MANILA (UPDATED) — Eligible Filipinos can qualify for visa-free air travel to Canada, the Canadian embassy in the Philippines said Wednesday.
This, after the North American country added the Philippines to its Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) program, which will enable Filipinos who have held a Canadian visa for 10 years and holders of non-immigrant visas from the United States to apply for an eTA when traveling to Canada by air.
"Introducing visa-free air travel will make it faster, easier and more affordable for thousands of known travelers from the Philippines to visit Canada for up to 6 months for either business or leisure. It will also help facilitate more travel, tourism and international business between our countries, and help strengthen people-to-people and cultural ties," the Canadian embassy said.
Filipinos who already hold valid Canadian visas can continue to use them to travel to Canada, while others who are not eligible for an eTA or traveling to Canada by means other than air travel would still need a visitor visa to enter the country.
Travelers may visit the Canadian government's eTA website to find out if they are eligible for an eTA and how to apply for one.
To apply for an eTA, travelers need only a valid passport, a credit card, an email address and access to the Internet. Application costs 7 Canadian dollars, with most applications getting automatically approved "within minutes."
The move is part of Canada's strategy in increasing mobility measures for the Philippines, and would also support the country's Indo-Pacific strategy.
"Canada values our relationship with the Philippines. With the well-established Filipino diaspora in Canada, along with an increasing number of students and tourists from the Philippines, we recognize the importance of expanding and simplifying travel between our countries," the embassy added.
For her part, Canadian Minister for Global Affairs Mélanie Joly said the move also recognizes Canada being a "destination of choice for so many around the world," including Filipinos.
“Expanding the eTA program to include countries like the Philippines is also an important part of our Indo-Pacific Strategy, as we look to further engage in the region, build on people-to-people ties, and make travel to Canada easier, faster, and safer for everyone," Joly said.
The Philippines is one of 13 additional countries whose citizens can become eligible for visa-free travel.
Since 2013, Canada has issued 466,936 temporary resident visas to citizens from the Philippines.
"These individuals, along with current US non-immigrant visa holders, may now be eligible for visa-free travel," the embassy also said.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Canada's visa-free offer is "an important milestone and a striking indication of Canada's growing friendship and trust in the Philippines."
The DFA added that the fresh policy would "spur travel, stimulate more business opportunities, and foster greater interest for family reunification efforts."
"The Philippines considers Canada as a close partner due to its well-established people-to-people ties and looks forward to charting a new era of engagement under this new policy," the DFA said.