… woohoo! Loved all 10 minutes of it. Of course, it took us two days to hike out what took ten minutes to fly in… just saying. We took pictures all the way, so more posts to follow…