A new scheme became mandatory last Thursday. But it seems few knew about these new visa rules for Canada and it’s already caught people out.
As of 10 November, anyone travelling to Canada (except Canadian and US citizens, and those with a valid Canadian visa), will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), whether you’re flying there or just transiting through.
Much like the US visa waiver scheme, the process is simple and can be done online in a matter of minutes for a fee of $7 Canadian Dollars, less than £5 at the current rate.
Provided all is well, you should get your clearance to fly within 72 hours, sometimes in as little as five minutes.
Caught out by the new visa rules for Canada
Now, this isn’t a sudden response to the US presidential election result – it’s been planned for some time and actually came into force earlier in the year, but was only made mandatory on Thursday.
Even so, several people have already been caught out because they hadn’t heard about it.
Last Saturday, comedian and broadcaster, Robin Ince was travelling from Heathrow to Toronto for a charity gig hosted by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, when he first found out about the new rules at check-in.
As advised by his airline, Air Canada, he quickly applied for the eTA on his mobile phone, but while waiting for the documents to come through for what would have been a 16-hour round trip, he missed his flight. By the time the eTA came through, 11 hours later, he’d missed making it in time for the gig.
Sad to say that after my five hours at Heathrow, I have to surrender. No eTa, no trip to Toronto. SORRY.
— Robin Ince (@robinince) November 12, 2016
As Robin told Which?: ‘I wasn’t the only one caught out. Quite a few [had the same issue] when I was at the check-in desk. The lucky ones got permission within a few minutes of going online and filling in the form, others didn’t. Air Canada told me that some people had to stay in hotels and delay flights by a day while they waited for their eTAs to come through.’
So what can you do?
If you’re already at the airport, get online and apply as quickly as you can. Although it can take up to 72 hours to get an eTA, you might be lucky and get it quicker than that, so you would still be able to make your flight or another one the same day.
As a gesture of goodwill, your airline may be able to move you onto a later flight as you wait for the documents to arrive, but this could end up costing you.
And with the peak Christmas travel period fast approaching, it’s going to be a lot more difficult and expensive to move people around, not to mention the impact on connecting flights and other bookings.
It’s also always worth checking on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website for travel advice, both when you book and closer to your flight. It’ll give you all the information you need to ensure there are no hiccups to your journey.
What are your rights?
Unfortunately, in this situation you have few rights, as it’s down to you to ensure you’ve checked you have the correct documentation before you fly. It’s worth seeing whether your insurance policy covers such a circumstance, but depending on the terms and conditions, you may find it’s up to you to foot any costs.
Are you travelling soon? Did you know about the new visa rules for Canada? Has your airline/travel agent sent you any information to warn you about it?