When flying internationally, it’s crucial to find out whether you need to obtain Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to be able to enter the country you intend to visit.
In this article, we provide an overview of the eTA system, its purpose, and what you can expect when applying.
What is an eTA?
An eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) is a pre-screening process that simplifies and expedites the process of obtaining approval to enter a country you intend to visit if you are from a visa-exempt country.
By filling out an online application and paying a fee, your eligibility to enter the country is assessed to see if you pose any potential security risks before departure.
eTA Application Process
Eligibility criteria for an eTA
Before you apply for an eTA, you should make sure that you meet the eligibility criteria, including citizen requirements, your intended purpose of visit, and admissibility considerations, otherwise your eTA application could be denied.
- Citizenship Requirements: As each country has rules regarding which nationalities are eligible to apply for an eTA, make sure that your country of citizenship makes the list.
- Intended Purpose of Visit: Make sure that the purpose of your visit is inline with the specific eTA regulations set by the country, as different countries may have different requirements for tourists, business travelers, and those transiting through their airports.
- Admissibility Considerations: To be able to enter a country, it’s likely that you will have to include any criminal records, health conditions, or previous visa denials. While admission of these could mean eTA refusal, you should be honest.
Online Application Platforms
To apply for an eTA, you will have to visit the dedicated official government website of the country you intend to visit and follow the instructions and guidelines for completing the application.
You will usually be asked to pay a small fee in order to submit your application too.
It might also be possible to use a third-party service to help with your application. This service may be authorized by the country you intend to enter, or may not be.
Either way, they will require a higher fee for the additional support they offer you, including reviewing your application and verifying your documents.
Required Documents and Information
When you apply for an eTA, you will have to provide specific documents and information as part of your application.
Documents and information you may have to provide include:
- Passport Information: Expect to input the full name on your passport, your passport number, its expiration date, and the country where it was issued.
- Personal Information: You will have to input personal information, including your full name, date of birth, gender, nationality, and contact information.
- Travel Details: Be prepared to provide your travel itinerary, including your intended destination, the purpose of your visit, your travel dates, as well as the address of where you will be staying while in the country.
- Supporting Documents: You may not always be required to provide these documents, but you may be asked to show proof of return or onward travel, financial proof, as well as proof of your travel itinerary.
Application Fees and Payment Methods
When applying for an eTA, you will typically be required to pay a small fee. This can be as low as just a few dollars ($7 CAD) if we look at how much Canada charges for applications. This fee will usually be non-refundable.
Keep in mind that the fee is charged per application, so everyone in your traveling party must pay the fee individually.
Processing Time and Approval Status
Once you have submitted your application and paid the fee, you will have to wait to see if it will be approved or not.
Spoiler alert: the vast majority of applications are approved, so it’s very likely yours will be too.
The processing time of your eTA application can vary depending on the destination country, volume of applications, and the accuracy and completeness of the information you submitted.
Generally, you won’t have to wait for more than a few hours or days for your application to be processed, though.
I remember one time I had a friend visiting the US. He completely forgot to apply for an ESTA, so he was unable to check in for his flight. Fortunately, he arrived at the airport several hours early, so was able to complete his application and have it approved in just an hour, so he was still able to make his flight. Otherwise, it could have been a costly mistake.
You may not be so lucky if you apply at the last minute, though.
After you have submitted your eTA application, you should receive a confirmation email.
This email will typically contain a reference number that you can use to check the status of your application via the online portal through which you applied.
eTA Requirements and Restrictions
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and restrictions associated with the eTA system, so you don’t run into any unexpected surprises.
Validity and Duration of eTA
It’s important to understand the difference between how long your eTA will be valid for and how long you will be allowed to stay in a country with an eTA.
- Validity Period: The validity period of your eTA will typically begin from the date that it was approved (not the date you first enter the country) and will expire according to the predetermined length stated when you applied – i.e. 2 years after it was approved.
- Duration of Stay: The duration of stay refers to the maximum amount of time you are allowed to stay in the country on a single visit. This duration is often specified by the destination country’s immigration authorities and may vary depending on the purpose of your visit, the type of eTA issued, and any bilateral agreements in place. Expect to be able to stay for 60–90 days.
Multiple-Entry vs. Single Entry eTA
Depending on the country, you may be able to enter and exit multiple times without having to apply for an eTA.
Obviously, this is preferable, particularly if you make frequent trips to the country. However, keep in mind that the maximum duration of stay per visit still applies.
Conversely, a single-entry eTA will allow you to enter the destination country only once.
Once you leave the country, your eTA will become invalid, and you will have to apply for a new eTA to re-enter. Thankfully, single-entry ETAs are rarer than multiple-entry ones.
eTA Conditions and Limitations
The most common conditions and limitations of an eTA will be to do with the maximum duration that you can stay, employment/study restrictions, and health care.
- Maximum Duration of Stay: Overstaying your authorized period can result in penalties, including fines, visa overstays, or potential entry bans.
- Employment and Study Restrictions: Checking your email and getting some work done won’t pose any problems, but if you plan to enter the country with the purpose of working or studying, you will not be allowed to.
- Health and Insurance Requirements: Understandably, some countries may require you to meet specific health and insurance requirements before granting an eTA, as they don’t want to have to be responsible for non-citizens health concerns.
Extending Your eTA
It’s not uncommon for people to enjoy a country they visit so much that they want to stay longer than they are legally allowed to.
If this happens to you, it’s important to know if you are able to extend your eTA by meeting the eligibility criteria required to do so.
Unfortunately, as extensions are usually only granted for reasons such as medical emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, and to a lesser extent, legitimate changes in travel plan, you might not be able to.
Either way, it’s recommended that you contact the immigration authorities or embassy/consulate to initiate the extension process.
Countries that Require an eTA for Entry
Several countries have implemented eTA systems, of which some of the most popular are:
- United States: The most well-known eTA system is ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) that requires citizens from a visa waiver country to apply for if they want to enter the country.
- Canada: Canada has an eTA system that applies to visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to the country by air.
- Australia: The Australian eTA is also known as the Subclass 601 Visa, and is required if you want to enter Australia.
How eTAs Differs from eVisas
An eVisa and eTA is similar yet different in some important ways, including:
- To be eligible for an eTA, you must be a citzen of a visa waiver country. An example is British citizens applying for an ESTA before traveling to the USA.
- An eTA is usually designed for shorter-term visits than an eTA – approximately 30–90 days.
- An eTA typically permits multiple entries into a country until its expiration, whereas an eVisa can sometimes just be single-entry.
- An eTA is usually quicker, easier, and cheaper to apply for.