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My wife was applying for an eTA to visit Canada, and exclaimed in surprise about the price. And I was surprised because I remembered it being very cheap.

I came an had a look and it looked legit at first. Then I looked closer: "official-canada-eta.com". Sure does not sound official, and the fine print at the bottom said: This website is owned and operated by sweet startup ltd, a private company registered in the United Kingdom. We are not affiliated with any government or embassy.

But they were very highly ranked in the google search results for a number of related terms.

Looking around I spotted another https://www.eta-canada-visa.com/.

Are these illegal? Or are they loopholing though as "visa assistance services" or something of the like.

Note: I am not looking for tips on how to identity such a fake site. Just if I can/should report it, and if so where.

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  • As far as I can tell, these sites do actually submit the eTA application, they just charge a hefty fee on top of the official processing fee. Google took down their search ads last year (bbc.co.uk/news/technology-45913581) but it looks like they've come back recently. – Joe Malt Nov 22 '19 at 22:17
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Unfortunately the majority of these websites are legal, on the grounds that they are (officially at least) not claiming to be the official eTA website, but instead a website that will help you obtain your eTA.

At some level, this is no different to companies like H&R Block that assist you with filing your tax return - you can do it yourself for cheaper, but the companies are offering a service to do it for you, and obviously charging an additional fee to do so.

In general these websites will include text that states they are not the 'official' website, but this is normally in small print towards the bottom of the page. For example, the one you've linked to above states :

eta-canada-visa.com is intended to accompany the natural and legal persons in their paperwork travel. eta-canada-visa.com is not affiliated to the Canadian government authorities or to the website of the Canadian government. The price charged is 44.50 Euros and covers the costs to the immigration service which is $7. You can get your request on the official website of the government, but in this case you will not receive our help and assistance. The eta-canada-visa.com site is a private website and is not affiliated to the Canadian government authorities or the website of the Canadian government.

Which would be a fairly clear statement if it wasn't buried at the bottom of the homepage where nobody will look.

As a rule, these websites DO submit your application, and you DO receive an eTA, so they are technically delivering on the service they are offering. Some people will recommend doing a credit card chargeback if you discovered you've fallen for one of these "scams", but in general that will NOT be successful as the website has officially done nothing wrong, and they have provided the service you contracted them to provide, at the cost they quoted in advance.

Over the years there have been examples of websites which crossed the line (eg, claiming to be the official government website, or not actually submitting the eTA application on your behalf) but these do normally get shutdown fairly quickly. If you find one of these then reporting it to the relevant Government. In the case of the Canadian government they have a number of contacts on their website, depending on the exact situation.

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