July 27, 2017 – Visitors to Canada could be paying up to 17 times the required amount for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) as unscrupulous scammers set up alternative websites.
The sites are often designed to resemble the official government portal, but instead of charging $7 for the Canada eTA, they charge anywhere up to $120.
The eTA became mandatory on November 10, 2016, meaning all air travellers from visa-exempt countries required the authorization before boarding a flight.
But fraudsters quickly saw an opportunity to make some money by tricking travellers in to thinking they were obtaining the eTA by official means.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has received hundreds of complaints about sites charging exorbitant amounts for the authorization.
The problem is the sites are not doing anything illegal. They do not claim to be the official Canadian government website and often contain small print disclaimers pointing out they are a private entity.
It means the government cannot take any action, while there are also concerns travellers are handing over personal information to private companies with no guarantee on how it will be used.
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The implementation of the eTA suffered serious teething problems, with confusion over who needed one and travellers frequently turning up to airports without the authorization.
As part of the implementation, a new requirement for Canadian dual citizens meant they could only fly into Canada using their Canadian passport. The change has seen a surge in Canadian passport applications. Canadian missions in Australia, the UK, France and Germany say the increase in application numbers has caused processing times to double in some cases.
The dual citizenship issue was one of a number of problems with the eTA roll-out, for which the federal government faced severe criticism.
The argument was that not enough was done to promote the new requirement, with travellers turning up at airports only to be told they could not fly.
A special measure introduced to assist dual citizens remains available as a result of the eTA problems. It was due to expire in January 2017.
Canada eTA Special Authorization: Conditions
To apply for special authorization, you must:
- have a flight to Canada that leaves in less than 10 days,
- have a valid passport from a visa-exempt country,
- have previously received a certificate of Canadian citizenship, or
- held a Canadian passport in the past, or
- you were granted Canadian citizenship after having been a permanent resident of Canada.
You can apply for special authorization here.
The measure allows dual citizens to apply for special authorization to travel on their non-Canadian passport. The authorization lasts for four days and can only be applied for if you are flying in the next 10 days.
A further requirement means Canadian permanent residents must prove their status before flying. If they cannot, the figures suggest they are choosing to renounce their status on the spot.
In the last 18 months, more than 2,500 Britons have renounced their status, compared with a 2015 figure of 305. Some 571 Germans have done the same, compared to a few more than 150 in 2015. In Australia, 509 renounced their status in the last year-and-a-half, compared to 30 in 2015. The French are at it too, with 775 in 18 months compared to 117 in 2015.
Canadian permanent residents are exempt from the eTA requirement. However, problems begin when permanent residents arrive at an airport without their PR card, with an expired PR card, or to find their status has lapsed for another reason, such as not spending enough time in Canada.
Numbers Renouncing Canadian Permanent Resident Status
|Last 18 months||2015|
When this situation arises, the only way the person can travel that day is to renounce their permanent residence status and apply for the eTA as a visitor. And it seems there are thousands taking this option.
Do I need an Electronic Travel Authorization?
You need an eTA if you are travelling to Canada by air from a visa-exempt country. A full list of visa-exempt countries is available here.
The following are exempt from requiring an eTA:
- Those who have already obtained a valid visa to enter Canada.
- Anyone entering by land or sea.
- Armed Forces visiting Canada on official duty.
- Students who have a valid Canadian study permit dated on or after August 1, 2015.
- Flight crew, civil aviation inspectors, accident investigators.
- Temporary Foreign Workers who have a valid Canadian work permit date on or after August 1, 2015.
- French citizens who live in and are travelling from St. Pierre and Miquelon.
- Persons entering from the United States or St. Pierre and Miquelon, while holding valid status in Canada.
- Accredited diplomats.
- Canadian citizens and dual citizens (provided you are travelling on a Canadian passport)
- Canadian permanent residents (you need your PR card or point of entry documentation)
- US citizens (US permanent residents, or green card holders, DO require an eTA when travelling by air)
Special Case: Brazilian, Romanian and Bulgarian Nationals
As of May 1, 2017, Brazilians, Romanians and Bulgarians who have held a Canada visa in the last 10 years, or currently hold a US visa, do not require a visa to travel to Canada by air. Citizens of all three countries do need an eTA to travel to Canada by air. Citizens of all three countries still require a Canada visa to cross the border by car, bus, train or boat.
Special Case: Mexican Nationals
Mexicans were granted the right to travel to Canada without a visa as of December 1, 2016. They therefore require an eTA to travel by air. Mexicans with a visa still valid from before December 1, 2016 do not require an eTA.
How do I get an Electronic Travel Authorization?
You can apply for an eTA through the Canadian federal government website.
Before you apply, you will need:
- Valid passport
- As a US permanent resident, you can apply with:
- Valid US refugee travel document (I-571)
- Valid permit to re-enter the US (I-327)
- Credit card to pay the $7 fee
- Valid email address
To apply for an eTA click here.
When should I apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization?
The Canadian government advises you to apply as soon as you know your travel itinerary.
However, an eTA can be obtained at the last minute via a smartphone. All you need is an internet connection. The email authorization often only takes a few minutes to come through.
There is no requirement to print an eTA. It is electronically linked to your passport or travel document.
How long is an Electronic Travel Authorization valid for?
An eTA can be valid for five years, or until your passport or travel document expires.
Interested employers: Kindly contact us here to receive further information.
Interested candidates: Find out whether you qualify to Canada by completing our free on-line evaluation. We will provide you with our evaluation within 1-2 business days.
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