Canada’s Visa War

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Windows of the Parliament

Windows of the Parliament

The new is everywhere in the immigrants community: as of July 13th 2009, Canada imposed a visa on Mexico and Czech Republic nationals visiting the country.

Ottawa, July 13, 2009 — Beginning 12:01 a.m. EDT on July 14, 2009, Mexican nationals will require a visa to travel to Canada, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today. For the first 48 hours, Mexican citizens may apply for entry on arrival in Canada. After 11:59 p.m. EDT July 15, 2009, a visa will be required.

Ottawa, July 13, 2009 —Beginning 12:01 a.m. EDT on July 14, 2009, Czech nationals will require a visa to travel to Canada, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today. For the first 48 hours, Czech citizens may apply for entry on arrival in Canada. After 11:59 p.m. EDT July 15, 2009, a visa will be required.

The move was unilateral and very sudden. It was also somewhat unexpected and it is certainly huge troubles for the thousands of tourists that are now forced to apply for a visitor visa. About one hundred Mexicans with travel plans to Canada camped outside the Canadian embassy overnight Tuesday to get a chance to submit their visa applications, and it’s the same story in the Czech Republic.

Canada defends its position, saying Mexico and the Czech Republic are now the top two source countries for refugee claims, and that it’s spiraling out of control. Since the visa restrictions were lifted in 2007, nearly 3,000 claims have been filed by Czech nationals, compared with less than five in 2006. And Mexican nationals represented 25 per cent of all claims received in 2008.

Both countries are angry with Canada’s sudden move. While the Czech Republic, which is a member of the European Union, can not unilaterally impose a visa requirement on Canadians, I was wondering if Mexico was likely to impose a visa requirement on Canadians. Officials say they will not, but you never know when a “visa war” starts.

Over 90% of the refugee claims from Mexican nationals are rejected, because these claimants are economic migrants from the middle class and do not qualify as asylum seekers. As for the Czech Republic asylum seekers, most of them are Romas (Gypsies). While it is not questioned that they are suffering from various forms of discrimination, it does not necessarily qualified them as refugees according to the international definition.

Applying for a visitor visa is notoriously tricky, since applicants must demonstrate their visit to Canada is temporary, that they will not overstay their time in Canada, that they have enough money to cover their stay in Canada, that they are in good health, that they do not have a criminal record, and are not a security risk to Canadians. These requirements are sometimes very subjective… leading to a possible refusal, with no chance of appeal.

As a traveler myself, I see these visa restrictions as huge burdens. I can imagine Mexicans and Czech’s frustration as they are trying to apply for visa, just wanting to visit Canada.

But as a former immigrant, I can somehow understand Canada’s bold move. Canada has a pretty good immigration system. You can apply in a few categories, such as the skilled worker category or the family class. The refugee system was designed to Canada “offers refugee protection to people who fear persecution or whose removal from Canada would subject them to a danger of torture, a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment“. Mexico nationals and Czech Republic’s Roma may face issues in their home country, but most of their refugee applications are doomed to fail, because the system was simply not design to let the victims of social issues in.

Most countries which have a refugee system label a number of countries as “safe”, which means that applications coming from these countries’ nationals are not even considered. For example, some countries don’t consider applications from French, British citizens etc. which sounds pretty logic. But Canada will process refugee claims as long as the person reaches the port of entry. Hence the initial problem… Officials report that on flights from Prague, sometimes all the passengers would make a refugee claim upon arriving in Canada!

In my opinion, prospective immigrants should be educated about their options, and some major changes in the refugee system would help too. Meanwhile, we will just have to deal with travel made more difficult… which is too bad.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Yeah, I read that on the news and I’m sure a lot of people are not happy. On the other hand, Canada is only trying to protect itself from mass refugee applications. It’s understandable.

    Plus, I always see many Mexicans being deported on daily basis. It’s another touchy subject but I’m sure the government is doing whatever they can.

  2. Whoa. I have heard of Mexico, but Czech Republic? I thought the EU was aiming for reciprocity? And I do not get it that if Canada thinks that there are too many applications for asylum, then they can simply reject it. Imposing visa restrictions on a whole population isn’t the proper solution. I never understood Canada’s (and other countries’ such as USA and New Zealand) visa policy. Why do I need a visa even to transit Canada? I am just passing by!

  3. Hey Canadians, friend of mine told me that czechs need a visa to travel to Canada(I am gonna support hockey team on Olympics)…and that the reason is there are way too many czech gipsies there. I was thinking yeah well alright they have normadism in genes..but when I realized they call themselves as REFUGEES I almost die laughing. But latter on I felt really disapointed with these guys..well i don’t mind when they approach me asking for spare cigarete and calling me white bitch or dickhead, when I tell them I am not a smoker..but this lying about their own country just to get more money is condemnable…
    See you in 2010:))

  4. @Bluefish – I feel the same. It’s a touchy subject and I’m obviously pro-immigration, but I don’t think the trend of jumping the queue by applying in the refugee category benefits anyone.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – I agree, it’s not the proper solution. The problem is, as long as someone reaches Canada, he/she can claim the refugee status. And it takes many years for the claim to be processed, during which the claimants stay in Canada.

    So because there are too many claimants from Mexico and the Czech Republic, Canada decided to just make it harder for them to reach Canada. Unfortunately, this is affecting legitimate travelers!

    It is not a good solution. Yet, I can somehow understand Canada. I’m proud to live in a country that welcome refugees (and I was looking at the figures earlier, about 30,000 refugees per year who get permanent residence). But it’s not fair to legitimate refugees to let the system being clogged.

    @lukcy – Yes, you will need a visa. Sorry! 🙂

    This is a touchy issue. I believe a lot of people believe in immigration myths. Being accepted in the refugee category is actually very tough and many people don’t realize that. It is unfortunate to see victims of social issues, but Canada can’t do much about it…

    Anyway, hope you will like Canada. Czech hockey players are just awesome in my opinion!

  5. The immigration issues are always difficult. On the one hand many legitimate people get caught in a difficult situation. On the other I have learned from experience working with immigrants from different lands that immigration must be limited in certain ways. For example Norway is a relatively small country with a generous social system based on that fact, however we have a booming number of asylum seekers, as well as immigration for family reunification… I understand many will move to a better way of life, but on the other side of the coin if too many come too quickly the system will collapse because of higher demand on services then ‘investors’ who have paid in over the years. At the same time working directly with many of immigrants they always steal my heart, and I always want my girls to be able to stay…one place I will not work in public service is the immigration office. I don’t think I could handle having to refuse people entrance and send them home to a situation I know is lousy. So I guess in that way the visa policy is a good one, it helps to keep people who will not legitamately be able to remain in the country from coming in the first place and eventually having to be returned.

  6. oh wow. I hate visa wars and the fact that I have to apply visa to go to places. I totally understand Czech and Mexican people anger!

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