Immigration Lawyer in Canada Weighs in on the New Electronic Travel Authorization Program
Most immigration lawyers in Canada are familiar with the constantly-changing landscape of our country’s system for accepting immigrants, refugees, and other foreign nationals at our borders. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been in a state of constant reform for several years now, so it’s not surprising that another potential roadblock has been set up at our borders, even if it may be controversial.
The new eTA program, or Electronic Travel Authorization, is an online application that must be filled out and processed for visitors from otherwise visa-exempt nations. As of March 15th, 2016, people from countries that are authorized to visit Canada without a visa will need to be pre-approved with this online application, which is good for five years or until the passport it is connected to expires—whichever occurs first.
The system—which cost $165.7 million in taxpayer dollars to implement—exempts travellers with valid visas, citizens of the United States, the British royal family, citizens of St. Pierre and Miquelon, people with diplomatic or consular authorization, and certain members of international airline staff. The information required for an eTA is already provided in travel visas, and is used in both cases to deem people as either admissible or inadmissible.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has implemented the measure, which is already in place in the United States, to increase national security, giving themselves more authority to closely monitor people who are entering Canada’s borders. Canada’s immigration lawyers, on the other hand, see the measure as an added roadblock for refugees seeking asylum in Canada. Many refugees already have difficulty entering the country, and other recent changes to Canadian immigration law have already made it nearly impossible for many to enter Canada’s borders. Some believe that the eTA is the final nail in the coffin of Canada’s former reputation as a welcoming refuge for those feeling from persecution or fearing for their lives.
Making issues more complicated, even after receiving an electronic travel authorization, a person may still be refused entry by a border official if deemed inadmissible. Common reasons for visa-exempt travellers to be refused entry included suspected involvement in terrorist activity or organizations, suspected espionage, alleged criminal behaviour in their country of origin, and diagnosis of an infectious or difficult-to-contain disease. While some refusals are valid, many are based solely on suspicion, which has also contributed to the increased difficulties of refugees who have been wrongfully or illegally accused of treason in their home nations.
If you are seeking entry into Canada and aren’t sure of how to proceed or what requirements are necessary for you to enter, contact an immigration lawyer in Canada, who will be able to answer any questions you have and help guide you through the process.