Get Your eTA before Flying to Canada (U.S. Citizen and Canadian Citizen/Residents are exempt)

I made a very dumb mistake on my last flight to Canada. Because I have been in Canada before about 6 years ago, I thought everything is still the same as far as it comes to immigration.

Be aware, that countries can change their immigration rules at any given day. So always check the requirements to enter a foreign country. I always do that, if I am flying somewhere new where I haven’t been before.

As I said, I been to Canada before and thought “easy peasy lemon squeezy” but I was wrong. I booked a flight with Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Vancouver. There was no mention that you need any special documents to board the plane. That I found out when I checked in at the counter in Seattle.

You need an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) which you can obtain from the Canadian Government website. This is comparable to the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) which the United States uses for non-citizen to give them access.

Make sure you check the Canada website to see if you are required to get a visitor visa or if an eTA is applicable to you. It depends on what country issued your passport.

The weird part is, that the website also states that if you need a visa you don’t need an eTA. However, I had to get my work visa at the airport in Vancouver rather than at the embassy. But I get it, as I wasn’t holding a visa at the time of boarding the plane, I needed an eTA.

There are exceptions who needs an eTA if flying to Canada.

  • Canadian Citizen
  • Canadian Residents
  • Canadian Visa Holders
  • U.S. Citizen
  • … (see website)

Also, the eTA is only necessary if you enter Canada by air. You don’t need it if you drive across the border via car or train or take a ferry/cruise ship.

What do you need to get an eTA? Basically just your regular information like passport number, your flight details  (if you already have a flight), and some other personal information. However, I find it intrusive that they force you to tell what your occupation is and how much you make.

You also need to pay a small fee of $7 CAD which is fairly cheap. Most people get approved within minutes but can take several days if additional documents are required. In my case, it took over 30 minutes to get approved. As I went back to the check-in counter to check-in I was right at the cut-off time for my flight. It was one hour before departure and as I was checking bags, they wouldn’t let me board this plane anymore. I had to rebook my flight and got miss-informed by the Alaska Air rep about what flights are available but I was able to sort that out later on during a phone call with an Alaska Air rep. That’s a different story, but remember to check what you need to get into Canada.

Once you send out your eTA application you will receive an email notification that your request is being processed. You can check the status of your eTA online. This is not only helpful during the application process, but it’s also great while you already have your eTA. You can check if it’s still active and when it will expire.

Canada’s eTA is valid for 5 years or if your passport expires. Whatever comes first. After the five years, you have to get a new eTA as well after getting a new passport, even within the 5 years.

Overall everything worked out. I decided to take a flight the next day after a conversation with an airline rep. I wasted a lot of time that day for not being prepared. I thought I was, but Canada changed their immigration rules and I didn’t know about it.

Advise!

This is just a guideline, for up to date information and to see any changed rules and laws, visit the Canada.ca/eTA. You must inform yourself what fits your status and maybe contact legal advice if you are uncertain.

Warning!

Be aware that there are fake websites on the internet, stating to help you with your eTA process. They might even charge you a “service fee” and/or steal your personal information. Always make sure you are on the official website www.Canada.ca/eTA. The process is very easy and simple and you can do it yourself in a few minutes.

[Header Image: Courtesy of Canada.ca]

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