eTA Regulations Amended

On April 13, 2017 the Government of Canada introduced several regulatory amendments to the Electronic Travel Authorization (“eTA”) regime.  The changes to the eTA program came into effect on May 3, 2017.  Before reading about the changes, those who are unfamiliar with the eTA should read my previous posts on this topic titled ETA Regulations Announced and Electronic Travel Authorizations.

In brief, the eTA is an electronic document requirement for visa-exempt air travellers to Canada, excluding citizens of the United States. Travellers who are visa-exempt must apply online for an eTA by providing basic biographical, passport and personal information. An automated system then compares this information against immigration and enforcement databases to determine if the traveller is admissible to Canada. The vast majority of applications are approved automatically, with a small percentage referred to an officer for review.

It is similar to ESTA in the United States.

Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania

Effective immediately, citizens of Brazil, Bulgaria, and Romania no longer need to apply for temporary resident visas to visit Canada and can instead apply for eTAs if they have held a temporary resident visa at any time during the 10-year period immediately preceding the day on which they make their application or hold a valid United States nonimmigrant visa on the day on which they make their application.

However, Brazilians, Bulgarians and Romanians will still generally need a visitor visa if driving to Canada from the U.S. or arriving by bus, train or boat, including a cruise ship from Alaska (even if someone is not leaving the ship).

This requirement for a visa will be lifted for Bulgarians and Romanians on December 1, 2017.

There is no indication when it will be lifted for Brazilians.

As remains the case for all people who require visas to visit Canada, Brazilians, Bulgarians and Romanians will not need a visa to return to Canada by land if they travel to the United States, and only the United States, and return to Canada within the period authorized by their initial entry into Canada, which is typically six months but can be longer or shorter in certain circumstances.

Automatic eTA Applications

The regulatory amendments also clarify that work and study permit applications, and work and study permit renewal applications, will also be considered eTA applications. This will save many foreign nationals from having to submit a separate eTA application.

Ineligibility 

Previously, an officer could only cancel an eTA if the officer determined that a person was inadmissible to Canada or part of an irregular arrival to Canada.

Now, a foreign national who holds an eTA becomes ineligible to hold such an authorization to enter Canada if, following its issuance, the person either:

  1. becomes the subject of a declaration that they were part of an irregular arrival to Canada;
  2. is issued a Temporary Resident Permit to overcome an inadmissibility to Canada;
  3. becomes the subject of an admissibility report;
  4. becomes the subject of a removal order;
  5. withdraws an application to enter Canada at a port of entry;
  6. is refused a temporary resident visa becomes it is determined that they are unlikely to leave Canada by the end of their authorized stay;
  7. is refused a work permit because it is determined that they are unlikely to leave Canada by the end of their authorized stay;
  8. is refused a study permit because it is determined that they are unlikely to leave Canada by the end of their authorized stay;
  9. for citizens of Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania it is discovered that they did not actually hold an American visa or that they had a previous Canadian visa.

In any of these circumstances, an officer may cancel the person’s eTA.

 

 

 

 


Canada Lifts Visa Requirement Against Mexico; Bulgaria, Romania, Brazil Soon to Follow

On December 1, 2016, the Government of Canada lifted the requirement that Mexican nationals obtain a temporary resident visa (a “TRV”) prior to travelling to Canada.  

As with all TRV exempt travellers, excluding Americans, Mexican nationals are still required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (an “ETA”) prior to boarding aircraft to travel to Canada.  
The Government of Canada has also committed to gradually expanding eTA eligibility in 2017 to citizens of Bulgaria, Romania, and Brazil. 

Electronic Travel Authorisation
 
The eTA is a new electronic document requirement for visa-exempt air travellers to Canada, excluding citizens of the United States. Travellers apply online for an eTA by providing basic biographical, passport and personal information, and includes questions about their health, criminal history, and travel history.

An automated system then compares this information against immigration and enforcement databases to determine if the traveller is admissible to Canada. The vast majority of applications are approved automatically, with a small percentage referred to an officer for review.  Typical reasons for a further review include a previous denial of admission to Canada, a criminal record, or a pending permanent residence application.

The cost to apply for an eTA is $7.00. Applicants must have a valid passport, credit card, and e-mail address.

An eTA is only required for travel to Canada by air. It is not required for travel to Canada by land or sea.

Mexican citizens who already have a valid TRV do not need to apply for an eTA while their TRV is valid.

Future Visa Lifting for Brazil, Romania, and Bulgaria

The Government of Canada has also committed to expanding eTA eligibility to travellers from Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania.

Starting on May 1, 2017, Brazillian, Romanian, and Bulgarian citizens who have held a Canadian temporary resident visa at any time during the last 10 years, or who, at the time of application, hold a valid nonimmigrant visa from the United States, will no longer need a TRV to visit Canada, and can instead apply for an eTA.

Starting December 1, 2017, the eTA eligibility will be expanded to include all Romanian and Bulgarian citizens.

More information about the lifting of the visa requirement for Mexican citizens, including the specific regulatory changes and the Government of Canada’s cost-benefit analysis, can be found here.

More information about the future lifting of the visa requirement for Brazilian, Bulgarian, and Romanian citizens, including the specific regulatory changes and the Government of Canada’s cost-benefit analysis, can be found here.

More information about how to apply for an eTA can be found here.

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about these changes.


Electronic Travel Authorization

On August 1, 2015, the Government of Canada launched the Electronic Travel Authorization (“eTA”) program.  The program is similar to the United States of America’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Implementation of the eTA program will allow Canada to pre-screen eTA-required travellers to ensure that they are admissible to Canada.

As of March 15, 2016, most foreign nationals who are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa (“TRV“) to enter Canada will be required to obtain an eTA before they travel to Canada by air.  A list of countries and territories whose citizens will need an eTA to travel to Canada can be found here.  As such, it will no longer be the case that residents of these countries can simply purchase tickets and board planes to travel to Canada.  Rather, an individual will be unable to board a commercial airline to Canada unless the airline first confirms that the individual possesses an eTA through the Canada Border Services Agency’s new Interactive Advance Passenger Information system.

Americans are exempted from the requirement to obtain an eTA.

The eTA is an online application on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC“) website.  Applicants will need to provide their passport details, personal details, contact information, and answer background questions regarding their health, criminal history, and travel history. CIC anticipates that it will automatically process most eTA applications within minutes. When an eTA application cannot be automatically approved, it will be referred to a CIC officer for a manual review.  Officers can request additional documents, and, where required, further the application to a Canadian visa office abroad for further processing, including a possible interview.

The eTA will be valid for five years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever occurs sooner. The cost to apply is $7.00.

The process can be summarized in this internal CIC chart below, obtained through an Access to Information request.

A201511338


The Beyond the Border Initiative – ETA, Information Sharing, Tracking Exits

[The following is a slightly edited (to include links) version of an article that I wrote for The Canadian Immigrant.]

In February 2011, Canada and the United States agreed to the Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competiveness. More commonly known as the Beyond the Border Action Plan, the effect of the agreement was to strengthen co-operation and, in some cases, harmonize Canadian and American immigration practices.

The Government of Canada has begun enthusiastically implementing the terms of the Beyond the Border Action Plan, and will in 2014-2015 introduce three significant changes to Canadian immigration legislation that will impact almost everyone who enters Canada.

Electronic travel authorization

People who wish to visit Canada generally fall into one of two categories:  those who need to apply for and obtain temporary resident visas prior to arriving in Canada; and those who can arrive at Canadian ports of entry without first obtaining a visa. This will change in April 2015, when Canada implements the electronic travel authorization (“eTA”) system.

All foreign nationals who are exempt from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa will instead need to obtain online authorization before they fly to Canada.  This includes Europeans, Australians, Japanese, Koreans, etc. Citizens from the United States, however, are exempt.

The eTA application process will be online via the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website. Applicants will be required to enter biographic, passport and background information, which may affect admissibility to Canada. An electronic system will then perform an examination that includes a risk assessment and a verification of the information provided in the application against enforcement databases. The Government of Canada expects that the majority of applications will be approved within minutes.

Airlines will have to provide passenger information to Canadian immigration authorities prior to boarding. If an individual who has not yet received an eTA attempts to check in, then the airline will be informed that the person is prohibited from travelling to Canada.

Sharing information

As I have previously written in Canadian Immigrant, biometric-based immigration information sharing with the United States will be implemented in 2014.

Canada and the United States will use the shared information to support each government’s assessment of visa applications, examinations of admissibility, and to generally ensure accuracy and reliability. Where a biometric match is established, the information that may be shared includes the immigration status of the individual, reasons for previous refusals, previous admissibility decision and general information relevant to admissibility.

In other words, whenever you apply to enter the United States, you should assume that CIC will know the details.

Tracking exits

Despite having numerous immigration programs that contain residency requirements, Canada has not collected exit information to date. As such, as part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan, Canada has committed that by June 30, 2014, it will systematically collect and reconcile entry and exit information. Airlines will be required to provide passenger information to the Government of Canada. The United States will soon be sharing its entry information with Canada, which will reconcile it to track exits.

Tracking exits will allow CIC to readily identify persons who overstay (and who previously overstayed) their visa. It will allow them to track the departure of persons subject to removal orders. It will immediately verify that residency requirements are being met by permanent residents.

Big impact
These changes are going to impact everyone who enters Canada. The amount of personal information that is going to be collected and shared across governments will be immense. Travellers have frequently liked to compare and contrast the entry and exist procedures of Canada and the United States.  By the end of 2015, they may find that it is almost exactly the same.


Impacts of Budget 2013 on Immigration

The Government of Canada has released its budget for 2013 (“Budget 2013″).  Budget 2013 contains several announcements of changes to immigration programs which the Government of Canada will introduce this year, including (my editorial comments in maroon):

  • Providing $42-million in funding to support enhanced program capacity within the Temporary Resident program, and giving the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (the “Minister“) the ability to set fees in a timely and efficient manner.  (Budget 2013 actually refers to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada as the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.  I’m not sure if this means that the Department is about to change its name or if it is a typo.)
  • Providing $44-million in funding over two years to improve the processing of Citizenship applications, and allowing the Minister to set fees in a timely and efficient manner. (This is fantastic.  Processing times have ballooned to more than four years in many cases.)
  • Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to restrict the identification of non-official languages as job requirements when hiring through the Temporary Foreign Worker process.  (Not sure about this.. in a global economy some positions require fluency in languages other than English or French.) 
  • Introduce processing fees for Labour Market Opinion applications. (I’ve never understood why this was free.  In 2012 Service Canada processed 112,897 LMO applications for free.  An application fee of say $100 would have saved taxpayers over $10-million.) 
  • Increase the recruitment efforts that employers must make to hire Canadians before they will be eligible to apply for temporary foreign workers (presumably this means Labour Market Opinions), including increasing the length and reach of advertising requirements.
  • Assist employers who employ foreign workers to find ways to ensure that they have a plan to transition to a Canadian workforce over time. (Does making those foreign workers permanent residents count?)
  • Affirming that the Federal Skilled Worker Program will reopen this year with an updated points system that gives more weight to language proficiency and youth. 
  • Affirming that the Government will launch the new Start-Up Visa this year.
  • Confirming the Government’s intention to create an “Expression of Interest” immigration management system which will allow employers, provinces, and territories to select skilled immigrants from a pool of applicants.
  • Introduce an Immigrant Investor pilot program (no details announced).
  • Enhancing Canada’s capability to share immigration information with the United States.
  • Announcing that the new Electronic Travel Authorization system for visa-exempt foreign nationals will exclude U.S. citizens.
  • Develop an Interactive Advanced Passenger Information System to make “board/no board” decisions on all travellings flying to Canada prior to departure.
  • Establishing and coordinating entry and exit information systems with the United States, including a system where the record of land entry into one country can be utilized to establish a record of exit from the other. (The Government should also invest in installing machines at airports which can scan permanent residents’ passports so that there is an effective way of tracking time in Canada.  It never ceases to amaze me that Canada requires permanent residents to spend two-years out of five in Canada, and we don’t have a reliable way of tracking this. )

Budget 2013 can be viewed in its entirety here:

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