Electronic Travel Authorizations for Non-Visa Nationals PLUS Biometrics for All Visa-Nationals


The ability for people to enter Canada– including those entering for business purposes – continues to narrow. Two new programs, discussed below, will drastically change the requirements for travellers. Anyone dealing with the need to bring to Canada foreign workers or business visitors, must be aware of the new requirements, and how the programs will impact their businesses.

Electronic Travel Authorizations

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is implementing a system whereby visa exempt foreign nationals will be required to file for an Electronic Travel Authorization (“eTA”) before entering Canada. The program goes into effect August 1, 2015, but there is a grace period provided, and mandatory filing will begin on March 15, 2016. This requirement will not impact those seeking a work or study permit (as the government secures information for such cases through its existing systems), but can certainly apply to people in a business scenario, and most notably, those seeking to enter as business visitors.

In addition to the foregoing, CIC will introduce an Interactive Advance Passenger Information (IAPI) system, whereby passengers boarding an airplane will need to show that they are properly documented under the eTA system, failing which, boarding could be denied.

The eTA program will be an online system. The information sought will be less onerous than that sought in a visa application; essentially (though the exact wording has not yet been released), applicants will be required to provide information that they would otherwise be providing when arriving in Canada – typically about issues which may cause inadmissibility. An application will cost $7CDN and eTAs will be valid for 5 years, or until the passport provided expires, whichever comes first (travel must be done with the passport used in the application).

Notable exemptions from the eTA requirement are:

  • US Citizens (obviously reducing the program impact for a significant number of travellers)
  • Persons entering only as a member of a transportation crew member
  • Most persons transiting through Canada
  • (and, the Queen of England. Really!)

Note as well that US permanent residents (who are visa exempt) still require an eTA if flying to Canada.

This system generally mirrors a similar system in the United States (the Electronic System for Travel Authorization [ESTA]), and is part of a joint effort to essentially create a North American perimeter (which explains the exemptions for US Citizens entering Canada, and Canadian citizens entering the US).

Biometrics for [almost] All

Further to the above, Canada’s Prime Minister announced today that over the next 5 years, the government will begin implementing requirements that ALL visa-requiring visitors to Canada – and some non-visa nationals – obtain Biometric screenings as part of the application process. To date, biometrics have been required for nationals of only 30 countries (some examples are: Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, and Colombia). Once fully implemented, the two defined groups that will require biometrics are:

  • Anyone who requires a visa, and
  • Anyone seeking a work or study permit, whether requiring a visa or not, with the notable exceptions of US citizens


These programs heighten the need for HR personnel or others involved in business immigration matters to ensure that they are up to date on all requirements, and plan well in advance for the arrival of any foreign worker or business visitor. Failure to do so, will lead to frustration and possible refusals.

The information in this article is for general purposes only, and not intended as legal advice for any particular situation.

This post originally appeared on Kranc Associates. Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Benjamin A. Kranc

Benjamin A. Kranc is senior principal of Kranc Associates, a leading Canadian corporate immigration law firm. He has many years of experience assisting clients in connection with Canadian immigration and business issues. Ben is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as a Specialist in Immigration Law. He is also on the ‘Who’s Who Legal’ list of foremost practitioners in Canadian corporate immigration, as well as rated as AV Preeminent® in a Martindale-Hubbell peer review. Ben has spoken at numerous conferences, seminars, and information sessions – both for professional organizations and private groups – about issues in Canadian immigration law, and has also taught immigration law at Seneca College in Toronto. In addition, Ben has written extensively. He is the author of a leading text on Canadian immigration law entitled “North American Relocation Law” (Thomson Reuters) and contributing immigration author to the “The Human Resources Advisor” (First Reference Books). Ben can be contacted at (416) 977-7500 ext. 226, or bkranc@kranclaw.com.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.