Is an eTA obligatory for a transit through Canada?

As with a normal visit each transit or stopover through Canada requires an ETA visa. Learn how to apply for this travel authorisation and which points need to be taken into consideration.

Apply for an ETA Canada

 If you plan to travel somewhere soon that requires a transit through Canada maybe you want to know which official documents you need to complete this trip successfully? Here we will explain why an ETA Electronic Travel Authorisation is obligatory for any transit through Canada, even if you do not leave the transit zone. To better understand why this is required and how to obtain your ETA for a transit here are some detailed explanations.


An ETA is obligatory for a transit through Canada:

As is the case for stopovers and transits in the United States, a transit through Canada requires a travel authorisation, even if you are not planning on actually staying in Canada. In fact, an airplane coming from another country cannot disembark passengers who do not possess a legally required visa or an ETA. 

 Therefore, if your flight includes a transit or stopover in Canada you will be required to obtain a travel authorisation. If you are a citizen of a member country of the Visa Waiver programme then you can complete a simple ETA visa application online. Moreover, one of the eligibility conditions for applying for an ETA instead of a visa concerns the length of stay in Canada which should not exceed 90 days. With a transit, the time spent on the ground is generally no more than a few hours. You can therefore use this simplified Electronic Travel Authorisation.

Apply for an ETA Canada

How to apply for an ETA for a transit through Canada?

The procedure you will need to follow to obtain an ETA entitling you to transit through Canada is the same as for a normal visit. You should first complete an online travel authorisation application form in your own language. To do so do not forget to carefully make a note of your passport number which should be valid for your transit dates through Canada, as well as your credit or debit card which you will need to pay for the transfer and processing fees at the time you submit your application.

The questions asked in the online application form mainly relate to your personal information and identity as well as your state of health and your morality. It is highly recommended that you reply to all the questions honestly and clearly as your answers may be subject to verification from the responsible immigration authorities.  Also ensure that you enter a valid email address to be sure you receive the response to your application.

 Once your application has been submitted you simply need to wait for a maximum of 72 hours before receiving a response to your request by email. If your ETA visa has been approved it will automatically be electronically linked to your passport for a period of five years. You can therefore use it numerous times without the need to reapply during this period and for all transits and visits of less than 90 days that you wish to make.

Apply for an ETA Canada

Is it possible to use the same ETA for a transit and a visit to Canada?

If your next visit includes a transit or stopover through Canada and you need to apply for an ETA to do so you may be wondering if this authorisation can be used for future visits which are not just for passing through the country.

The answer to this question is of course positive. In fact an ETA is valid for a period of 5 years from the date it is approved and is applicable for transits, stopovers and normal visits as the conditions for all of them are the same.

However, you should of course ensure that your visit concurs with the conditions imposed by the Canadian government and the ETA programme. The length of your visit should not exceed 90 days, or three months, in Canada. Beyond this time you will need to apply for a visa. Another point, this visit should be for reasons of tourism in Canada, visiting friends or family, or a business meeting. If you plan to study or work in Canada then again you will need to apply for a visa.

If your passport number is still the same and none of the information that you entered on your ETA application form has changed then you have nothing further to do to reuse your authorisation to visit Canada. This ETA visa is actually electronically linked to your passport number for a period of five years from the day you receive your approval notification by email. Beyond that date you can reapply online.


When to apply for your ETA visa for a simple transit through Canada?

As we have just examined, ETA applications are obligatory for any transit or stopover through Canada, even if you never really physically set foot in the country. However in these cases you will no doubt wonder when is the best time to apply for an ETA online before your visit.

As you undoubtedly already know, the response to your ETA application is sent to you rapidly after the submission of your application. The processing time for your application will in fact only take 72 hours at the most after which you will receive an email at the address you stipulated on your application form giving you a definitive answer. In fact, you will probably discover that the response is often sent just a few hours after the submission of the questionnaire and the payment of the fees.

It can therefore be tempting to apply just a few days before your departure date however we highly recommend that you apply well in advance as it is not guaranteed that you will be granted an ETA travel authorisation.

In fact let us imagine that you receive a negative response to your ETA application. In this case, and if you lack the time to find another solution, you risk not being able to complete your travel plans passing through Canada.

To avoid this type of disappointment the ideal time to apply for your ETA is a few weeks before the departure date of your flight. In this way, if you receive a refusal from the Canadian authorities due to a mistake in the completion of your application form you have the time to reapply after waiting for the statutory 10 days after receiving this refusal notification. In this situation it is highly probable that your ETA application will be accepted. 

However if you are again refused this authorisation or the reason for the refusal is other than a simple mistake then maybe you can apply for a visa for your transit through Canada. However this procedure is often longer and may require certain documents, maybe even a visit to your Canadian Embassy or consulate to obtain this authorisation. This is why you should leave plenty of time before your departure date to be able to obtain the necessary travel documents. We would draw your attention to the fact that there is no guarantee that a visa will be granted.

Finally, we should note that your ETA visa to visit or transit through Canada will be valid for a period of five years starting from the date you obtain it. It is therefore preferable to not apply too early in order to benefit fully from this period and make several trips to Canada without needing to apply for a new travel authorisation which will of course incur another payment of the fees.

Apply for an ETA Canada

The particular case of an ETA reaching its expiry date with two transits or stopovers planned for Canada:

Let us now look at a particular case that may occur if you already have an ETA visa that will soon expire. In fact, as you may already know, your ETA visa should be valid when you enter Canada but is not required to cover the entirety of your visit contrary to your passport that must be valid for the entire length of your stay.

But is this also the case for a visit with two transits or stopovers in Canada, either a transit or stopover on the outgoing travel and another for the return? In fact, in this precise case, you will need to have a valid ETA for both your outgoing and return transits or stopovers, we will explain why here.

Firstly, and to better understand this particularity, it should be remembered that a transit or stopover in Canada is treated the same as a normal visit in the eyes of the Canadian authorities. This means that when your plane makes a stopover at a Canadian airport before continuing to its final destination or you change your plane with a transit then you are considered to be entering then leaving Canadian territory. Therefore the date you exit the territory is recorded as the same date you enter the territory as well as your outgoing travel towards your final destination, and the return transit is considered as a new visit.

It is therefore impossible to complete a second transit or stopover if your ETA is no longer valid, even if it is valid for the outgoing travel.

In this case, how should you proceed? You have in fact two solutions open to you to ensure a problem free return flight with a transit through Canada.

The first consists of using your current ETA for the outgoing travel and apply for a new ETA once the current authorisation has expired, during your visit. However this may cause problems as you should take into account the need to have an internet connection where you stay. Also it is not guaranteed that you will be granted a new ETA visa, even if you obtained your current one without any problems. In this case you risk not being able to return home or may need to buy a ticket for another flight that does not transit through Canada.

The second solution is therefore by far the best. This consists of renewing your ETA before its expiry date and therefore before your initial departure date. The new ETA that you obtain will also be valid for a five year period which will normally suffice to cover both the outgoing and return travel. Of course, there again, there is no guarantee that your ETA application will be approved if your situation has changed or you are no longer eligible under the immigration laws of this country. It is therefore important that you take the time necessary to prepare your travel plans in advance.

As with a straightforward visit, each transit or stopover on Canadian territory requires an ETA visa. Learn how to complete this application and which points you need to take into consideration.

Apply for an ETA Canada

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a regular eTA and an eTA for transit to Canada?

In reality, there is no difference between a classic eTA and an eTA for transit or stopover in Canada. Indeed, the eTA will be exactly the same for both situations and with the same conditions. The procedure will also be the same and the price to pay will be the same. Moreover, you can use an eTA for a stopover and then use it again for a simple business or tourist trip.

Does the eTA have to be valid for both the outward and return journey in the case of a trip with two transits?

Yes, even if it is a single trip, you must have a valid eTA for both your outbound and return trips through Canada. Indeed, each passage on Canadian soil is considered by the immigration authorities as a real stay in the country, even if you stay on board the aircraft. You will therefore need a legal residence permit such as an eTA.

Can I visit Canada with an eTA while in transit?

One of the advantages of the eTA, as we have just seen, is that it will be useful both for simple transits or stopovers and for stays in Canada. This means that you will be able to leave the airport and visit the surrounding area with your eTA if your transit is long enough.