Visa-free travellers to Canada need online approval

Singaporean travellers planning to fly to or transit in Canada will have an extra task to add to their pre-boarding checklist from next month.

Starting from March 15, visa-exempt foreign nationals, including Singaporeans, will have to fill out an online Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) form and pay an administrative fee of C$7 (S$7.20) before entering the country.

The pre-travel authorisation system, similar to that of the United States, will send an automated e-mail upon completion of the form. Permission to enter Canada is valid for five years or until passport expiry. US citizens and foreign nationals with valid visas are exempt, and the eTA is also not required for entry to Canada by land and sea.

Singapore is one of about 50 visa- exempt countries that will be affected, according to the Canadian High Commission.

A spokesman said that while travellers should apply well in advance, "most applicants will receive confirmation of having received an eTA within minutes of applying".

The application form became available online last August.

Canada's Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Mr Robert Orr, said the eTA is meant to help the authorities better screen travellers for admissibility, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

The US introduced the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta) in 2009, which applies to visitors from countries under the Visa Waiver Programme. The Esta comes with a US$14 (S$19.60) administration fee and is valid for two years.

Dynasty Travel's director of marketing communications, Ms Alicia Seah, said the new measures will likely have minimal impact on travellers here.

"We don't see a huge number of leisure travellers going to Canada. Besides, Singapore is one of the most privileged countries in the world in terms of visa exemptions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'Visa-free travellers to Canada need online approval'. Print Edition | Subscribe