OTTAWA — Low-risk travellers from 13 more countries will be able to skip a visa application if they want to visit Canada, the immigration minister announced Tuesday.
An expanded program would allow people to instead apply for an electronic travel authorization: a digital travel document that costs $7 and can be processed in minutes.
Travellers from the 13 countries can qualify for the faster, cheaper option if they have either held a Canadian visa in the last 10 years or currently hold a non-immigrant visa to the United States and are travelling by air.
Canada tried the idea as a pilot project in 2017, starting with visitors from Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania. Visa requirements have since been lifted for Bulgaria and Romania, but qualifying people from Brazil can still apply for the electronic travel authorization.
The new process will not only make things easier for travellers to Canada, but will also take the pressure off a backlog of visa applications, Fraser said.
"When we know that someone has been through the screening process recently in Canada, or who has been through the rigorous screening process more recently in the United States, we have faith that they're going to be able to satisfy the requirements of the visa process in Canada," Fraser said at a press conference in the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport Tuesday.
"It means that the current work we're doing within our department to process millions of applications every year is going to be dramatically reduced for people who've been here and continue to take part in repeat travel."
Fraser said he's looking to expand the program to further countries in the future.
The electronic travel authorization is valid for five years or until the traveller's passport expires, whichever comes first.
The expanded list of qualifying countries includes:
— Antigua and Barbuda
— Costa Rica
— St. Kitts and Nevis
— St. Lucia
— St. Vincent and the Grenadines
— Trinidad and Tobago
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2023.
The Canadian Press