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What does eTA mean for the criminally inadmissible?
AUGUST 2016 – Last summer, Canadian Immigration began accepting applications for the then-forthcoming electronic Travel Authorization system (eTA), which subsequently launched earlier this year on March 15th. Beginning on September 30th, 2016, Canadian immigration authorities will be required to pre-screen and authorize visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling or transiting through Canada by air before they enter the country.
The system excludes United States citizens and valid Canadian visa-holders. Up until September 29th, travellers from visa-exempt countries who have not been authorized by electronic pre-screening will still be able to board their flight, provided that they have a valid passport or other travel documents.
Nancy Caron, a representative for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, says that the new system reflects Canada’s commitment to the 2011 Canada-US Beyond the Border Action Plan. After they have applied for eTA, visa-exempt visitors to Canada are automatically pre-screened according to information that they provide on the application form, which the system verifies against immigration databases. Upon their arrival in Canada, all foreign nationals authorized by electronic pre-screening will still be subject to examination by Canadian immigration agents at the border.
How do you apply for eTA?
Visa-exempt air travelers seeking to enter Canada temporarily must fill out the eTA application form online before they depart for Canada. Applicants will require the following to complete the form, which should only take a few minutes:
- internet access
- a valid email address
- a valid passport from a visa-exempt nation
- a valid credit card to pay the $7.00 CAD processing fee
If the applicant cannot complete the application electronically for reasons of physical or mental disability, they may fill out a paper application form or apply by other means.
Once granted, which usually takes a few minutes, the eTA will be electronically linked to the applicant’s passport. The authorization will remain valid for five years, or until the earliest of the following occasions, if it occurs before the end of the five-year period:
- the expiration of the applicant’s passport or other travel document
- the cancellation of the eTA
- the granting of a new eTA to the applicant
What information does the form require?
The eTA application form requires personal information and poses questions pertaining to criminality, medical issues, and immigration history. As announced by Canadian immigration authorities last year, the required information includes the following details about the applicant:
- birthplace and birthdate
- passport/travel document information
Foreign nationals from countries that require a visa are already obligated to supply the above information to the Canadian embassy or consulate before entering Canada.
From which countries do travelers to Canada require an eTA?
Citizens of the following nations will be required to apply for eTA, unless otherwise exempt:
- Antigua & Barbuda
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- South Korea
- Turks and Caicos
- United Kingdom
Who should complete the application form?
The applicant is best qualified to fill out the application. Potential visitors to Canada are permitted to designate another person or third party to complete the eTA application on their behalf, such as a travel agent, employer, or friend. However, eTA applicants are strongly advised to complete the form themselves so that they can directly provide their own information. Otherwise, it may be safe to allow a regulated Canadian immigration representative to complete the form, provided that the applicant has disclosed full, accurate information to this third party, including details about any criminality in their past.
Other third parties, such as travel agencies that book flights, may offer to complete the eTA application form as an additional service. While these third parties may have the best intentions to help travelers by taking on the responsibility of eTA application, they can unwittingly jeopardise their clients’ chances of being allowed entry to Canada. For instance, if the applicant neglects to inform the third party of a criminal conviction for a seemingly minor offence several years in the past, the applicant may encounter difficulties if and when Canadian immigration authorities become aware of their record. The applicant risks being found inadmissible to Canada on account of misrepresentation, which may lead to their being barred from the country on a longer-term basis—all for failing to disclose pertinent information on their eTA application.
What is required of criminally inadmissible individuals who wish to apply for eTA?
An individual’s record can complicate or impede their desired entry into Canada. Elsewhere on our website, you will find a general overview of criminal inadmissibility and its ramifications for visitors and immigrants to Canada. Criminal inadmissibility also has specific consequences for travelers seeking electronic Travel Authorization. Criminally inadmissible individuals, such as those who pose security risks or have a criminal conviction on their record, must provide extra information on their eTA application. They may also be requested for an interview.
In addition to having a criminal record, travelers may also be deemed inadmissible for reasons including espionage activity and membership in a terrorist organization. Allegations of war crimes or crimes against humanity may also cause inadmissibility.
Foreign nationals may additionally be deemed inadmissible to Canada due to significant health threats (such as tuberculosis or other contagious diseases) or financial issues. Those found inadmissible for these reasons may also be required to provide additional information and undergo an interview.
Objections to eTA
Back in 2015, opponents of the eTA system decried it as an initiative of the previous government to stem the tide of refugee arrivals. But since then, under Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal government, the former Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been rebranded as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, reflecting a dedicated focus on refugees.
The previous government maintained that eTA was intended to minimize the problems caused by turning away inadmissible travelers at the border. Canadian immigration officials attest that the belated detection of inadmissibility incurs significant expenses, delays, and other inconveniences for inadmissible individuals and their traveling companions, as well as the airlines and Canadian border agents.
According to official Canadian immigration statistics circulated in the media, visa-exempt foreign nationals (excluding American citizens) comprise approximately 74% of foreign air travelers to Canada. Figures made public in 2013 indicate that a total of 7,055 visa-exempt travelers who arrived at the border were deemed inadmissible to Canada.
Sources in 2015 reported that the eTA system cost taxpayers $165.7 million on account of initial upfront investment expenses and ongoing processing fees. But Canadian immigration authorities claim that these expenses will be compensated by fee revenues and the savings from no longer having to process the estimated average of 4,500 or more travelers found inadmissible to Canada.