For most Australians, travelling to Canada is easy. But more often than not, you’ll need an approved ‘eTA’ before you can visit.

Short for Electronic Travel Authorisation, Canada’s eTA is similar to the ESTA process for the United States. There’s a form to complete online. Once that’s done, you’ll have the green light to visit Canada without a visa.

But skip this crucial step and you won’t be able to board your flight. With your entire journey hinging on this one document, here’s what you need to know.

Who needs an eTA?

If you’re flying to or through Canada, chances are, you’ll need an eTA. For example, when jetting from Australia to Canada for tourism or business, you’ll need that eTA approval. But you also need an eTA when transiting Canada from Australia to third country, such as the United States, or on any other international transit. I needed an eTA for my recent journey from San Francisco to Vancouver and then onwards from Vancouver to Brisbane, for instance, even though I never left the airport in Vancouver.

With an eTA, you can generally stay in Canada for up to six months at a time. For a longer stay, or for journeys other than for business or leisure, a pre-arranged visa is normally required instead.

Citizens of Canada don’t require an eTA. Nor do US citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States visiting Canada for business or leisure.

You also don’t need an eTA if you’ll be arriving in Canada by land or sea. This includes Australians entering Canada by road or aboard a cruise ship. And once you’re in Canada, you don’t need an eTA for domestic travel.

Finally, if you do have a pre-arranged Canadian visa, you don’t need an eTA either. That’s because the checks that take place with an eTA have already occurred in the background when applying for that visa.

How much does an eTA cost?

You’ll pay just CA$7 for an eTA to visit Canada. Based on current exchange rates, that’s about AU$7.90.

Once granted, it remains valid for five years. Or until your passport expires or is replaced: whichever comes first. It can also be used for multiple visits to Canada as a tourist or on business. If you applied for one purpose – such as business – you also don’t need to apply for a second eTA to visit as a tourist, and vice versa.

Payment is accepted online using Visa, Mastercard and American Express, as well as through some other card types not issued in Australia.

How to get an eTA for Canada

You can apply for an eTA by visiting the official Canadian Government website. The process doesn’t take long.

But do be careful not to apply via many of the unofficial websites often found via Google. These sites aren’t affiliated with the Canadian Government. While some may still pass along your application for processing by Canada, you’ll usually pay a much higher fee: and for no good reason.

Also consider that by using an unofficial third-party site, you’re sharing your private information where it doesn’t need to be shared. Keep things simple and secure – and at the lowest cost – by applying only via the official website linked above.

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What you need to apply

Applying for a Canadian eTA is quite simple, but it helps to have a few details ready. Have the following handy before you apply:

  • Your passport, or at least a copy of your current photo page. You’ll need to enter your passport number during the eTA application process, and may also be asked for its issue and expiration dates.
  • Your full name, as it appears on that passport.
  • Date of birth.
  • Gender, as per your passport.
  • Marital status.
  • Your home address.
  • Details of your current job and any serious medical issues that may impact your proposed trip.

How long eTAs take for approval

Most eTA applications are approved within just a few minutes. When that happens, you’ll receive an email as a confirmation.

That’s handy if you’ve arrived at the airport to check-in for a flight and have forgotten to obtain your eTA beforehand. But be aware, some eTA applications can take several days to review.

That delay can occur if the computer flags something in your application that requires a closer look. Or if your details are similar to a person of interest. While the chances of such a delay are slim, we strongly suggest applying as soon as you’re planning a trip to Canada.

By knowing you’re approved, you’ll be able to book your journey with more confidence. And in the rare instance that your eTA application is denied, you’ll have plenty of time to apply for a formal visa from a Canadian Consulate or Embassy.

Given an eTA costs just CA$7 and is valid for up to five years, the most you’d pay over the decade of your passport’s validity is just CA$14. Even if there’s some time ‘wasted’ when you first get your eTA, that’s a very small price to pay for peace of mind.

Before you travel to Canada

When it’s time to travel, you can also speed up your border crossing by pre-filing your immigration declaration through Canada’s ArriveCAN platform.

If you do this before you fly, you can simply confirm the details of what you’ve already declared via a passport kiosk or eGate on arrival. You can also use the ‘advance declaration’ lanes at immigration, where available – particularly handy if you have a tight connection.

You can do this through the ArriveCAN website. Alternatively, you can also download the ArriveCAN app through the Apple App Store (for iOS) or Google Play (for Android) to get things sorted using your smartphone.

Summing up

Getting your eTA for Canada is simple and inexpensive – but it pays to be organised. Most travellers get their eTA approval within minutes and won’t run into any issues. But if yours is one of the few applications that gets delayed, you’ll be glad to have time up your sleeve.

Once you have the green light, you can visit Canada again and again. And with direct flights available to Vancouver from both Sydney and Brisbane, getting there is swift.

Also read: Travelling to the United States? Don’t forget about ESTA

Feature image courtesy of Andre Furtado/Pexels.

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Your guide to Canada’s eTA system for visa-waiver travellers was last modified: January 29th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin