Canada e-visas: shambles after fears it could ruin British holidaymakers' plans

Exclusive: Technical glitches mean travellers don't need an eTA - for now, at least

Canada has become the latest country to make an embarrassing U-turn over an “e-borders” scheme, after IT issues threatened to wreck British holidaymakers’ plans.

For the past six months, travellers have been told: “Starting March 15, 2016, visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to or transit through Canada will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).” 

The government in Ottawa has devised a scheme that mirrors the US “Esta” programme, though with less onerous demands for information, and validity of five years, not two.

However, as with the early days of the Esta, the system has hit serious teething problems. A number of prospective British visitors have contacted i to say that their applications have been inexplicably delayed or rejected — jeopardising their plans for Easter holidays in Canada.

Canada’s government does not allow visitors who are considered a security risk, or convicted of a serious crime, or with financial or health problems. 

But one reader told i: “My daughter has been waiting over two weeks for approval. Her daughter and partner were approved straight away. There are no reasons why my daughter shouldn't be approved. For example she has a travel visa for the US. It seems its just a hitch.”

As a result of the system’s shortcomings, the insistence on an eTA has been deferred for six months.

The government now says: “From March 15, 2016 until Fall 2016, travellers who do not have an eTA can board their flight, as long as they have appropriate travel documents, such as a valid passport.

During this time, border services officers can let travellers arriving without an eTA into the country, as long as they meet the other requirements to enter Canada.”

It is not clear what steps the government in Ottawa is taking to alert airlines to the change in policy and avoid British passengers being wrongfully denied boarding on flights to Canada.

The national borders are a subject of considerable controversy in Canada, after more than 25,000 Syrian refugees were resettled in the country — a policy championed by the prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

See bit.ly/CanIfly for more information

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