Canada Lifts Visa Requirement for Eligible Romanians, Bulgarians, and Brazilians
Friday, May 5, 2017

As of May 1, 2017, eligible citizens of Romania, Bulgaria, and Brazil are no longer required to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) if they are flying to Canada. Travelers from these countries who have held a Canadian visitor visa in the past 10 years, or who currently hold a valid United States visitor visa, must instead apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) in order to enter Canada by air for a short visit, generally of up to six months, such as for a business visit or a vacation.

However, travelers who do not meet these conditions are still required to obtain a TRV in order to travel to Canada.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced this change in anticipation of the expected lifting of the visa requirement for all Romanian and Bulgarian citizens. IRCC intends to lift this requirement on December 1, 2017 — at that point, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria would be required to obtain an eTA in order to board a flight to Canada. The government has not yet confirmed if it will extend the lifting of the visa requirement to all citizens of Brazil as well.

This news is likely to be greeted with enthusiasm by citizens of these three countries, as the recent — and proposed — changes will significantly reduce wait times and costs to obtain the document needed in order to enter Canada. If the proposed changes move ahead, as of December 1, 2017, temporary workers and international students would be included in the TRV exemption. Currently, despite the May 1 changes, international students and temporary workers who hold a Romanian, Bulgarian, or Brazilian passport are still required to obtain a TRV in order to enter Canada.

The lifting of the visa requirement on citizens of Romania and Bulgaria is timely, as these two countries were the only countries in the European Union (EU) whose citizens were still required to obtain a TRV. When IRCC announced in October, 2016 that it intended to lift the visa requirement for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens, former Canadian Immigration Minister John McCallum said, “Romania and Bulgaria have worked very closely with us, and we will continue to collaborate on the transition to visa-free travel in order to ensure that once the visa lifts occur, they are sustainable over the long term. Lifting the visa requirements for Romania and Bulgaria will mean visa-free travel to Canada for citizens of all EU member states. We will all benefit from the increase in travel and trade that results.”

It is also significant that Brazil is included in this regulation change. Prior to May 1, Chile was the only country in South America whose citizens do not require a TRV in order to enter Canada. The easing of entry requirements for certain Brazilian citizens marks an expansion of Canada’s relationship with the continent. “Canada is a popular destination for Brazilian visitors and businesspeople, and expanding eTA eligibility would make it easier and faster for many Brazilians to come to Canada,” said Rick Savone, Canada’s Ambassador to Brazil, when the announcement of the lift was made in October, 2016. “Easier travel between our two countries will lead to more opportunities to strengthen our vital people-to-people, tourism and business ties.”

Exemptions

IRCC clarified that, ‘Travelers who already have a valid Canadian visa do not need an eTA to fly to Canada and can continue to travel with their visitor visa until it expires.’ Furthermore, if a traveler holds dual citizenship of Romania, Bulgaria, or Brazil, and another country whose citizens are exempt from the requirement to obtain a TRV, the traveler may obtain an eTA in order to enter Canada — this has been the case since the introduction of the eTA requirement, and is not affected by the recent regulation change. For example, if a traveler holds dual citizenship of Romania and the United Kingdom, whose citizens do not require a TRV in order to enter Canada, the traveler could obtain an eTA using the details of his or her UK passport and enter Canada with that travel document.

Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, cannot apply for an eTA and are required to present a valid Canadian passport in order to fly to Canada.

The eTA

First launched on August 1, 2015, the eTA system became mandatory for visa-exempt travelers to Canada in November, 2016. The eTA provides a way for Canada to pre-screen individuals for admissibility before they enter Canada, with the goal of improving security and streamlining the travel process for low-risk travelers. More than 3.6 million eTAs have been issued to visa-exempt travelers since the introduction of the system.

The eTA process requires individuals to fill out some personal information and answer a few basic questions relating to criminality or medical issues. The process is entirely online, and requires:

  • a valid passport from a visa-exempt country,
  • a credit card to pay the $7.00 CAD fee,
  • a valid email address, and
  • access to the internet and a few minutes of time.

In most cases, the eTA may be issued within minutes. However, some cases may take several hours or more, and travelers are advised to apply for the eTA with plenty of time before their intended flight. It is not possible for a visa-exempt foreign national who requires an eTA to board a flight to Canada without an eTA. The eTA will be valid for a period of five years from the day on which it is issued to the applicant or until the earliest of the following days, if they occur before the end of that period:

  • the day on which the applicant’s passport or other travel document expires,
  • the day on which the electronic travel authorization is cancelled, or
  • the day on which a new electronic travel authorization is issued to the applicant.

The eTA includes the applicant’s name, date and place of birth, gender, address, nationality, and passport and/or travel document information. If the applicant is unable to make the application by means of the electronic system because of a physical or mental disability, it may be made by another means, including a paper application form.

If a Romanian, Bulgarian, or Brazilian citizen holds a United States Green Card, he or she may obtain an eTA to enter Canada, rather than a TRV. All Green Card holders are considered visa-exempt, regardless of their citizenship.

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Source: Canada Immigration Newsletter