Visiting Canada: Do British tourists need a visa?

A visit to Canada can be a magical experience. However, an important first step to enjoying its beautiful nature and vibrant cities is negotiating its immigration process. 

The good news is that despite its proximity to the United States, dealing with the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) is usually a much friendlier experience than with its neighbour to the south. However, there are still strict rules and requirements that foreign visitors must follow.

Of course, this will probably leave you asking: “Do I need a visa for Canada from the UK?” If you’re a tourist, the quick answer is no, but it’s not quite as simple as that as we’ll explain below.

What do I need to enter Canada as a British citizen?

British travellers don’t require a visa to enter Canada. However, as a country with visa waiver status, there is something you will need to obtain before you leave the UK.

Get an eTA before you depart for Canada

Since 2016, all visa-exempt foreign nationals have needed a Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter the country. This is a digital document that is acquired online and is electronically linked to the traveller’s passport.

When you apply for an eTA you will need the following:

  • Your British passport
  • A valid email address
  • Your credit or debit card

This system works in a similar way to the USA’s ESTA visa waiver, where after approval you can use your eTA multiple times. Once you have registered your details with the system the waiver will be electronically tied to your passport for 5 years or until the document expires.

Who needs to hold an eTA to visit Canada?

All visa-exempt foreign visitors arriving in Canada must hold a valid eTA as well as their passport. This includes children and parents or guardians must complete an application for any minors in their care who will travel with them. 

How long does it take to get a Canadian eTA?

Fortunately, getting a Canadian eTA doesn’t take long at all. Filling in the online application form only takes about 10-15 minutes and if everything is correct you should receive your visa waiver within 24 hours.

However, it is important to register for an eTA at least a few days before you depart for Canada. This is in case any errors are found or delays occur in processing your travel authorization.

What information do you need to provide to get an eTA?

When you’re filling in the online form for your Canadian eTA you will be asked to provide a few items of important data. This will provide personal information about you as a traveller and will also log your passport details.

You will need to enter your:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Nationality
  • Passport information
  • Email address
  • Employment information
  • Your arrival date (if known)

This data must be correctly entered on the application form or you might experience delays in getting your electronic visa waiver. Once the eTA is approved it will be sent directly to the email address you registered during the process.

When do British travellers need a visa to enter Canada?

Whilst British tourists can use an eTA to visit Canada for up to 6 months at a time, staying for longer requires a visa. To get a visa for work, residency or study purposes you will need to visit your nearest Canadian embassy or consulate to apply.

What you need to know when entering Canada’s borders

When you arrive in Canada you must make sure you respect the requirements of the CBSA. This means you must be in possession of the correct travel documents such as your eTA, passport or any visas necessary for your trip.

The CBSA will verify your identity and travel authorization and in most cases will check your fingerprints. If everything is correct you will get a stamp in your passport and be allowed to enter Canada.

It’s important that British travellers have the right travel documents ready when they enter Canada but thankfully this doesn’t normally require much stress or time to prepare. This leaves more time to plan a great experience of visiting the northern wilds or enjoying the cosmopolitan city life that you’ll find in the country.