Do I have to go through customs for a connecting flight in Canada?

Nonstop flights are the best and most comfortable way to travel over a long distance. But there are times when you can’t avoid a layover. Layovers come with their complications, and if your connection is in Canada, you’ll have some questions. One of such questions is, do you need to go through customs for a connecting flight in Canada?

You’ll have to go through customs if your connecting flight is in Canada. Thus, you’ll need a visitor visa, eTA, or transit visa to pass through customs. However, there are exemptions such as being a permanent resident or citizen of the US or if you’re eligible for the Transit Without Visa Program.

However, you may not need to go through customs if your flight is domestic. The same thing also goes for your luggage tagged directly to the destination on domestic flights, but you’ll need to recheck your luggage through customs if it’s an international flight. This article comprehensively examines all you need to know about connecting flights in Canada.

Do You Need to Go Through Customs on a Layover in Canada?

Suppose you’re on an international flight and have to stop briefly in Canada for a connecting flight. You’ll have to go through immigration or customs in Canada even though you’re not planning to stay there. This generally involves filling certain forms and getting your passport verified. It happens regardless of whether you’re leaving the airport or not.

What You Need for Your Connecting Flight in Canada

If your flight is stopping over in Canada, you need certain documents. Generally, the document you need depends on how long you’ll be staying, passport nationality, how you’re traveling, among other factors. Since you’re traveling by flight, you’ll need any of the following.

1.   Visitor Visa

This is for those traveling from a visa-required country and planning to stay in Canada for more than 48 hours while transiting. Or those who plan to visit Canada even if they’re traveling by air and won’t stay for up to 48 hours. If you’re in any of the two categories, you’ll have to apply for a visitor visa ahead of your trip.

2.   eTA

If you’re traveling by air from an eTA required country and transiting through Canada, you need to have an eTA. Getting an electronic travel authorization is quite easy. You have to apply online, and you’ll get the approval by email within a few minutes. In some cases where you need to submit supporting documents, it might take some days. But it’s important to get an eTA before booking your flight.

3.   Transit Visa

This visa is necessary if you’re traveling from a visa-required country and fall under the following categories.

  • If your international flight will be stopping in a Canadian airport before continuing to another country,
  • Or you’ll be connecting two international flights to a Canadian airport,
  • Or you’ll transit through Canada within 48 hours at most.

You don’t need a transit visa if you already have a visitor visa.

Exemptions to the Visa Rule for Transiting Through Canada

However, if you’re a permanent resident or citizen of the United States, you don’t need a visa to transit through Canada for your connecting flight as long as you have the right travel documents with you.

Transit Without Visa Program

If you’re passing through Canada on your flight to or from the United States, you may not need a Canadian visa to transit through Canada. However, here are the conditions attached to the TWOV program.

  • You must have documents that include a valid US visa and passport of China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, or Taiwan (without a personal identification number). In addition, you must have a confirmed airline ticket for a flight to the US that leaves Canada within 24 hours of your arrival. In case you’re travelling from the United States to another destination, you’ll any document that’ll allow you to enter the country you’re going, and you must also pass the US immigration conditions and must have departed directly from a city in the United States.
  • You Must Travel Through any of the following airports. Toronto Pearson International Airport, Terminal 1 only. Calgary International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, and Winnipeg International Airport.
  • You must travel with an airline participating in the TWOV program.
  • You mustn’t leave the airport throughout the layover except to board your flight and ensure you stay within the international transit area.
  • You must leave Canada within 24 hours of arrival. Where departure is after 24 hours due to flight cancellation or any reason, you’ll need to pass through the Canada Border Services Agency.

The exemptions mean that you will not have to go through Canadian customs again before getting onto your connecting flight to or from the US. However, you’ll be physically separated from other passengers and baggage as you’ll be in the sterile Transit Area while you wait for your flight. If you’re traveling into the United States, you’ll have to go to the US Customs and Border Protection, where an officer will process you for entry into the United States. After clearance, you can go to the departure area for your connecting flight into the US. If you’re leaving the United States, you simply have to go to the primary inspection kiosk in the connection area. The officials will scan your passport and clear you to wait in the international departures lounge for your connecting flight.

Beyond these exemptions, you’ll need to have a visa if you’re transiting through Canada. Suppose, for any reason; you don’t meet or flout any of the conditions for visa exemption. In that case, you’ll have to pass through the Canada Border Services Agency for examination before you can continue your trip.

What Happens to Your Checked Luggage When Taking Connecting Flights?

1.   Domestic Flights

If your flight is a domestic flight which means your layover is within Canada. The checked luggage is tagged to the final destination. So, it’ll be taken off the first flight directly to the second flight without you needing to clear with the customs.

2.   International Flights

For international flights where you’re flying from another country and stopping over in Canada before continuing your journey, you’ll need to collect and recheck your luggage regardless of where you’re heading.

In Conclusion

If you’re on an international flight that needs to stop in Canada for a connecting flight, be ready to go through customs. This means you’ll need a visa. There are, however, a few exemptions, but no matter the situation, you’ll still have to go through security.

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