/ 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 £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.

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?


Hi Patrick, I also thought that was a bit strange that they don’t have something like that, given my experience of flying to the US where there is a reminder in the emails you get and online. In fact here is a line from the confirmation email last time I flew

“Also, please remember to complete your ESTA application at least 72 hours before your scheduled departure if you?re travelling to, from or through the U.S. under the Visa Waiver program.”

A quick look on some of the biggest carriers show the information is on the website somewhere, but not necessarily up front, you have to look for it. I think part of the problem is that it appears the advice has changed from earlier in the year, when it was voluntary, and people have been caught out now that it is mandatory.

From quickly checking with Robin he said there was no information on the emails, nor had he seen anything when he checked in on line. But perhaps, like the US system, this will all become standard practice as it beds in over time.


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 ??


Sadly i think my quick search falls a bit short of proper research, and unfortunately without buying a ticket I can’t see what customers are told after they get to the payment screen. That’s why we are really interested to hear from others who have a trip booked in the coming months to see what they have been told.

As for who Robin flew with, it’s in his quote to us – Air Canada, who were incredibly helpful to him when he was at check in, but sadly the Visa just didn’t make it in time


“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.


Thanks Patrick, we’re going to have a think about how we can make sure this information is easily available when people are searching, especially with the holiday season coming.

I also thought you might want to see this https://twitter.com/robinince/status/798570231820156929
sounds like Air Canada are going above and beyond what they are required to do


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.