Published on: Aug 29, 2022
Travellers from many countries don't require visas when travelling to Canada. Instead, residents of these nations must apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization, or eTA. However, not everyone from a visa-exempt nation needs an eTA. This article provides a brief guide to Canada's eTA exemptions.
Canada's nearest neighbour provides a high percentage of its yearly visitors, both for work and leisure travel. Fortunately for these travellers, American citizens need neither a valid visa nor an eTA to enter Canada. They simply need to show their US passport. However, permanent residents of the US do need to get an eTA if visiting Canada by air.
People who travel to Canada as part of their work in the travel industry or on official business are exempt from eTA requirements. This group includes flight crew and other individuals who work in the aviation industry, such as aircraft inspectors or accident investigators. These travellers are exempt from the eTA requirement as long as they are working while in Canada.
In addition, diplomats who have received accreditation from the Canadian government are exempt from eTA requirements. Other foreign government personnel exempt from having to apply for eTA include members of foreign armed forces coming to Canada as part of their duties. This exemption only applies to countries named in the Visiting Forces Act.
A foreign national who has been issued a Canadian visa doesn't need to apply for an eTA to enter the country. In some cases, a foreign national who has a valid immigration status in Canada, such as an international student, tourist or temporary foreign worker, can even leave and re-enter the country without having to apply for an eTA or new visa. This only applies if the individual travelled either to the United States or to Saint Pierre and Miquelon. If the trip included any other destinations, the traveller is not exempt.
There are a number of other situations in which a foreign national may not need an eTA to enter Canada. Some of these cases apply to travellers who are only stopping in Canada on their way to another destination. For instance, foreign travellers who have permission to enter the United States are allowed to enter Canada enroute as long as their aircraft stops only to refuel. The same applies to travellers from the United States on their way to another destination. Foreign nationals who make an unscheduled stop in Canada also don't have to apply for an eTA to enter the country.
Some special programs apply in which travellers don't need to apply for an eTA to enter the country. Travellers in the Transit Without Visa program (TWOV) do not need a visa as long as they do not exit the airport's international transit area and remain in Canada for less than 24 hours. This program applies only to travellers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan or Thailand who are on their way to, or returning from, the United States. A similar program is the China Transit Program, which allows Chinese passport holders to enter Canada on their way to and from the United States as long as they travel on approved flights through approved airports.
Finally, French nationals resident in Saint Pierre and Miquelon don't need an eTA to travel to Canada. This small region of French territory in the Gulf of St Lawrence is much closer to Newfoundland than to any other part of France, and residents travel back and forth to Canada frequently. The ability to travel without eTA or visas makes this process quicker and simpler.
If you fall into any of these categories, you may be exempt from applying for an eTA before visiting Canada. If not, you'll need to apply for one -- or for the appropriate visa -- before planning your journey.