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.

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About Author

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

6 Comments

  1. 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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