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international airpline travel without going through Canada because direct airside transit is not allowed at Canadian airports and a Canadian visa would be needed
Travel topics > Preparation > Avoiding travel through Canada

Similar to the situation in the US, Canada's international airports typically do not allow direct airside transit (i.e., facilities for arriving international passengers to transfer to another international flight without being inspected by Canadian immigration authorities). This may make a layover at a Canadian airport time-consuming and expensive for citizens of certain countries. This guide is intended to give workarounds for various trips without touching Canadian (or US) airspace.


To avoid duplications and because almost all travellers wishing to avoid Canada will also wish to avoid the US, this article does not deal with flights entering US airspace or having layovers there

Similar to the United States, Canada requires most visitors — even those only transiting through an airport — to either have a valid visa or, in the case of citizens of a select few countries and only for certain types of stay, an Electronic Travel Autorisation (eTA). While the eTA is relatively easy to obtain for qualifying citizens (which—unlike the US equivalent ESTA includes all EU member states), it does cost CAD$7.00 and will be denied to people with a criminal record. And as even crimes which may be viewed as lesser infractions elsewhere — such as a drunk driving conviction — are taken quite seriously under Canadian law, this excludes no small number of travelers. U.S. citizens (but not U.S. permanent residents) and travellers coming to Canada with a visa are exempt from the eTA.

Transit without visaEdit

As of 2018, citizens of a few countries who otherwise would require a visa for Canada are allowed visa-free transit via the Vancouver International Airport (YVR IATA), Calgary International Airport (YYC IATA), or Terminal 1 of the Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ IATA) on the way to or from the United States. These individuals must be in possession of a valid US entry visa, have a confirmed onward ticket, and travel on an approved airline. Although the government website also lists Winnipeg International Airport (YWG IATA) as an eligible airport for this scheme, there are no direct flights from Asia to Winnipeg where the travellers can benefit from these programs.

There are 2 different programs:

  • The Transit Without Visa program is for citizens of Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan ROC (including those who are not eligible for the normal Canadian visa exemption), and the Philippines.
  • The China Transit Program is for citizens of the People's Republic of China. When travelling via Canada to the United States, passengers must be arriving to Canada on a flight from one of 15 specified airports in Asia. Aside from Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto (terminal 1), Chinese citizens can also transit via Montreal International Airport (YUL IATA).

From EuropeEdit

To South and Central AmericaEdit

To the CaribbeanEdit

From AfricaEdit

From AsiaEdit

See alsoEdit

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