Deadline looms for Canada travel restrictions
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Bahamians and other Caribbean nationals planning to travel to Canada by air after March 15, 2016 must have an electronic travel authorization (ETA) or risk being barred from even getting on the plane, as airlines risk fines for bringing people without the proper authorization into Canada.
The authorization is applied for online, and a decision is rendered within minutes, with the vast majority -- 99 percent according to one source -- returning a positive result. The only cause for a negative result is to be ineligible to enter Canada under that country’s rules, which cite a criminal record, human rights violations and security, health and financial reasons.
This is a new requirement, which means that those who have traveled in the past year might not have had to get an ETA, but as of March 15 they will be required.
Political Counsellor at the Canadian High Commission Colleen Pigeon explained that recent legislative changes in Canada make the new rules necessary.
“The ETA is sort of like a pre-clearance. The United States and a few other countries around the world have already had similar requirements for entry into their countries. So this is Canada just catching up with best practices as it goes with our border security,” Pigeon said.
“This is not a visa. This is for all citizens of countries who are currently visa-exempt in fact, so The Bahamas being one of those, we wanted to make sure people knew about this change because you could face delays at the airport if you don’t have your ETA when you arrive to get on your flight,” she added.
The authorization is electronically linked to the applicant’s passport and is valid for five years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.
“You can apply for your ETA at any time, even if you’re not planning to travel right away. It’s good for up to five years or the life of your passport, whichever comes first. So it’s no problem to go in and apply ahead of time and have it on file for the next time you might need to go,” Pigeon said.
She explained that a valid ETA covers as many trips during the five-year period as desired.
Pigeon also explained that for dual citizens who are Canadian and another nationality – in this instance, Bahamian – who may have previously traveled to Canada with only their Bahamian passport, it is strongly recommended that they have a Canadian passport to enter Canada.
“They don’t have to apply for the ETA; however, to prove their citizenship on arrival in Canada they should have their Canadian passport. This wasn’t required in the past, so that’s a bit of a change as well for our dual citizens,” Pigeon said.
By K. Quincy Parker
Nassau Guardian Business Editor