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Visiting any foreign country usually requires "border clearance" as well as a Visa or other permit. Canada is no different but coming from the U.S. as a private aircraft might make things easier for you.

Border clearance. If you are flying a private aircraft with fewer than 15 persons on board and meet a few other requirements, you can enter and depart Canada by calling into a phone number and you may end up not having to see any customs officials at all. This is "CANPASS" and can be done via telephone, but it does require membership.

Visas. Some travelers may qualify for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) which is certainly easier than a Visa.

In both cases, you need to figure this out before you depart.

Everything here is from the references shown below, with a few comments in an alternate color.

Last revision:

2020-12-29


CANPASS

CANPASS will take the place of having to report to a customs official following border crossing but there are a number of requirements that must be met first. Not everyone is eligible, but if you are, it greatly simplifies entry and exit.

[CANPASS Website]

  • The CANPASS – Private Aircraft program makes clearing the border easier for private aircraft carrying no more than 15 people (including the crew) and traveling to Canada from the United States. This program allows members to access more airports and provides expedited clearances for low-risk, pre-screened travelers
  • If you are a CANPASS – Private Aircraft member, your private aircraft can have the following privileges:
    • It can land at any airport of entry (AOE) in Canada;
    • It can land at an AOE any time the airport is open for landing, regardless of the hours of business of the local CBSA office;
    • It can land at a CANPASS-only airport, which may be nearer to your destination;
    • It receives expedited clearance; and
    • It can proceed to the final destination if there is no CBSA officer waiting for the aircraft by the reported time of arrival, without the pilot having to make a second call to the CBSA after landing.
  • To be eligible for CANPASS – Private Aircraft, you must meet these criteria:
    • Be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada or the United States and have lived in Canada and/or the United States continuously for the last three years;
    • You are admissible to Canada under applicable immigration laws;
    • You have provided true and accurate information on the application;
    • You have not been convicted of a criminal offence for which a pardon or rehabilitation has not been granted;
    • You have not had a customs seizure within the past six years; and
    • You are not in violation of any customs or immigration legislation.
  • Private aircraft that meet the requirements of the CANPASS – Private Aircraft program can land at any airport of entry any time the site is open, regardless of the hours of operation of the local CBSA office. The aircraft can also land at a designated CANPASS-only airport.
  • The pilot is in charge of the aircraft and he or she must report all passengers and their goods on behalf of the aircraft. Pilots are responsible for reporting themselves, their crew and passengers to a telephone reporting centre (TRC) by calling 1-888-CANPASS (1-888-226-7277) at least 2 hours before but no more than 48 hours prior to the aircraft's estimated time of arrival in Canada.
  • The TRC allows individuals who enter Canada by private aircraft, corporate aircraft or private boat to report their arrival and make their declarations to the CBSA by telephone.

Participation in CANPASS is voluntary, but it expands where you can go and when you can go. For more details and the forms needed to apply, see: https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/prog/canpass/privateair-eng.html

eTA

[eTA Website]

  • An Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is an entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling to Canada by air. An eTA is electronically linked to a traveler’s passport. It is valid for up to five years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first. If you get a new passport, you need to get a new eTA.
  • With a valid eTA, you can travel to Canada as often as you want for short stays (normally for up to six months at a time). You do not need an eTA for travel within Canada.
  • An eTA doesn’t guarantee entry to Canada. When you arrive, a border services officer will ask to see your passport and other documents – for example, a U.S. Green Card. You must convince the officer that you are eligible for entry into Canada.
  • Travelers who need an eTA: Visa-exempt foreign nationals need an eTA to fly to or transit through a Canadian airport. These travelers do not need an eTA when arriving by car, bus, train or boat (including a cruise ship). Lawful permanent residents of the U.S. need an eTA to fly to or transit through a Canadian airport. They must present a valid Green Card and a valid passport at check-in.
  • Travelers who may be eligible to apply for an eTA: Citizens from select visa-required countries may be eligible to apply for an eTA, instead of a visa, to travel to Canada by air. However, these travelers need a visitor visa when arriving by car, bus, train, or boat, including a cruise ship. Travelers who cannot apply for an eTA and need to carry other identification: Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, need a valid Canadian passport. American-Canadians can travel with a valid Canadian or U.S. passport.
  • Canadian permanent residents need a valid permanent resident card or permanent resident travel document. Important – former residents of Canada: Permanent resident (PR) status does not expire. If you once lived in Canada many years ago, you could still have PR status. Learn more to avoid travel delays. Visa-required including alien’s passport holders and stateless individuals.
  • Travelers who are exempt from the eTA requirement. For example: U.S. citizens are exempt from the eTA requirement and must carry proper identification such as a valid U.S. passport. See the complete list of eTA exceptions.
  • See the eTA Website for more about visa-exempt foreign nationals and select visa-required countries. If you are a lawful permanent resident of the United States, you are visa-exempt.

  • Applying for an eTA is a simple online process that takes just a few minutes to complete. Most applicants get their eTA approval (via an email) within minutes. However, some requests can take several days to process if you're asked to submit supporting documents. It is best to get an eTA before you book your flight to Canada.
  • An eTA costs CAD $7. You can only apply and pay for one person at a time.
  • To complete the form, you will need your passport, a credit or debit card, and an email address. You must also answer a few questions.

Participation in eTA is mandatory for many of us arriving by air and needs to be done in advance. For more details and links to the application process, see: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/eta.html.


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