Visa-waiver and Border Crossing Programs versus eTA

Crossing Canadian BorderSome frequent travellers to Canada qualify for special visa waiver programs. For example, the US visa waiver program eliminates the visa requirement for certain types of travellers if they had previously applied and received approval for Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). There are also other programs available for Australia and New Zealand visa waiver programs which are very similar to the American version in nature.

A group of special programs facilitates border crossing for frequent, low-risk and pre-approved travellers from the United States, such as CANPASS and NEXUS.

The Government of Canada recently introduced the electronic travel authorization or eTA. The new program requires certain foreign nationals obtain an eTA when entering Canada.

The bad news is that none of the visa-waiver or border crossing programs, neither with the United States or any other country,  make a foreign national exempt from obtaining eTA before coming to Canada. If you need an eTA, you have to apply for it regardless of any other programs you are already enrolled. For more information on eTA and eligibility criteria see the article: What is an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization)?

The good news is an eTA is valid for up to five years or up to the expiry of your passport, whichever comes first. The process is also pretty quick for the majority of applicants. Some people are exempt from the eTA program. See “Who Does not Need an eTA to Travel to Canada?” for more information.

We will publish some other articles about eTA soon so sign up to our newsletter or contact us for more information. You may also book an appointment for official immigration advice.

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“This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not provide legal advice nor should it be relied upon. If you have specific legal questions you should consult a lawyer. If you are looking for official immigration advice contact us.”


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