Overseas family or friends planning to visit Canada? Make them feel welcome, but also warn them about two essential pre-trip steps they need to take to make their visit memorable, not miserable.
The first of these, securing travel insurance, should be done before they leave their home country, as insurance bought after they land in Canada usually has a 48- to 72-hour waiting period before it kicks in.
Your visitors should know that health care in Canada is among the most expensive in the world and hospital administrators are not at all reticent about demanding cash, credit cards, or other promissory commitments—on the barrelhead.
If your friends are planning their trip for next year, they also need to be aware of another pre-trip obligation—one that is mandatory and administered by the Canadian government. And since it requires planning well ahead of trip time, it may be a good idea to work on them in tandem. All Canadian governments—feds as well as provincials—strongly urge Canadians travelling out of the country to buy private insurance. So it makes a good fit.
Effective March 15, 2016, foreign visitors from some 60 visa-exempt countries will need to obtain electronic travel authorizations (ETA) before starting out on their trip. At present, visitors from these countries are not screened or cleared until they arrive at a Canadian port of entry. Under the new system, similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) already functioning in the US,
they will have to register before they leave home. This will apply only to visitors arriving by air, and will not be required of US nationals.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (via CICnews, an official government publication), visa-exempt foreign nationals, excluding US citizens, represent approximately 74 per cent of foreign nationals who arrive in Canada by air.
The ETA will record the applicant’s name, date and place of birth, gender, address, nationality, and passport and/or other travel document information. It will cost the applicant $7 CAD, will be available for processing from August 1, 2015, for travel beginning on or after March 15, 2016, and will be valid for five years or until the traveller’s passport expires, is cancelled, or a new passport is issued.
Among the exceptions for the ETA (besides US nationals) are individuals who already have temporary resident visas, certain foreign diplomats, commercial air crews, citizens of France residing in St. Pierre et Miquelon (self-governing French islands overseas collectivity 16 miles south of Newfoundland), individuals who have visas to enter the US transiting through Canada, visiting armed forces on official duties, Her Majesty the Queen and any member of the Royal Family.