The federal government has moved to meet requirements of a major border security deal with the U.S., by implementing pre-screening of travellers from countries that don’t require a visa to visit Canada.
Beginning next year, visitors from countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, France and Chile will have to apply in advance for an electronic travel authorization before they board a flight to Canada. However, enrollment for the program begins as early as August 2015.
In February 2011 Canada and the U.S. signed the Beyond the Border Action Plan, which has three significant changes affecting travellers to Canada, including the electronic travel authorization.
The new measure was announced in 2014 and the government introduced the legislative amendments earlier this month and announced this week that the eTA will come become mandatory as of March 2016.
U.S. citizens are exempt. Last year, 7,055 people were denied entry to Canada when they got off the plane.
Travelers from the countries that will be affected will have to fill out the online form for Citizenship and Immigration with passport and background information. The process includes an electronic risk assessment and verification of the information provided against international enforcement databases.
Airlines will have to provide passenger information to Canadian immigration authorities prior to boarding in the country of origin. Anyone who requires an eTA and does not have one at check-in will not be allowed to board the flight.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Kevin Menard, “The ETA system is being implemented as quickly as possible, taking into account the operational and technical requirements of airlines, the feedback we have received from Canada’s tourism industry, legal developments in Europe, as well as lessons learned from the United States and Australia, which have both implemented similar systems.”
Prior to the legislative change, the Canadian Bar Association raised questions about what criteria would be used for refusing an eTA, and whether applicants would be able to appeal decisions.
“The new system should adhere to its stated purpose of being a basic screen of passengers, rather than becoming a new visa program,” said the chair of the bar’s immigration law section.
The Beyond the Border Action Plan includes two other significant changes.
Information sharing between the two countries will expand exponentially on visa applications and admissibility decisions, biometric information, immigration status and any previous refusals or admissibility decision and related information.
Canada also committed to having an exit tracking system in place by the end of June last year. No such system is in place.