OTTAWA — The federal government is delaying until the fall the enforcement of a controversial electronic visa for European citizens and other visa-exempt countries.
The Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is a new mandatory entry requirement for almost all foreign nationals who don’t normally have to get a visa to come to Canada, such as French, Norwegians and British citizens, who fly or pass through Canada. Americans are exempted, as are those with valid Canadian visas.
The eTA requires would-be travellers to apply online days before boarding their flight. They must pay a $7 fee and provide the Canadian government with passport and personal information, such as marital status and funds available for the trip, as well as details about any possible criminal records, health problems and any past immigration issues. The eTA, which is in line with similar requirements for the United States, was announced last summer with a long phase-in until becoming mandatory on March 15.
But foreigners and dual-nationals complained. French Ambassador Nicolas Chapuis took particular issue with the matter, taking his concerns to high-ranking officials in the Canadian government.
The eTA is a mandatory entry requirement for almost all foreign nationals, who didn't need a visa to enter Canada in the past. (Photo: Getty)
Dual French and Canadian citizens were particularly incensed that they would have to buy a Canadian passport to come to Canada because, Canadian citizens are not allowed to apply for an eTA for use with a foreign passport.
“Except a passport isn’t free,” one woman identified as Emllie posted on the French consulate’s Facebook page. “They can’t really reject Canadian citizens…?” she wondered.
When others on Facebook suggested that the government might, she wrote back: “Absurd!”
“That you have to prove that you are Canadian to enter, whether you are solely Canadian or a bi-national, that seems logical to me,” wrote a man named Ronan Gire. “But I don’t understand why you can’t request an eTA if you are a dual-citizen.”
On Thursday, the government decided to postpone the enforcement of the eTA until some, unspecified, time in the fall.
“As of March 15, 2016, eTA is mandatory [and] citizens from countries that do not need a visa to travel to Canada are expected to have an eTA to fly to or transit through Canada,” said Faith St-John, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. But from March 15 until fall 2016, she said, border services officers can let travellers arriving without an eTA into the country, as long as the other requirements to enter Canada are satisfied.
Critics of the eTA suggest the prior approval system will make it much more difficult for would-be refugees to seek asylum.
“Once they are on Canadian soil, they have a whole host of rights. They have hearings, they can make a claim, they can go to the refugee board."
Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said the Canadian government had been focused for some time on stopping refugee claims before they arrive on Canadian shores.
“Once they are on Canadian soil, they have a whole host of rights. They have hearings, they can make a claim, they can go to the refugee board. They can’t just be deported as a matter of course, they have to go through a process,” Paterson said. “[But] you can avoid all those things if you stop people from even getting here.”
Paterson told The Huffington Post Canada that he hoped the leniency period would give the government pause and make it consider whether implementing this program contravened Canada’s international commitment under the UN’s refugee convention.
New system to enhance security
Ottawa says the eTA will enhance the safety and security of Canadians and “strengthen the integrity of the immigration program.”
Between 2012–2013, 7,055 visa-exempt foreign nationals were denied admission when they arrived at a Canadian airport, according to government records. Twenty-eight individuals with prior removal orders were found trying to return to Canada without proper authorization.
“Had there been a mechanism in place to verify the status of these foreign nationals, it would have been known that they likely would have presented admissibility concerns prior to their arrival at a Canadian air port of entry,” the eTA’s regulatory impact analysis statement notes.
Refusals can be made on several grounds: membership in terrorist organizations or organized crime groups; espionage; participation in war crimes or crimes against humanity; international human rights violations; criminal records; or dangerous public health cases, such as tuberculosis.
In 2011, the Canadian government announced it would introduce the eTA as part of a plan to harmonize entry requirements with the United States through the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan. The government said at the time that the electronic travel authorization would make it easier to identify “inadmissible persons and stop them from travelling to this country, rather than waiting to deal with them only once they are on Canadian soil.”
Requirement could affect Canadian tourism
Beyond security concerns, the government said deporting individuals back to their point of departure was also costly for taxpayers and the airlines.
It did note in 2014, however, that the eTA could significantly affect the travel and tourism sectors in Canada. Visa-exempt travellers, excluding U.S. citizens, represent approximately 74 per cent of the foreign nationals who arrive in Canada by air, government records show.
The cost of implementing the program, from 2015 to 2024, is expected to be $173.6 million, with the government projecting benefits to be worth $174.7 million — mostly recouped from the $7 fee.
The eTA is good for five years or as long as one’s passport doesn’t expire. The Canadian government says eTA applications should be accepted within a few minutes, and if more time is needed to process an application, the citizenship department will email the applicant within 72 hours outlining next steps.
The Canadian government also notes that any biometrics requested as part of the eTA application, such as fingerprints, may be shared with the RCMP, other law enforcement agencies in Canada and foreign governments.Also on HuffPost:
Hannamariah/Shutterstock Where: Iceland Outdoor activities are king in Iceland. Base yourself in the capital for easy day trips to virtually any corner of the country, beauty spot, or adventurous activity. Iceland frequently tops solo travelers' lists of most user-friendly destinations. In Reykjavik, hang out at The Laundromat Café, a social meeting hub where travelers and locals casually dine, wash laundry, drink coffee, read books, and share travel tips. Insider Tip: If you’re daunted by the thought of eating alone, The Laundromat Café also makes for an ideal dining spot. Head there for a late lunch and chances are you’ll meet others and end up staying until dinner, or perhaps even traveling together afterwards. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Reykjavik Guide
lornet/Shutterstock Where: France With an extraordinary array of bistros and cafés, Paris is a city where you can while away hours poring over a café au lait, chocolate chaud, and sumptuous patisseries while observing French culture through the fenêtres (windows) on the Champs-Élysées. Solo travelers gravitate towards Café de Flore and Deux Magots, which serve as meeting places for solo travelers to join up to explore the city. Also of note: Paris is a relatively safe European city for women traveling alone. Insider Tip: Check out the hugely popular Franglish, a speed-dating-type event minus the dating, where you rotate tables with French-speakers to improve your language skills and make friends. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Paris Guide
Jason Ho/Shutterstock Where: Indonesia Yoga, spirituality, spas, massages, beaches, organic eateries and markets— are you sold, yet? With such diversity, Bali is a staple for solo travelers from across the globe. People drift into its ease of life and wealth of fellow traveler-settlers. It helps that food is delicious and cheap, as is the cost of living in general. Insider Tip: Begin a trip at Family Guesthouse in Ubud, which provides budget-friendly accommodation in a central location. Attracting repeat visitors, this is a popular base for meeting and mingling with other travelers over sumptuous communal breakfasts in a lush tropical property. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Bali Guide
Yentafern/Shutterstock Where: Thailand Solo travel and Bangkok have a long and convoluted history. It’s often said that you’d be lucky to meet a Thai in some parts of Bangkok. Luckily, other parts retain deep-rooted authenticity, which still attracts even the worldliest travelers. Temples, floating markets, cheap shopping, and nightlife galore keep the most active visitors busy traversing the city thanks to its excellent infrastructure. Insider Tip: If you’re happy to meet backpackers by the dozen, head to Khao San Road: a hub of hostels, bars and youngsters living it up. Otherwise, any spot of particular personal interest to you is a likely way to meet others with similar interests. Bangkok is notorious for creating easy friendships. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide
Svetlana Bobrova/Shutterstock Where: Spain The capital of Andalusia reflects all the romantic notions of Spain, as it plays home to Moorish architecture, bullfighting, and flamenco. Easily navigable on foot, Seville offers colorful ceramics, cobbled alleyways and mouth-watering markets. The city is a photographer’s dream with inexhaustible charm, luring enthusiasts to stay a while. Insider Tip: Seville blissfully blends the best of food and socializing. Drenched in warm climes, locals congregate outside tapas bars, which are the foundation of community spirit. One favorite is Casa Morales, where the reputation for authenticity precedes itself. Chat with friendly locals over shrimp and chunks of garlic cooked in terra-cotta dishes. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Seville Guide
Agata Dorobek/Shutterstock Where: Croatia With an infrastructure geared for tourists, solo travel is straightforward in "The Pearl of the Adriatic," as christened by Lord Byron. Shoulder season is warm and not yet overcrowded. Take day trips to Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina. If adventure gets you going, take a hiking or rock climbing tour with Croatia Traveller, where you’ll meet others with the same interest or relax on an island cruise with others while sipping sundowners along the dramatic Dalmatian coastline. Insider Tip: Stay in lodgings near the city center with communal lounges for socializing, such as Stari Grad or Jinx & Jinxy. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Dubrovnik Guide
(c) Atterhorn | Dreamstime.com Where: Ireland Anyone anywhere could make friends over a pint of Guinness, and Irish hospitality is world-famed for warmth and friendliness, especially in Dublin. Head to a traditional Irish pub, havens of chatter, to converse with locals who are completely used to tourists, even in the most remote countryside spots. Join walking tours exploring the literary greats, from Oscar Wilde to George Bernard Shaw, earning Dublin its UNESCO City of Literature status. Insider Tip: For a reasonably priced and elegant stay, try Kilronan House. An 8-minute stroll from major attractions, owner Terry Masterton goes all out to help with itineraries, sightseeing, and introducing guests to others. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Dublin Guide
vichie81/Shutterstock Where: New Zealand The adventure capital of New Zealand’s South Island can leave you exasperated trying to fit it all in. From bungee jumping to zorbing to horseback riding, Queenstown is a mecca for adventure travellers. There's also superb gastronomy and nightlife, too. Travelers often end up staying longer than planned, so consider yourself warned. It’s easy to rent a car or join a group trip; the latter is a sure-fire way to meet others traveling through a country known for its safety. Insider Tip: A great starting point is the BBH Budget Backpacker Hostels. Even non-backpackers will find connections and tips on the website alone. Time2Go provides invaluable meet-and-greet orientation tours, by locals, on arrival. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Queenstown Guide
© Peter Guttman Where: Chile Consistently raved about by travelers for its advanced transportation networks, excellent restaurants, and beautiful public spaces, Santiago is a sophisticated and accessible yet authentic South American city. Head straight for Bellavista, a trendy bohemian quarter with bars, quirky buildings, and artistic graffiti. Within easy reach from Santiago are colorfulValparaiso and glitzy Vina del Mar. Insider Tip: Drink a michelada at Bar Don Rodrigo (Victoria Subercaseaux 355, Santiago), a time warp to the past. Perch on a bar stool and chat with friendly barman Don Santiago, who’ll look after you and even introduce you to the locals. It’s probable you’ll find yourself going native with invitations to family asdos (barbecues), as the locals are very inviting. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Santiago Guide
prasit chansareekorn/Shutterstock Where: Kenya Nature has a way of bringing people together. In the Masai Mara’s vast Big 5 terrain, a safari plunges visitors deep into the grasslands. Independent travelers are joined up with others on Jeep safaris, providing an instant set of friends. June to October is best to witness the Great Migration, a movement of millions of wildebeests. But during low season, many lodges waive single supplements. Insider Tip: Stay in a setting designed to meet others. Naibor Camp is intimate, with few eco-luxury tents where guests can interact over communal dining with the friendly and entertaining managing couple, Ken and Michelle. Dinner is preceded by drinks around the campfire under immense starlight. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Masai Mara Guide
Lissandra Melo/Shutterstock Where: Canada Summer is kicking in the bohemian and laid-back city of Vancouver. Live music festivals, such as Osheaga, are a big draw here. Non-stop summer sunshine guarantees plenty of outdoor fun, allowing you to bask in the rays in the signature, relaxed ambiance for which Vancouver has become known. Insider Tip: Over the summer, students rent out their rooms on the rental section of website Couchsurfing, which has a huge global following. Many travelers use the site to make local friends before even stepping foot in the city. It’s always fun to head to gigs and events with people. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Vancouver Guide
Brandon Bourdages/Shutterstock Where: Belize The coolest Central American destination right now has to be Belize. Ambergris Caye lives up to the hype, and there are bars, beaches, and natural beauty in huge quantities. Interspersed with Mayan ruins, a spectacular barrier reef, and rainforest, this English-speaking nation appeals to expats and solo travelers alike. Insider Tip: Stay at Victoria House for an expansive private beach and friendly staff very willing to show you safely around town. The Phoenix is a sassy, stylish spot with fully loaded apartments, including a mobile phone and the best concierge in town for handy hangout tips. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Ambergris Caye Guide
SeanPavonePhoto/Shutterstock Where: Japan You'll need 3–4 days in Tokyo at the very least. Indulge in the cuisine with sushi, ramen, and tempura that's better than you've ever tasted. If you’re keen to meet English speakers, head to Pink Cow bar in Roppongi, known for its expat following. The Hub is a chain of pubs, popular with younger crowds, where it’s easy to meet people organically. Insider Tip: The buzzy name on the traveler scene is Asakusa Smile hostel, a popular spot for meeting fellow travellers. Traditional ryokan guesthouses also offer plenty local interaction. The Friends section of Japanguide.com is great for meeting locals online before heading out. The site has a good track record. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Tokyo Guide
wizardofwonders/Shutterstock Where: Southwest USA This beautiful, vast Grand Circle spans five states loaded with national parks and monuments, interwoven by designated scenic byways. It’s an attractive route to Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and more. Insider Tip: Hire a tour guide, rent a car, and meet fellow solo travelers on the way. Grand Circle's website has tour guides and connects travelers online. Otherwise, meet people in lodges en route, like Far View Lodge. Guided tours and ferry trips, such as Burr Ferry, are always teeming with visitors from across the globe who are often happy to meet others on the journey. Plan Your Trip: Visit Grand Circle’s Website
(c) Jerryway | Dreamstime.com Where: USA Whale watching, dog-sledding, horseback riding through the mountains, and eating fresh salmon are just a few of the highlights onboard an Alaska cruise. Insider Tip: An Alaska cruise offers a happy medium for independent travelers, with an instant set of friends with whom to dine and enjoy activities. The safety net of tour guides appeals to solo travelers, who can take excursions together yet retain personal space back on the ship. For a small boutique service, try Un-Cruise Adventures, which offers exciting itineraries for those who aren’t typical cruise-goers. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Alaska Guide