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Special Waivers Between Canada, United States, and China

The United States of America and Canada share one of the longest international borders in the world. The neighboring countries have a warm relationship formed by years of economic and trade ties, identical geography, mutual respect, shared interests and cultural connections.   

The citizens of both the countries enjoy a load of special waivers and exemptions when it comes to immigration and custom checks while crossing their borders.  

For years, their governments have worked together to create a near seamless travel experience for them.  

While the US has its embassy in Ottawa and consulates general across many other Canadian cities, Canada has its embassy in Washington DC. Apart from this Canada has around 12 consulates general, three trade offices and 14 honorary consuls across the US.  

Travel between these countries is visa-free. In normal circumstances, citizens or legal permanent residents of the US need not apply for a visa or an eTA to cross borders to Canada.  

Likewise, to enter the US, Canadians have to carry only their passports or documents to prove their permanent residency status.  

Read on to know special visa waivers that international travelers enjoy while transiting to and from the US through airports in Canada.  

Transit Without Visa Program (TWOV) 

Under this special program of the Canadian government, citizens of certain foreign nations can transit through various airports in Canada without a transit visa if they are traveling to or from the USA.  

Though they are exempt from applying for a Canadian visa, they have to comply with certain rules and regulations.  

  • They have to show a valid US visa or passport.
  • Passengers with a valid passport from Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan too can enjoy this facility.
  • Travelers who are eligible for the TWOV program should have confirmed tickets of a flight that leaves the Canadian airport within 24 hours of their arrival. Or, they have to travel with an airline that is registered under the TWOV program.
  • They should not leave the airport during the transit period and have to remain in the area dedicated for international transit passengers.
  • They have to transit through airports that allow TWOV   

Note that the passengers transiting through Canadian airports to the US under TWOV have to follow the US immigration laws. It is encouraged to pre-confirm with the airline if you are eligible for the Transit Without Visa program before boarding the flight.  

Airports coming under TWOV 

  • Terminal 1 of Toronto Pearson International Airport
  • Vancouver International Airport
  • Calgary Int. Airport
  • Winnipeg Int. Airport

The travelers are not allowed to go out of the dedicated transit area which is separated from other passenger terminals.

If at all they need to leave the area, they will have to get special permission from the Canada Border Service staff stationed at the airport.  

What happens if the flight is delayed? 

If the connection flight is delayed or cancelled due to unexpected reasons, the passengers in transit need to report to the border service officers. Be sure to check with the airline about the departure time of the connection flight to avoid any delays in the travel plan.  

Transit through Canada on Way Back to the US 

Outbound passengers traveling to the US have to go directly from the arrival terminal to the area dedicated to US connection flights.  

There, the US customs and border protection officials will screen them and their baggage before processing their US entry. 

After the customs checks they can enter the departure area dedicated to US flights.   

If the travelers miss their connection flight or are refused entry to the US, they are no longer eligible for TWOV. They have to apply for a Canadian visa. 

They must ensure to arrive during the working hours of the US customs and border facility so that their travel plans are not disturbed.  

China Transit Program (CTP) 

This special visa waiver program enables citizens of China to transit through Canadian airports while on their way to or from the US. They have to comply with the following conditions: 

  • They have to produce a valid travel document like a US visa.
  • They must travel with the legal passport of China.
  • They must have a confirmed ticket of a flight that will leave the Canadian airport within 24 hours of their landing.
  • They have boarded the flight from certain cities in Asia or are going to a city in the US.
  • They must meet the US border security and immigration requirements.
  • They must travel with airlines registered under the CTP scheme.
  • They should travel through certain airports in Canada. They are as follows: Calgary International Airport, Montréal International Airport, Terminal 1 of Toronto Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Winnipeg International Airport.
  • They should not leave the airport during the stopover period.

Like in the case of TWOV, travelers eligible for CTP too cannot move out of the dedicated transit area in Canadian airports. 

If they need to move around, they have to take permission from the Canadian border security officers. Also, they have to inform the immigration staff if their connection flight is delayed.  

If under some circumstances, they miss their connection flight they will no longer be qualified for the special waiver. In such cases, they are required to get a Canadian visa.   

CTP eligible travelers on their way to the US have to directly go to the area dedicated to the US connection flights from the arrival terminal. These travelers and their baggage will be screened by the US as immigration officials before processing their US entry.  

If they arrive on non-operational hours of the US customs and border protection officials, their travel plans can be disrupted or delayed.  

At times, they may even be asked to apply for a Canadian visa. Confirm with the airlines about the arrival and departure timings of the flight in a Canadian airport and be ready with the papers to avoid delays in the US pre-clearance process.  

Chinese citizens transiting through Canada from the US to an international destination have to go through a screening process at the primary inspection kiosks at the transit area of the airport. 

After scanning the passports and other documents, they can wait in the departure area of international flights.  

What Airlines Qualify for this Waiver? 

Only select international airlines are qualified for special waivers under CTP. They are as follows: 

  • Air Canada
  • Air Canada Rouge
  • Air China
  • Air Georgian
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Jazz Air
  • Philippines Airlines
  • Sky Regional Airlines Inc.
  • WestJet
  • Xiamen Airlines

What Happens If I Miss My Connection Flight? 

If CTP eligible travelers miss their connection flights or are denied US entry, they have to inform Canada Border Service Agency officers at the airport before continuing their onward journey. 

As per the rules, they are no longer eligible for CTP and may need to apply for a visa.
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