Who Needs a Medical Exam to Study in Canada?

A couple days ago I received a question regarding whether someone who is a Hong Kong national needs a medical exam to study in Canada.

Foreign students have the same medical requirements as those that apply to work or simply visit Canada.

Generally, no medical examination is required for people who intend to visit Canada for six months or less unless they intend to work in certain designated occupations.

If the duration of the student’s visit is more then six months, then a medical examination will be required if they will also work in one of the above designated occupations, or, if they have resided or stayed temporarily for six or more consecutive months in a designated country or territory in the one year immediately preceding the date that they seek entry to Canada.

In other words, it is not a country of nationality or citizenship.  It is a question of where you have been.  An American who spent six months volunteering in a designated country will need a medical examination.

The designated country list can be found here.

As for the Hong Kong national, assuming that he spent six months or more in Hong Kong prior to seeking entry to Canada, then the answer would be “yes, he needs a medical if his intended period of studies is six months or more.”


Canada to Promote Long Term Multiple Entry Visas

Good news to those who have complained (and there are many) that while they had no problem getting a 10-year multiple entry visa to the United States they could only get a 6 month-single entry visitor visa to Canada.

On June 3, 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada wrote an e-mail to all embassies abroad.  The e-mail encourages embassies to issue long term multiple-entry visas wherever possible, especially for those who are already in the permanent resident (PR) queue and business travelers.

Recently re-iterated in an Operational Bulletin, CIC has specifically instructed that such visas should be issued for as long a validity period as possible.  Immigration guidelines states that the maximum validity period of a multiple entry visa is for the validity of an applicant’s passport, minus one month.  According to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada e-mail, embassies should issue multiple-entry visas up to the expiry of an applicant’s passport where appropriate, and even cites the example of the 10-year multiple entry visa as an appropriate example.

Indeed, the Operational Bulletin specifically notes that “the Department is moving towards the issuance of long term multiple-entry visas as the norm.”  It then goes on to add teeth to that statement, instructing that:

If an officer chooses to issue a long term multiple-entry visa for less than the full validity period of the passport (up to 10 years minus one month), the reasons are to be entered in the case notes.

Visa officers need to take note that issuance of a multiple-entry visa should now be considered to be the norm and any single-entry visa issuance needs explanation if a multiple-entry visa could have been issued (fee paid).

If the applicant requests a single-entry visa and the officer could have issued a multiple-entry visa, the visa office is instructed to send [a] letter in order to encourage applicants to apply for a multiple-entry visa rather than a single-entry visa for subsequent applications.

This is quite simply great news that benefits everyone involved.

It benefits applicants.  It benefits Canadian enterprises that conduct international business.  And it benefits staff at Canadian embassies.  Having just visited the Canadian embassy in Lima, Peru, I can only imagine that the staff there are overjoyed that they will be able to leave the office early and explore Miraflores rather than shift through another dozen repeat single-entry visa applicants.


The Transit Without Visa Program and the China Transit Trial Program

Photo by Hyuogushi

In order to improve the competitiveness of Canadian airports, the Canadian government has programs so that people who are transiting to Canada to get to the United States do not need to apply for temporary resident visas.

The Transit Without Visa Program

The Transit Without Visa Program (“TWOV Program”) allows certain foreign nationals with valid United States visas, traveling to and from the United States,  to transit through Canada without having to first obtain a Canadian visa.

The TWOV Program operates at both Vancouver International Airport and Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

The program only applies to nationals of Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand.

In order to be eligible to travel under the TWOV Program, nationals of these countries must:

  • be in possession of a valid visa issued by the United States;
  • be in possession of a valid passport issued by the authorities of a participating country;
  • hold a confirmed onward ticket for a connecting flight that departs Canada immediately (foreign nationals transiting Canada under the TWOV Program may not seek entry to Canada as temporary residents);
  • arrive in Canada on an eligible airline; and
  • transit through either Vancouver International Airport or Toronto Pearson Airport.

The eligible airlines are Cathay Pacific Airways, Philippine Airways, Air Canada, and Jazz Aviation LP.

The China Transit Trial Program

The China Transit Trial Program (“CCT Program”) allows nationals of the Peoples’ Republic of China with valid United States visas, traveling to and from the United States,  to transit through Canada without having to first obtain a Canadian visa.

The TWOV Program operates at both Vancouver International Airport and Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Chinese nationals participating in the CTT Program must have as their last embarkation point one of the following six cities:

  • Beijing;
  • Hong Kong;
  • Shanghai;
  • Guangzhou;
  • Manila;
  • Taipei.

As well, in order to be eligible to travel under the TWOV Program, nationals of these countries must:

  • be in possession of a valid visa issued by the United States;
  • be in possession of a valid passport issued by the authorities of a participating country;
  • hold a confirmed onward ticket for a connecting flight that departs Canada immediately (foreign nationals transiting Canada under the TWOV Program may not seek entry to Canada as temporary residents);
  • arrive in Canada on an eligible airline; and
  • transit through either Vancouver International Airport or Toronto Pearson Airport.

The eligible airlines are Cathay Pacific Airways, Philippine Airways, Air Canada, and Jazz Aviation LP.


The Mexican Visa Requirement to Visit Canada

On July 14, 2009, the Canadian government introduced a Temporary Resident Visa (“TRV”) requirement for Mexican nationals.  The decision was and continues to be extremely controversial.  Mexico responded by slapping a visa requirement on Canadian diplomats.  During the 2011 Federal Election campaign, the Liberal Party promised to revoke the visa requirement.  On May 9, 2011, the Globe and Mail featured an editorial titled “The Visa for visiting Mexicans has run its course.”

I believe that once Bill C-11 is in full affect, the costs of the TRV requirement will far outweigh its benefits, if they do not already.

Acknowledging the Success of the TRV Requirement

There is no question that the TRV requirement has reduced the number of refugee claimants from Mexico.  In the first three months of 2009, 2,757 Mexicans applied for refugee status.  During the same period in 2010 the number was 384. 

The acceptance rate, which was always low, continues to hover at around 10%.

The Inconvenience to Travelers is Massive

While the TRV requirement has reduced the number of Mexican refugee claimants, it has also greatly inconvenienced tens of thousands of Mexicans, and deterred many hundreds of thousands more from coming to Canada.

In 2010, the Canadian embassy in Mexico City processed 57,966 temporary resident visa applications.  The Mexico City embassy is only responsible for processing temporary resident visa applications for people who have been residing in Mexico with status.  From 2006-2008, the Mexico City embassy processed an average of  1,500 temporary resident visa applications.  Assuming this number remained constant in 2010, then it can be assumed that in 2010 approximately 55,500 Mexican nationals applied for a visa to visit Canada.   Indeed, Mexicans have gone from not having to apply for a temporary resident visa to being the second largest applicant source country.

It is true that the rejection rate is quite small, with 90% of applicants being approved, and  80% of applications being processed within 2 weeks.  However, people applying for a visa are hugely inconvenienced.  Mexicans must supply pay stubs, vehicle registration documents, marriage and birth certificates, and old passports.  For a family to apply the cost is generally around $400.   This does not include shipping & handling costs for applicants who cannot apply in person.

There Are Economic Consequences

Given the inconvenience, it is not surprising that the amount of Mexicans visiting Canada has plummeted since the introduction of the TRV requirement.  In 2008, approximately 270,000 Mexicans visited Canada.  In 2010, that number, as evidenced by the number of visas approved, had fallen to less than 55,000.

The gross amount that Mexican tourism generated for the Canadian economy has presumably fallen by an amount proportional to the decline in visitors.  Canadian businesses have began voicing concerns over the impacts. 

The Solution Has Been Introduced

Perhaps addressing the drag on Canada’s refugee system was worth the cost of implementing the Mexican TRV requirement.  However, since the TRV requirement was introduced, the Canadian government has passed the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, or Bill C-11. 

Bill C-11 greatly expedites Canada’s refugee system.  For most claimants, hearings at the Refugee Protection Division (“RPD”) will have to be scheduled for a date no later than 90 days after an information gathering interview, rather than the eighteen months that it currently takes.  For claimants from a designated country or origin, the hearing will take place within 60 days. 

As I previously noted here, Mexico would likely be such a designated country of origin.  Accordingly, the amount of time that a false Mexican refugee claimant would spend in Canada would fall precipitously.  The incentive of making a false refugee claim will be drastically diminished.

Conclusion

The Mexican TRV requirement may have made sense at a time when a false refugee claimant could spend over 18 months in Canada.  Bill C-11 ends that.  Accordingly, once Bill C-11 is in full effect, it will also be time to end the inconvenience the TRV requirement has caused for the vast majority of Mexican tourists, and to restore the number of Mexican visitors to the number that it once was.