Electronic Travel Authorizations (e-TAs) and HIV

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has now confirmed that people who apply for e-TAs do not need to disclose their HIV status.

The e-TA was introduced in Canada in March, 2016.  An e-TA is meant to screen visitors to Canada prior to their arrival at the border and requires visitors to answer a number of questions regarding their admissibility to Canada, such as questions about their health and criminal history. Unlike the temporary resident visa process, the e-TA application process is meant to be quick and efficient. A person simply logs onto an online site ( www.Canada.ca/eTA),  enters their passport information, answers a few questions, and receives confirmation of an e-TA approval electronically usually within minutes. 

The questions for e-TA applicants are intended to be simple and easy to understand. However, the current health screening question on the e-TA is overly simple and confusing. It asks:

 “Do you have a serious health condition for which you are receiving regular and ongoing medical treatment?”

The supporting guide for e-TA applicants provides the following instructions:

“Select YES if you are receiving regular, ongoing medical treatment for any mental or physical condition.”

This has led to a great deal of confusion regarding whether HIV status must be disclosed.  For many years, it has been the official policy of Canada that HIV is not an impediment to visiting Canada and that HIV status does not need to be disclosed on applications for temporary entry. For example, the question on temporary resident visa applications is much more specific:

“a)      Within the past two years, have you or a family member ever had tuberculosis of the lungs or been in close contact with a person with tuberculosis?

b)      Do you have any physical or mental disorder that would require social and/or health services, other than medication, during a stay in Canada?”

By contrast, the e-TA question is broader and more ambiguous, leading to much concern and confusion for people with HIV.

Thankfully, in an email to the Canadian Bar Association’s Immigration Section, IRCC has confirmed that there is no intention to require HIV to be disclosed on e-TA applications, and that the overly broad e-TA question is being re-formulated to reflect this.  The new question will likely refer to specific health conditions.

In the meantime, it is reassuring to have clarity that HIV need not be disclosed in e-TA applications. While simplicity and user-friendly communication is a noble goal, there is always a risk that simplicity can lead to greater confusion.