An Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is a prerequisite for entry imposed by certain countries on visa-exempt travelers. It is not a physical document but rather a digital document that can be conveniently obtained online. The ETA acts as a security measure and a preliminary assessment conducted by these countries through interconnected electronic systems linked to security databases. Its purpose is to identify any potential risks posed by these visa-exempt travelers, encompassing aspects such as security concerns, illegal immigration, and even public health hazards.
The concept of electronic travel authorization systems gained global recognition in 1996 when Australia introduced the first electronic system for travel authorizations. Following Australia’s pioneering initiative, numerous countries have adopted similar systems. For instance, in 2008, the United States launched the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), while Canada introduced the Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) in 2015. New Zealand followed suit with the New Zealand Electronic Travel Authorization (NZeTA) in 2019. Furthermore, the United Kingdom is slated to introduce the British Electronic Travel Authorization in 2023, and the European Union is expected to join electronic travel authorization systems in 2024 through the implementation of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which will be applicable for visiting the entire Schengen area.
Electronic travel authorizations offer various benefits to both issuing countries and eligible travelers. The main advantages of ETAs include:
Naturally, not all foreign travelers can apply for an ETA in countries that have implemented such systems. Instead, these countries restrict eligibility to specific nationalities and under certain conditions. The key eligibility criteria imposed by countries utilizing electronic travel authorization systems include:
Application fees are a fundamental requirement for electronic travel authorizations and must be paid during the application process. However, in certain cases, specific applicant categories may be exempted from these fees. For example, the ETIAS authorization exempts applicants under 18 years and over 70 years from the application fees. Typically, fees for electronic travel authorizations vary from country to country. However, in general, these application fees are considerably lower compared to most visa types and other travel documents required for entry into specific destinations. For example, the Canadian electronic travel authorization (eTA) carries a fee of only CAD 7, whereas the fee for a temporary resident visa for Canada is CAD 100. Here are some examples of widely applied for electronic travel authorizations and their respective application fees:
Generally, application fees paid during the application process are non-refundable in case of rejection. However, in some cases, the fees may be divided into two parts, as in the case of the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), where the total cost is USD 21. This cost is divided into processing fees (USD 4, non-refundable in case of rejection) and authorization fees (USD 17, payable only upon approval of the application). It’s important to note that in addition to the official application fees, there may be additional service provider charges that applicants need to consider.
Specific application requirements for ETAs may vary, but there are common fundamental prerequisites shared by the majority of electronic authorization systems. These requirements are generally straightforward and easily fulfilled by most applicants. They include:
The process of applying for an electronic travel authorization is known for its simplicity, with most applicants able to complete the application in just a few minutes. Although the specific steps may vary depending on the destination, the typical application process involves the following stages:
After completing the application and paying the required fees, the processing time for electronic travel authorization applications tends to be relatively short. It can range from a few minutes for certain types, such as the Canadian eTA, to up to 72 hours for authorizations issued by the United States and New Zealand. However, in some cases, applications may take longer to process if further verification is required by the decision-making authorities. Applicants can typically check the status of their applications through the application platforms during the decision waiting period.
Most electronic travel authorizations have long validity periods that can extend for several years, allowing holders to travel multiple times to their destination throughout the validity period. However, it’s important to note that the validity of electronic travel authorizations is strictly tied to the validity of the passport used to obtain them. Therefore, regardless of the remaining validity period of an electronic travel authorization, it will not be valid for travel if the passport used to obtain it has expired.
In addition to validity, each electronic travel authorization allows a specific duration of stay for each visit during the validity period. Here are some examples of validity and stay periods available for holders of some of the most prominent electronic travel authorizations:
Usually, ETAs cannot be extended beyond their expiration dates, and travelers must apply for a new authorization to replace the expired one. However, in some limited cases, holders of electronic travel authorizations may be able to extend their allowed stay period by obtaining certain permits from relevant immigration authorities. The process and requirements for such extensions can vary from country to country.