What is the difference between an eTA reference and application number?

Published on: May 26, 2019 | Tags: eTA Reference Number, eTA Application Number


Canada eTA applications should be aware of the differences between an eTA reference and eTA application number. Each number is related to a particular processing stage of an eTA application. This article provides information on each type of number, as well as explains the differences between the two numbers, and how they are to be used based on the processing stage and status of an eTA application.

What is an eTA reference number?

An eTA reference number is a 10 character alphanumeric string, starting with the letter ‘V’ and then followed by nine digits. For example, the reference number V903001111 could be a possible eTA reference number. The 9 digits are not randomized, as the sequence increments per applicant as the number of eTA applicants increase throughout time. The eTA reference number is assigned upon eTA application submission.

What is an eTA application number?

Similarly, an eTA application is also a 10 character alphanumeric string, yet it starts with the letter ‘J’ and is followed by nine digits. An example of a possible eTA application number would be J910151234. The eTA application number is also assigned according to the sequence of applications that have been submitted throughout time.

What’s the difference between the two?

The most important difference between the two is that an eTA application number is only issued to applicants who have an eTA approved. An eTA reference number is generated for every applicant, and remains associated to an application, regardless of if the application is approved or denied. Another difference is that the numerical sequence varies as not all eTA applications are approved, thus the total number of existing eTA reference numbers should always greater than the total number of existing eTA application numbers.

Which number do I use when an eTA application is approved?

For approved eTA applications, you should use the eTA application number to check your eTA status. You can also use your eTA application number when checking the system, although it would be less relevant given you have an approved eTA. If your eTA application is expired, you will be notified via email as well as on the eTA status checking tool.

Which number do I use to reference a denied eTA application?

Denied eTA applications will not be assigned an eTA application number. Thus, when contacting IRCC or confirming the status of a denied application, you should use the eTA reference number.

Which number do I use when an eTA application has just been submitted, is still pending or in processing?

Canada eTA applications that are still in processing, pending or have not yet received a decision, can be accessed using the eTA reference number. Please note you cannot edit an edit after the application has been paid for and submitted.


Knowing the difference between an eTA application and eTA reference number will be useful when communicating with IRCC regarding the status of your application as well as checking the eTA status online. It’s also helpful to keep a record of both numbers for accessing your eTA application in the future in case you are requested to provide information on previously submitted eTA applications.


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