The Super Visa

Parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents can apply for two types of Temporary Resident Visas to visit their relatives in Canada.  The first is a standard, multiple-entry visa.  The second is what is known as a Super Visa.

A normal Temporary Resident Visa generally is a multiple entry-visa valid for the duration of an applicant’s passport, or 10 years, whichever is shorter.  Unless the Canada Border Services Agency authorizes indicates, it allows applicants to stay in Canada for up to six months without having to apply to extend their temporary resident status.

A Super Visa is also valid for up to 10 years, or the duration of the applicant’s passport, whichever is shorter.  It allows parents and grandparents to stay in Canada for up to two years without having to renew their status. Parents and grandparents who are from visa-exempt countries can also apply for Super Visas in order to receive Letters of Introduction that will allow them to stay in Canada for up to two years without having to renew their status.  It is important to note that the two year entry only applies to the initial stay.

A parents or grandparent is eligible for a Super Visa if the parent or grandparent has:

  • provided proof of the parent or grandparent relationship to the Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • undergone a medical examination and is admissible to Canada on health grounds;
  • provided satisfactory evidence of private medical insurance from a Canadian insurance company, valid for a minimum period of one year from the date of entry which:
    • covers the applicant for health care, hospitalization and repatriation;
    • provides a minimum of $100,000 coverage; and
    • is valid for each entry to Canada and available for review by the examining officer upon request; and
  • provided a written and signed promise of financial support, e.g. a letter of invitation, from the host child or grandchild for the entire duration the parent or grandparent intends to stay in Canada. The letter must be accompanied by evidence of their means of providing such support.

The Super Visa is meant to be a facilitate program, and if an applicant meets the Super Visa eligibility criteria, and is not otherwise inadmissible to Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will normally issue the visa.

Continue reading “The Super Visa”


The Canadian Visa Requirement for Mexican Citizens – A Policy which is No Longer Needed

During Canada’s 2015 federal election, the Liberal Party of Canada, led by Justin Trudeau, promised that if they were elected government that Canada would lift its visa requirement on Mexico.  This campaign promise is reflected in now Prime Minister Trudeau’s mandate letter to John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, which states that one of Minister McCallum’s top priorities will be to lift the visa requirement on Mexico.

The decision by the previous Conservative Government of Canada in 2009 to implement a visa requirement for Mexican citizens was extremely controversial.  It is difficult to determine whether it was a good public policy decision because of the numerous factors involved, each with corresponding benefits and costs.  It is clear, however, that the implementation of the visa requirement did achieve the government’s primary objective, which was to dramatically reduce refugee claims from Mexican citizens in Canada.  However, subsequent changes to Canada’s immigration refugee system, likely mean that the visa requirement is no longer necessary to achieve this objective.

The Visa Requirement

Canada imposed a visa requirement on Mexican citizens on July 14, 2009.  The Canadian government stated that it did so to dramatically reduce the number of unfounded refugee claims made by Mexican nationals due to their visa-free access to Canada.  Mexico was at the time the top source country for asylum claimants in Canada, and had been so since 2005.

The imposition of the visa requirement imposed a significant burden on Mexican citizens wishing to travel to Canada.  Instead of being able to simply board an airplane and travel to Canada, Mexican citizens now prior to travel have to apply for a temporary resident visa at a Canadian consulate, or online.  In addition to completing numerous forms, as of writing Mexican nationals are required to provide proof of financial support, including copies of bank statements for three months, employment verification, and other proof of connections to Mexico. Where a Canadian invitee will be paying for the trip, that individual is required to provide proof of funds.

Many individuals and organizations, including the Canadian government, predicted that the imposition of the visa requirement would result in a dramatic decrease in the number of Mexicans who travelled to Canada.  In 2008, there were over 270,000 entries by Mexican citizens into Canada.  When the Canadian government imposed the visa requirement, it stated that it anticipated that approximately 150,000 Mexican citizens would apply for temporary resident visas annually.  According to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (the “TIAC”), the number of Mexicans visiting Canada plummeted by 50% after the implementation of the visa requirement, although the number of Mexicans visiting Canada has now reached pre-2009 levels.  The TIAC estimates that an additional 320,000 Mexicans would have visited Canada and spent over $465,000,000.00 from 2009-2014 were it not for the visa requirement.  The impact on trade has been forecasted to be in the billions.

However, if the Government of Canada’s primary objective in imposing the visa requirement was to reduce the number of Mexican refugee claims in Canada, then the decision was a resounding success.  In 2009 there were 7,592 asylum claims from Mexican nationals.  By 2012, this number had fallen to 321.  Mexico during this period went from being the highest source country for asylum claims in Canada to the 22nd highest country in 2012.  At the same time, the percentage of Mexican claims that were approved increased from 11% in 2010 to around 20% in 2013.

CIC data shows:

Year

Intake Finalizations Acceptance Rate (%) Rejection Rate (%) Abandon Rate (%)

Withdrawn / Other Rate (%)

2007

7,162 3,662 11 59 8 23

2008

9,472 5,707 11 60 6 24

2009

7,592 6,097 8 56 7 29

2010

1,202 5,880 11 59 6

24

2011 651 6,099 17 69 5

10

2012 321 3,041 19 71 4

7

2013 (Jan – Jun) 36 682 20 67 5

9

 

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It is important to note that CIC data also shows that 57% of Mexican asylum claims made in the first quarter of 2010-2012 were made by individuals who entered Canada prior to the visa imposition.

Indeed, based on the previous refugee acceptance rates prior to the imposition of the visa requirement for Mexicans, in June 2013 CIC estimated that without the visa requirement, Canada would have received an additional 19,895 asylum claimants from July 2009 through December 14th, 2012, of which 2,493 claims would have been accepted, 12,331 rejected, and 5,081 abandoned or withdrawn.  The cost to Canada would have been immense.

When Minister McCallum lifts Canada’s visa requirement against Mexico there will likely be those who suggest that it was never necessary, or, as the Globe and Mail did in 2014, that it was other changes to Canada’s immigration and refugee system that actually caused the drop in Mexican asylum claims.  These changes, however, happened after the steep decline occurred.  Having said that, while a review of the above data makes it clear that it was the imposition of the visa requirement that led to the steep decline in Mexican refugee claims, the previous government’s subsequent changes will hopefully ensure that the lifting of the visa requirement does not cause the situation to revert back to what it was in 2008.

Changes to the Immigration and Refugee System

After the imposition of the visa requirement the Canadian government made several changes to Canada’s immigration and refugee system which will likely ensure that the number of unfounded asylum claims by Mexicans in Canada does not revert to 2008 levels.  These are the decision to shorten the time that refugee claims make, the prohibition on submitting permanent residence applications based on humanitarian & compassionate grounds within one year of the refusal of a refugee claim, the designation of Mexico as a safe country of origin, and the upcoming implementation of the Electronic Travel Authorization.

On June 28, 2012, Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration Act, received Royal Assent.  Prior to the implementation of Bill C-31, the average Mexican refugee claim that was not withdrawn or abandoned took over eighteen months to process.  During this time the claimants would be allowed to work anywhere in Canada, and if their claim was refused they could submit an application for permanent resident status on humanitarian & compassionate grounds, citing their establishment in Canada as a positive factor in the application.  As a result of Bill C-31, the amount of time that it took was reduced to sixty days. As well, most asylum seekers became prohibited from submitting humanitarian & compassionate permanent residence applications.

Then, on February 13, 2013, the Canadian government designated Mexico as being a safe country of origin. This designation further reduced the amount of time that it takes to process a Mexican refugee claim to 45 days for those who make a refugee claim at a port of entry, and 30 days after referral for those who make a claim at an inland immigration office. As well, Mexican refugee claimants became ineligible to apply for work permits.  (The decision to designate Mexico as being a safe country was also controversial, and the Liberal government may eventually remove Mexico from the designated list.  Prime Minister Trudeau’s mandate letter to Minister McCallum states that he is to “establish an expert human rights panel to help you determine designated countries of origin,” and it may mean that this is a hint that Mexico may soon be removed.)

Finally, as of March 15, 2016, most foreign nationals who are exempt from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa to enter Canada will be required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization before they travel to Canada by air.  As such, even without the visa requirement, it will no longer be the case that Mexican nationals will simply be able to purchase tickets and board planes to travel to Canada.  Rather, they will be unable to board commercial airlines to Canada unless the airlines first confirm that they have permission to enter Canada.  Having said that, the requirements will be much less onerous than they are currently.

Although it is impossible to be 100% certain, the above changes should prevent a spike in the number of unfounded refugee claims by Mexican nationals in Canada when Canada lifts the visa requirement.

What About Brazil, Romania, and Bulgaria?

If Prime Minister Trudeau fulfils his campaign promise, his decision to lift the visa requirement against Mexico should not turn into a partisan affair.  In fact, the previous Conservative Government of Canada’s 2015 Economic Action Plan, the Conservatives promised that in 2015-16 that Canada would lift the visa requirement against Mexico, Brazil, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Indeed, if Prime Minister only lifts the visa requirement against Mexico, and not against Brazil, Romania, and Bulgaria, the question should be why just Mexico.


Electronic Travel Authorization

On August 1, 2015, the Government of Canada launched the Electronic Travel Authorization (“eTA”) program.  The program is similar to the United States of America’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Implementation of the eTA program will allow Canada to pre-screen eTA-required travellers to ensure that they are admissible to Canada.

As of March 15, 2016, most foreign nationals who are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa (“TRV“) to enter Canada will be required to obtain an eTA before they travel to Canada by air.  A list of countries and territories whose citizens will need an eTA to travel to Canada can be found here.  As such, it will no longer be the case that residents of these countries can simply purchase tickets and board planes to travel to Canada.  Rather, an individual will be unable to board a commercial airline to Canada unless the airline first confirms that the individual possesses an eTA through the Canada Border Services Agency’s new Interactive Advance Passenger Information system.

Americans are exempted from the requirement to obtain an eTA.

The eTA is an online application on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC“) website.  Applicants will need to provide their passport details, personal details, contact information, and answer background questions regarding their health, criminal history, and travel history. CIC anticipates that it will automatically process most eTA applications within minutes. When an eTA application cannot be automatically approved, it will be referred to a CIC officer for a manual review.  Officers can request additional documents, and, where required, further the application to a Canadian visa office abroad for further processing, including a possible interview.

The eTA will be valid for five years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever occurs sooner. The cost to apply is $7.00.

The process can be summarized in this internal CIC chart below, obtained through an Access to Information request.

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Understanding Dual Intent

It is not uncommon for us to meet with clients who when applying for temporary residency are scared to admit anything that could convey a future desire to immigrate to Canada.  However, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC“) recognizes that having two intents (one temporary and one permanent) is legitimate.  Its policy on this is commonly known as “dual intent.”

Continue reading “Understanding Dual Intent”


Environmental Overview – Nairobi

The following is a summary of the Environmental Overview of the immigration functions at the Canadian High Commission in Naiorbi (the “Environmental Overview”).  The Environmental Overview was prepared as part of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2013-2014 planning exercise, and is current as of January 2013.

Areas in blockquote are direct passages from the Environmental Overview.

Environment

The Canadian High Commission in Nairobi (“CIC Nairobi”) provides visa services to residents of Kenya, Burundi, Congo, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, French Southern Territories, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Many visa applicants, including senior government officials from many of the countries within Nairobi’s jurisdiction, are inadmissible for activities ranging from genocide to subversion, a factor which continues to be a bilateral irritant for Canada in the region.

There are 13 Canada Based Staff, 2 Designated Immigration Officers, 3 Immigration Program Officers, 2 Locally Engaged 06, 22 Locally Engaged 05, 4 Locally engaged 04, and 9 locally Engaged 03 working at CIC Nairobi.

With the advent of e-applications, Nairobi is now starting to benefit from the assistance of QRC in the promotion on Temporary Resident applications. However, given that bandwidth speed continues to be slow, processing e-applications currently takes significantly longer than the paper equivalent.

55,000 old applications are slated for shredding.  An additional 11,000 were to be shipped in March.

Permanent Resident Program

Category

2012 Visas Issued 2013 Visa Targets

Federal Skilled Worker

966

498

Quebec Skilled Worker

1300

1251

Provincial / Territorial Nominees

175

193

The average processing time for the above applications was between 12-18 months.

Category

2012 Visas Issued 2013 Visa Targets

Priority Family Class

1407

1514

Parents / Grant Parents

501

44

DR2

745

783

The average processing time for the Priority Family Class applications was 29 months.  It was 50 months for parents and grandparents.

In 2012, Nairobi noticed a trend of cyclical FC1 sponsorship within our Ethiopian caseload, as a majority of the current sponsors had themselves landed as spouses. These applications require closer scrutiny through interviews.

CIC-Nairobi receives dozens of R117(9)(d) cases a year. Most are approved on best interests of the child, and take 12 to 24 months to process.

Category 2012 Visas Issued

2013 Visa Targets

Government Assisted Refugee

741

1525

Government Assisted Refugee (Quebec)

102

317

Privately Sponsored Refugee

1392

2043

Average processing times for Government Assisted Refugees in 2012 was 35 months.

Some delays appear beyond CIC’s control.

Eritrea is still inaccessible to Nairobi officers due to visa issues, leading to difficulty accessing PR applicants for interview. In addition, new legislation in Eritrea has outlawed private medical practice and the poor quality of x-rays leads to repeat exams with inconclusive results, thereby delaying the processing on a number of cases.

A requirement for officers to have Hazardous Environment Training led to the cancellation of a scheduled refugee interview trip to Kinshasa in March 2012, and has complicated the scheduling of subsequent trips for interviews of all categories of PR applicants.

Nairobi provides itinerant PR services by undertaking regular interview trips (mainly FC, DR2 and refugees) to countries in the area of accreditation. Countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, South Sudan and the islands off the coast of the East Africa are not often visited, either for reasons of security, inaccessibility or because the low number of interviews does not justify area travel.

There are also specific issues related to refugees.

Restricted access to clients and inability to process some caseloads due to the inability to obtain visas to Eritrea, travel restrictions for security reasons for Hargeisa and Dadaab Refugee Camp and medical examination quality issues in Eritrea. Nairobi has a stagnant inventory of up to 900 individuals that the refugee team has been unable to process for several years. This is having a significant impact on the length of both the GAR and PSR processing times.

Fraud is common in both programs, mainly related to family composition and identity . Many of the PSR applicants are not registered with the UNCHR or the relevant national authority. This raises questions of identity, family composition and credibility of the refugee claim. PSR applications tend to be incomplete and identity documents are largely unreliable.

Supervision: The unit manager is expected to spend some of her time processing applications but the reality is otherwise. Considering the challenges of managing an inventory in 15 different locations, permanent staff and TD officers, liaison work with partners such as the UNHCR, 10M, HIAS, RP, clients, sponsors and NHQ, the complexity of operations in the region, the unit manager spends 90% of her time on management duties alone.

Area travel/workload: Almost 100% of applicants are interviewed by an immigration officer except for OYW cases. Area travel is constant; a minimum of one week out of three is needed to meet targets and reduce processing times (7 cases per day/average) Challenges include travel to distant and remote areas, long distance between client locations, basic facilities and accommodation, long travel and work hours, risk of compassion fatigue and being away from their families. Area trips often involve week-end travel, overnight flights, poor living and dietary conditions in the camps and threats to personal security. Assessments by Mission Security are required prior to most trips.

Temporary Resident Program

Category

Service Standard

Actual Processing Time

Visitors

5 days (VAC/e-apps), 15 days (other)

11

Students

90 days (VAC/e-apps), 120 days (other)

69 days

Work

90 days (VAC/e-apps), 120 days (other)

140 days

CIC-Nairobi processed 13,104 Temporary Resident Visa applications in 2012.  The acceptance rate was 52%.  CIC-Nairobi does not interview applicants.

A fast track system is in place to maximize client services and to alleviate issues with last minute applications and officials travelling at short notice. Urgent, sensitive, high profile, H&C and diplomatic applications are identified through advance notification (heads up/visa referrals) by other sections of the mission or our Client Service Unit. These are brought to the Unit supervisor for immediate review and appropriate action. This system has been working extremely well, and most applications are processed within a few hours. Referral procedures have been revised and have been distributed to HOMs and OGD program managers in Nairobi’s territory.

Challenges:

The size of our region demands the shipment of applications by bag or by commercial courier, which increases processing time. To address this, Nairobi uses phone and e-mail as the preferred means of communication. Nairobi has also partnered with VFS to provide VAC services in Nairobi and in Kampala. The VAC rollout in 2013/2014 will see the provision of VAC services in three additional countries in Nairobi’s territory.

Fraud is pervasive in the region, particularly in the caseloads from Congo-Brazza and Congo-Kinshasa, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. Refusal rates remain high. Verification is problematic. Fraudulent documents are easily obtained in most countries in the region, corruption is common, and the large geographic area makes in-person verifications very difficult.

Threats against Canadian security via the TR movement have not been evident though care is taken given the local presence of organizations of concern (such as AI-Shabaab). Somalia provides a low influx of applications as we do not recognize their travel document (passport). Somalis can only be accepted to travel to CDA through a Temporary Resident Permit- TRP and Single Journey Travel Document.

2013 Initiatives

Temporary Resident Electronic applications are now received in GCMS/Nairobi since December 2012. Although the numbers received to date are manageable and e-apps processing reduces the need for manual entry of information in the system, it has already had an impact on TRU’s operations since its introduction. Currently, processing an e-app in GCMS takes significantly longer (20 minutes compared to 5 for physical file application).

Implementation of a new VAC contract and the implementation of biometric service is planned in Nairobi’s area of accreditation. It is anticipated that biometrics will impact the number of applications received from the DRC, as there are no plans for a VAC office or biometric collection facilities in that country. As a result, Congolese citizens will have to travel to Nairobi or the nearest VAC (Kampala, Uganda) to provide biometrics. A similar situation a ies to the other nationals in our territory for whom biometric information is mandatory.