Manually processing electronic travel authorization applications

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

May 1, 2017 Expansion of eTA for Brazilian, Bulgarian, and Romanian nationals

While the basic process of how to manually process eTA applications remains the same, with the May 2017 expansion of eTA, there are two expansion-specific reasons why a case/application could be referred for manual review to the Operations Support Centre (OSC). Manual reviews will be required if the automated search indicates that:

  1. there was no previous Canadian temporary resident visa (TRV) issued in the past 10 years preceding the application; or
  2. the US NIV verification result was negative (i.e. no valid document, lost/stolen document, revoked document, not reviewed).

Procedures

Identity reconciliation for applicants who have applied for an eTA

Applications can drop out of the automated process flow if the system cannot confirm an applicant’s identity.

Procedure

To query for these applications, the officer should perform a search in IMM activities, Automation. The Activity will be “Candidate ID Decision”, and the Status will be set to “Review Required”.

To reconcile the applicant’s identity, the officer should consider the above-mentioned questions to determine whether to match the applicant to an existing UCI or to create a new client. Once the determination is made, the officer should refresh the page until the next automated activity is created.

Canadian citizen applied for an eTA

In some cases, applications can drop out of the automated process because the individual appears to be a citizen of Canada. The system will catch such cases only if the individual is a naturalized citizen; individuals who are Canadian citizens by birth will not have a record of their citizenship in GCMS and will therefore not be identifiable by the system.

If the applicant is a Canadian citizen, they are not eligible for an eTA.

Officers should consider the following:

  • Based on case history, has the applicant indeed been granted Canadian citizenship?
  • Is there anything on file showing that the applicant is appearing as a Canadian citizen in the system, but that their citizenship has been revoked?

Procedure

Level 1 decision makers at the OSC will query for these applications by performing a search in IMM activities, Automation. The Activity will be “Derogatory information”, the Sub-activity will be “Client Derogatory Information”, and the Status will be “Review Required”.

The officer should determine whether the applicant is a Canadian citizen.

If the officer determines that the applicant is a Canadian citizen, they should withdraw the application.

The officer should contact the applicant and advise them that their application has been withdrawn and that they must use their Canadian travel document to enter Canada.

Canadian permanent resident applied for an eTA

In some cases, applications can drop out of the automated process because the individual appears to be a permanent resident of Canada.

If the applicant is a permanent resident of Canada, they are not eligible for an eTA.

Officers should consider the following:

  • Based on case history, is the applicant indeed a permanent resident?
  • Based on case history, has the applicant renounced their permanent resident status? Even though a person has renounced their status, their GCMS profile often still shows them as a permanent resident.

Procedure

If the applicant is a permanent resident and has not already gone through the formal process of relinquishing their status, they should be contacted to determine whether they would like to voluntarily relinquish their status.

  • If the applicant does not wish to relinquish their status or does not reply to the request, the officer must:
    • withdraw the application; and
    • advise the applicant that they will need to get an appropriate travel document that demonstrates that they are a permanent resident, which may necessitate a determination of their status.
  • If the applicant would like to relinquish their status:
    • they may do so electronically via their secure IRCC account as part of their eTA application or by submitting a paper application to their local visa office; and
    • once they have done so, and assuming they are otherwise admissible, the officer may issue the eTA.

Adverse information on file for eTA applicant

If the applicant previously applied for entry to Canada—either through an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) program or through the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the port of entry (POE)—or if they are already known to IRCC, e.g. through intelligence, and if there is adverse information on file for the applicant, it will be uncovered through the automated eTA screening process performed in GCMS, which will cause the application to be referred for manual review.

Assessing eTA applications

An officer must be satisfied that an applicant is not inadmissible to Canada before issuing an eTA. When an officer makes a decision, the officer must be sure that they have the legal authority to make the decision and must proceed fairly. The set of legal rules that lay down the procedural requirements that decision makers must follow are sometimes called the rules of natural justice or the principles of procedural fairness. Procedural fairness requires that applicants receive a fair and unbiased assessment of their application and that they be given a fair opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. The requirement for procedural fairness applies to all types of immigration applications and all aspects of decision-making.

There are nine steps to making a fair decision:

  1. Identify the requirement that must be satisfied

    The requirements to obtain an eTA must be met before the outcome that is requested by an applicant can be granted by an officer. General requirements can be broken down into specific elements. An element is a single fact that must be supported by evidence. Therefore, the first step in the process of making a decision on an eTA application is to identify clearly the requirements that must be met for an eTA to be granted, and more specifically, to identify clearly all the elements of the requirements that must be satisfied.

  2. Identify the facts to be proven

    Facts always come from evidence. A fact has been established by an applicant when evidence that they provide leads an officer to believe that the fact is likely to be true. Without evidence, it is difficult to prove a fact.

    On the eTA application form, the applicant makes certain declarations about themselves (identity, current address, current occupation, etc.). In this second step of decision-making, the officer is identifying what facts must be proven based on these declarations.

  3. Apply the appropriate standard of proof

    Evidence is considered strong or weak depending on the degree to which it supports the facts that are under consideration and persuades an officer. The degree to which an officer needs to believe is established in law and is referred to as the standard of proof.

    The standard of proof imposed on officers is called the “balance of probabilities”. Saying something is proven on a balance of probabilities means that it is more likely than not to be true. It means that it is probable, i.e. the probability that something is true is more than 50%. Mathematically speaking, proof on a balance of probabilities is a 50.1% likelihood of something being true.

    Officers must therefore review the evidence presented for each application, measure it (a process also known as weighing) and determine if the standard of proof has been met.

  4. Identify the relevant evidence

    Evidence is anything presented in support of an assertion, anything presented to establish a fact or to prove an element. Any offered evidence that is relevant must be considered during the process of making a decision on an eTA application.

    It should also be noted that the burden of proof falls on the applicant. This means that the applicant is required to provide sufficient evidence to lead an officer to form the opinion that the requirements have been met.

  5. Assess the credibility of the evidence

    Credible evidence refers to evidence that is inherently believable or that has been received from a competent or reliable source. In other words, when reviewing evidence, an officer must consider the source and the evidence itself and ask whether they are worthy of belief or confidence. If an officer decides that they are not believable, they should set them aside and not take them into account in their decision-making.

    When an applicant asserts that certain facts are true, this creates a presumption that they are true. Given this presumption, to find that an assertion is not credible, there must be a valid and compelling reason to doubt its truthfulness.

    The following points, among others, can raise questions about the credibility or reliability of documentary evidence. Whether they lead to a conclusion that they lack credibility to such a point that a particular document should not be taken into account is a matter for an officer’s judgment.

    • Inconsistencies or spelling mistakes (especially if the document purports to be an official document)
    • Incompleteness, including whether the document has been properly signed and dated
    • Inconsistency of the document with other reliable information
    • The presence of bias
    • Indications of alterations or forgery
    • Indications that the document is fabricated
    • Damage to the document that reduces its legibility

    The Federal Court has made it clear that in the assessment of credibility, it is important to remember that all of the evidence presented—not just portions of it—must be considered and assessed.

  6. Determine the evidence’s probative value

    Once it is decided that the evidence offered is credible enough to be relied upon, an officer must evaluate how persuasive it is. Is it persuasive enough to lead the officer to, on the balance of probabilities, make a decision on the eTA application? Does it have sufficient weight, either by itself or in combination with other evidence?

    Evidence that is indefinite, vague or improbable will be given less weight than evidence that is direct, detailed and unrefuted. When reviewing a document to determine its probative value, the officer should consider the following:

    • How directly does it relate to the issue?
    • Is it the best document available?
    • Has it been issued by an objective authority?
    • Has it been issued by a person or authority that has no vested interest in the outcome?
    • Is it either the most recent document or the document closest in time to the event being asserted?
    • Does it contain identifiable errors?
    • Does the issuing authority have a history of reliability?
    • Is the information in the document verifiable?
    • What were the circumstances under which the document was created?
    • To what extent is the document based on observable facts or opinion?

    It should be noted that speculation, meaning an assertion that may sound plausible but that is a mere guess, should be given no weight.

  7. Determine if the evidence is sufficient

    Once an officer has reviewed all the relevant evidence and considered if it is credible and its probative value, the officer must decide if this evidence is sufficient, keeping in mind that the applicant need only convince the officer of the facts based on a “balance of probabilities”. If the evidence is “more probable than not”, the burden of proof is discharged, and the officer can proceed to making a decision.

    If the probabilities are equal or if, based on a balance of probabilities, the evidence tips the scale more to the side described as “not probable”, the burden of proof is not discharged, and the officer must decide if any specific additional documentation can be requested from the applicant that would resolve the doubt and help establish the facts.

  8. Decide

    The next step in decision-making is to look at the established facts and decide if the facts demonstrate that the applicant meets the requirements as identified in step 1. If there is some evidence for each of the requirements and if the officer has found that evidence to be adequately credible and persuasive, the officer is in a position to grant the eTA. If one of the elements is not met for either reason, the officer cannot grant the eTA.

    In making the decision, the rules of procedural fairness require the officer to assess the evidence fairly. Fairness is achieved by following the steps outlined above, but it also means, among other things, doing so without bias. Being fair also means that the officer is not free to ignore evidence. All of the relevant evidence must be considered, and it must be considered fully, meaning that the officer must take into account both favourable and unfavourable aspects of the evidence before coming to a conclusion.

  9. Record the thinking process

    It is important that the process completed intellectually be reflected in notes to file. It must be recorded in a way that allows the applicant, the Federal Court, the department and anyone else with a right to view the case to come to the conclusion that the officer’s process of decision-making was fair.

eTA Expansion

Referrals for manual review

As previously noted, eTA expansion cases will be referred for manual review for the same reasons as other eTA applications. However, eTA expansion cases undergo additional automated eligibility checks. Therefore, there are additional points in the eTA processing continuum at which an eTA expansion application may be referred to OSC for manual review.

Assessing eTA expansion eligibility results

As per R7.01(1) and (2), foreign nationals may apply for an eTA only if they meet at least one of the two eligibility requirements:  

  • have held a temporary resident visa at any time during the 10 year period immediately preceding the day on which they make their application; or
  • hold a valid United States nonimmigrant visa (U.S. NIV) on the day on which they make their application.

Revalidating and cancelling an eTA

Periodic revalidations will occur on previously approved eTAs. The system will run checks to allow IRCC and/or the CBSA to reassess holders of an active eTA about whom there is new adverse information. Revalidation can lead to the revocation or cancellation of an eTA after the eTA is issued. To support the policy intent of the eTA program, section 12.06 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) includes provisions to cancel an eTA and prescribes the circumstances in which an officer may do so.

R12.06, describes in what instances, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has delegated eTA cancellation authorities to CBSA and IRCC officers.

The eTA cancellation provision does not require a formal finding of inadmissibility through another IRPA process (e.g. a report on inadmissibility prepared under section A44) before cancelling an eTA. Rather, the eTA cancellation provisions themselves create the mechanism for an officer to determine that an eTA holder is inadmissible, and cancel the eTA (including in cases where a foreign national at the POE is allowed to withdraw their application to come to Canada).

Furthermore, CBSA and IRCC officers may come across cases in which an applicant was issued an eTA but was not eligible to receive one (e.g. an applicant who requires a temporary resident visa to Canada mistakenly applies as an applicant from an eTA-required country), as described in the eTA Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. Such eTAs should be cancelled and the applicant directed to apply for the correct entry document.

In most cases, the officer who enters the adverse information into the system will make a decision on the revalidation at the time they are entering the adverse information since the eTA holder will be right in front of the officer (e.g. in the case of POE admissibility assessments). However, to catch any applications needing revalidation, because an admissibility decision has not been made after the new adverse information was entered (i.e. if the officer either forgot to make a decision or did not have sufficient information to make the decision) or where the user entering the information does not have decision-making authority to make a decision on a revalidation case; daily reports will be run and reviewed by OSC. It is important to note that as with most decisions made in the context of the IRPA, the eTA cancellation provision is discretionary. Regardless of the decision to cancel or not, adequate notes should be included in GCMS.

Further, the cancellation authority in section R12.06 gives the authority to cancel an eTA, but it does not constitute an examination under subsection A15(1), so the requirements of section A16 do not apply. This means that while an officer can request additional information from a client regarding new adverse information added to their file, an applicant is under no obligation to provide the requested information, and cannot be compelled to attend an interview.

If an IRCC officer suspects that a client is inadmissible, e.g. because of a poison pen letter or under sections A34 to 37, and the client fails to provide additional information or attend an interview, an officer cannot cancel the eTA as is currently possible in the context of a regular eTA application where subsection A15(1) and section A16 apply, In these cases, an eTA Revalidation info-alert should be entered in the file. The info-alert should match the eTA validity.

Establishing eTA validity

An eTA is valid for five years, until passport expiry or until it is cancelled by an officer, whichever occurs first.

The IRPR also stipulate that an eTA ceases to be valid the day a new eTA is issued to the same person. The only exception to this rule is when an applicant possesses two different types of passports (e.g. a regular passport and a diplomatic passport). In these cases, GCMS has been programmed to allow the applicant to hold multiple eTAs.

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