NEW: Electronic Authorization for Musicians Entering Canada

As the result of a joint US-Canadian border action plan, new measures have been implemented that require nationals from approximately 50 visa-exempt countries (including the UK, France and Australia) to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) before flying to Canada. These measures are relevant to travelling musicians who previously did not require a visa to enter Canada. They do not affect U.S. citizens or travellers with a valid Canadian visa.

The eTA program is similar to America’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). It formally took effect on March 15, 2016 and will impact nearly 30 million visitors to Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has announced, however, that it will offer a reprieve until the end of September, 2016 – enabling travellers who otherwise qualify to enter Canada without a visa to still cross the border using standard travel documents (e.g. a valid passport).

Electronic Travel Authorization can be obtained by paying a $7 fee and answering a series of questions online at Canada.ca/eTA. Despite the seeming simplicity of this procedure, though, immigration experts caution that the rules surrounding eTA may contain significant complexities. They advise that even foreign nationals who are permanent residents of Canada could be prevented from flying back to the country once the six-month reprieve is over this fall.

Additionally, Canadian citizens – including dual citizens (e.g. Canadian-U.K. citizens) – are not eligible to apply for eTA documentation. All Canadian citizens (including dual citizens) are advised to travel with a valid Canadian passport to minimize potential delays.

The Trudeau government plans to buy media time to inform travellers about the new eTA requirement, but will not extensively advertise the six-month leniency period. For non-U.S. citizens or working musicians without a Canadian visa, the surest way to avoid eTA difficulties when entering Canada is to drive across the border rather than fly.

Since June 23, 2014, foreign musicians travelling to Canada for a limited period do not require a work permit. Non-U.S. citizens, however, still require either an eTA or a valid Canadian visa, depending on their national status.

CIMA and its partners are concerned with policies that restrict the ability of working musicians to travel through Canada. In 2013, they opposed regulations that would require each member of an international tour to obtain an expensive work permit before performing gig-related jobs at bars, coffee shops or clubs.

Along with its partners, CIMA also defeated a ‘tour tax’ under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that would have imposed undue fees on show bookers who sought to bring international musicians into Canada.

The purpose was to send a clear message to our neighbours that Canada seeks cultural reciprocity. Such reciprocity is necessary to establish an interactive global market that can permit independent musicians to flourish at home and abroad.

More information about Electronic Travel Authorization can be found at the IRCC website, or by visiting the Tourism Industry Association of Canada online.