/ Travel & Leisure

Travelling to Canada? Did you know about its new visa rules?

Canada immigration

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 ÂŁ5 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.

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?


I must say it seems idiotic that whoever sells the ticket does not automatically provide a large warning sign. I am afraid the onus must be on the agent or site selling the ticket that knowing it was now mandatory they have not exhibited the duty of care one should expect.

SO who did Ince buy through?

Thanks for the swift up-date Vanessa.

It seems to me that this is analagous to a company selling you a product with an outstanding recall on it. The retailer knows [or should be expected to know by virtue of its role] but does not inform the customer.

In Robin’s case , and we do not know the name of the ticket vendor, we have a charity with one less act and his wasted time to consider.

What do Which? Legal have to say on this? Or the regulators for the travel industry. Whilst I am heavily in favour of people being responsible for their own actions this case is very much where a vendor has failed in his reasonable duty to a customer.

And apparently not just a single vendor. Naming names is the only way I know of building up a consistent picture of companies to avoid ….. perhaps we could start with your quick research ??

“Bogus” site if you wish to pay five times as much


I have posted near the top of the thread on the basis of a better chance of being read

Additionally to make it clear this applies only to air travel :
This applies to travelers arriving by plane, not to those entering Canada by land or sea. The ETA is required as soon as you are planning a trip or a simple stopover in Canada.

Think CAwiki : )

I think I only mentioned it to 4 or 5 staff and trustees yesterday. In a world of information overload and an inadequate Which? system to get to an brief but authoritative article there needs to be CAwiki. That it links to WHich? Travel et etc is but a bonus.

I realise any mention of Consumers Association seems to be an anathema to Which? however I think really they ought to acknowledge the original and owning company.

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I don’t recall having to provide much additional information when applying for our ESTAs to go to America – just the normal: full names, address, dates of birth, e-mail addresses, passport issuing authority, place of entry, intended place of residence in the USA, purpose of visit. I don’t recall any reference to criminal records, credit cards [other than using mine to pay for the ESTAs], or other personal information. I gather there could be changes in America starting next year; religion could be an extra question. Even with the extensive Homeland Security screening, entry seemed to be easy and reasonably quick. It is more difficult to get out of certain countries than to enter the USA, but that will no doubt change now.

John – The reason you did not get asked more is that they already have a stack of info on you already. Seriously. you have been profiled and deemed good. : )

However if you are a youngster without much of a track record you might be find that things are more taxing. On-line comments etc can come back to bite you.

One thing not appreciated is that your social contacts – Twitter, Facebook etc will be examined to see the company you keep is “dangerous” or not.
This seems a little rough if you are unaware some “friend” has interesting hobbies or extreme views.

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They seem to be reasonable questions to ask, Duncan. I expect the entry qualifications for the UK after leaving the EU will be even more stringent [if the pro-Brexit campaigners have anything to do with it].

I last went to Canada about 8 years ago and they could tell me the previous time I visited about 4 years before that. So they have been keeping tabs on me for some time, but as I having nothing to hide, I am not to bothered.

Are the questions on the ESTA any different from the entry forms you are asked to fill in before you land? If anything, clearing entry into Canada should be quicker if all information is held electronically.

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A lot of countries require Visas, and no doubt keep all your information. “To enter Russia you’ll need a visa before travel – make sure you apply for the correct type and duration of visa. During periods of high demand, you should apply for your visa well in advance. From 10 December 2014 Russian diplomatic missions and the visa application centres in London and Edinburgh will collect biometric data (scanned fingerprints) from visa applicants above the age of 12……Tourist visa applications can take 10 working days to be processed, and longer during busy periods.”

I don’t think anyone has to sort out anything in advance of filling in cards that are handed out on planes unless they are criminals needing proof of good behaviour from my recollection.

The US Homeland Security send out an email warning when your ESTA is about to expire and hopefully Canada will as well.

Duncan, according to the US Department of Transportation, in 2015, airlines carried 895.5 million passengers of which 199.4 million were international flights.

I am pretty sure they are not going to single me out for scrutinisation out of all those millions, but if it helps in the fight against terrorism to narrow down people of interest, so be it, I have nothing to hide.

My attitude exactly.

The US and Canada visa-waiver processes for visitors from certain favoured countries [incl. UK] are still far better than the full visa process. There are at least two reasons why travel controls have become more exacting – first, new technology has enabled it; and second, too many ‘temporary’ entrants have declined to go home again. The UK itself has been too lax on the second point and now we are all having to accept the consequences. I’m afraid the days when a UK passport and a smile got you anywhere are behind us now.

Stephen Hicks says:
15 November 2016

I flew with air transit and they did give notice of this. Air Canada web site did as well. To be honest if you are visiting a country isn’t just a bit of common sense to check about entry requirements?

And I have no problem whatsoever in providing the required details for these systems.

Stephen Hicks says:
15 November 2016

It was on screen during booking and the conformation included the following.

Please find attached your Booking Confirmation & Invoice which provides a summary of your booking. If applicable, an ATOL certificate is also attached.

The Canadian Government has introduced a new entry requirement, known as Electronic Travel
Authorisation (eTA), for visa exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada by air.
This authorisation is mandatory as of 15th March 2016. Please refer to http://www.Canada.ca/eta for more details.

Stephen Hicks says:
15 November 2016

It was on the booking screen and the confirmation included the following.

Please find attached your Booking Confirmation & Invoice which provides a summary of your booking. If applicable, an ATOL certificate is also attached.

The Canadian Government has introduced a new entry requirement, known as Electronic Travel
Authorisation (eTA), for visa exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada by air.
This authorisation is mandatory as of 15th March 2016. Please refer to http://www.Canada.ca/eta for more details.

Yes, it’s a pity the media don’t give space to this type of important information instead of the sensationalist paranoid dross they put on their front pages.

Thanks for the information Stephen. Interesting that they say it was mandatory since March.

Accepting that it is useful, expedient, and a good thing for travellers to be vetted prior to flying we still have the vexed case that apparently some travel sites will sell tickets to destinations without advising of mandatory requirements that might affect travellers.

The seasoned traveller may well feel that everyone should be checking all of these things themselves. But not everyone who travels is a bright spark and so warnings given seems quite a light burden to vendors.

I agree that ticket vendors should make travel requirements clear. But people via the internet have access to so many vendors some of which have little interest in anything other than selling a ticket. I tend to go to carrier websites first and then see if a better deal can be had – which isn’t very often.
Even then I would tend to stick with the carrier; my contract is then with them not with an agent. This often makes it easier to choose seats, request changes and so on.

CRobo says:
15 November 2016

The onus is for those of us travelling to ensure we do our research beforehand and check entry requirements to all countries we visit well in advance to avoid issues such as this.

I booked a flight to Canada in May 2016, with Air Canada. As soon as booking was confirmed I received an email informing me of the ETA. After grumbling about never having to do this before (previously visited Canada in Dec. 2015), I duly completed the form, which took no more than 15 mins, and received my ETA within 10 minutes of submitting application.

I travel to Canada 1-2 times a year, and whilst I would like to do this without incurring additional fees, I think $7, for 5 years unlimited entry is a small price to pay (unlike USA ESTA which last only 2 years and costs $14). My only gripe is that while we pay for ETAs and ESTAs Canadian and Americans visiting the UK do not appear to have to pay to come here, how one sided is that!

We want their money, CRobo, so we throw the gates wide open to them in the hope they spend more than a few dollars. The British tourist is universally seen as a tightwad.

I have just checked on the Canadian Embassy website as my daughter is travelling in a couple of days by road from the US and happy to discover it is only for travellers arriving by air.

If you happen to be a Canadian citizen, like me and my children, there is also a new rule that you must enter Canada on a Canadian passport. I’d let mine go as at the time there were only 5-year passports available, and hadn’t bothered for the kids, thinking I’d wait until they were older to avoid applying every five years. I did get them citizenship cards though.

But I found out by total fluke (my brother was visiting and thought he’d lost his passport so I went onto the embassy website to see how I could help) about this, having already bought tickets to travel in February. So I’ve been scrabbling around to get passports for all three of us, not to mention the huge cost.

My mother lives in Canada and is a news hound, but she never saw publicity about this, and none of my family members living there heard about it, my aunt got caught coming back from a trip to the Caribbean in the spring (but my mum didn’t realise it would apply to us, too).

A warning to any Canadian citizens who has booked tickets and doesn’t have a Canadian passport – you can’t travel on any other passport to get into Canada now!!!

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I checked on the relevant website and it said that you don’t need an eTA if you are entering Canada by land or by sea, but only if you are travelling by air (as one of your other respondents has pointed out).
You should amend this item to make this clear.

My husband and me were caught up without Eta at the check in counter.We quickly applied for it online and got approved within minutes.We were able to check in with our luggage checked through our final destination Miami ( via transit in Toronto).
However, we were denial boardingon the second leg for the connecting flight with Air Canada since our Eta didn’t show up on their screen!!!We have all the necessary documents in time for the check in, otherwise we couldn’t have flown right from the beginning!!Something must have went wrong with their booking system.
We are now filing claims and comoensations from the airline.