Customs and Immigration Canada has recently announced that from 15th of March 2016, travelers visiting Canada by air will require an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization).
With this, Canada follows the example of Australia who uses the ETA for a very long time and the U.S. whose Visa Waiver eligible travelers require ESTA prior to their departure.
There are several exceptions to this. You will find this in detail as reference source on the website of Customs and Immigration Canada (access here).
While the ETA is mandatory beginning March 15th 2016, the system to apply has gone live last week on August 1st 2015 so those who are interested can already apply. You can access the ETA application website provided by Customs and Immigration Canada here.
The exceptions include most of all U.S. citizens who do not need an eTA or a visa. However, proper identification must be presented at the border. Those proper identifications for U.S. citizens are:
If you are a U.S. citizen, ensure you carry proof of citizenship such as a passport, birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship or naturalization, or a Certificate of Indian Status along with photo identification. If you are a U.S. permanent resident, ensure you carry proof of your status such as a U.S. Permanent Resident Card.
For all modes of entry, we recommend you carry a valid passport for all travel abroad, including visits to Canada from the United States. A passport may be required by your airline or alternative transportation authority, as it is the only universally-accepted identification document.
Citizens and permanent residents of the United States who are members of the NEXUS or FAST programs may present their membership cards to the CBSA as proof of identity and as documents that denote citizenship, when arriving by land or marine modes only.
Exempt from the ETA are furthermore all Permanent Residents of Canada as well as those travelers who are holding a valid Canadian Visa (tourist or otherwise).
These effected by the new ETA are those sixty countries that are currently eligible for Visa Waiver Travel. Most notably the European countries including the United Kingdom as well as all Commonwealth states such as Australia and New Zealand. It obviously concerns as well visa waiver eligible countries in Asia such as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore etc.
Please refer to the website referenced above to get detailed information about the requirements for your citizenship.
The cost of this ETA is rather reasonable and will be 7.00 CAD$ for a validity of five years.
The eTA is electronically linked to your passport and is valid for five years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.
Applying for an eTA is a simple and inexpensive ($7 Canadian) online process that will take just a few minutes. Most eTA-eligible applicants will get their authorization within minutes of submitting the online form.
You must have a valid passport, an email address and a credit card to complete the online form. You can only apply for one person at a time. For example, for a family of three people, you will need to complete and submit the form three times.
It’s difficult to determine if this can be seen as a ‘cash grab’ or a genuine background check attempt by the Canadian authorities. 7$ in five years is not a lot, it probably barely covers the administrative costs.
I find this a reasonable step IF the data is being used properly, meaning to scan for possible unwanted immigrants or threats and a strict conduct of processing is implemented and followed.
In recent years Canada has been very stringent in controlling international departures towards Canada by posting officers at the departure gates to question travelers about their intentions and travel plans. This followed a wave of illegal immigrants who upon arrival claim refugee status or present themselves without valid documents in their possession (those have been disposed of during the flight).