Canada Lifts Visa Requirement Against Mexico; Bulgaria, Romania, Brazil Soon to Follow

On December 1, 2016, the Government of Canada lifted the requirement that Mexican nationals obtain a temporary resident visa (a “TRV”) prior to travelling to Canada.  

As with all TRV exempt travellers, excluding Americans, Mexican nationals are still required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (an “ETA”) prior to boarding aircraft to travel to Canada.  
The Government of Canada has also committed to gradually expanding eTA eligibility in 2017 to citizens of Bulgaria, Romania, and Brazil. 

Electronic Travel Authorisation
 
The eTA is a new electronic document requirement for visa-exempt air travellers to Canada, excluding citizens of the United States. Travellers apply online for an eTA by providing basic biographical, passport and personal information, and includes questions about their health, criminal history, and travel history.

An automated system then compares this information against immigration and enforcement databases to determine if the traveller is admissible to Canada. The vast majority of applications are approved automatically, with a small percentage referred to an officer for review.  Typical reasons for a further review include a previous denial of admission to Canada, a criminal record, or a pending permanent residence application.

The cost to apply for an eTA is $7.00. Applicants must have a valid passport, credit card, and e-mail address.

An eTA is only required for travel to Canada by air. It is not required for travel to Canada by land or sea.

Mexican citizens who already have a valid TRV do not need to apply for an eTA while their TRV is valid.

Future Visa Lifting for Brazil, Romania, and Bulgaria

The Government of Canada has also committed to expanding eTA eligibility to travellers from Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania.

Starting on May 1, 2017, Brazillian, Romanian, and Bulgarian citizens who have held a Canadian temporary resident visa at any time during the last 10 years, or who, at the time of application, hold a valid nonimmigrant visa from the United States, will no longer need a TRV to visit Canada, and can instead apply for an eTA.

Starting December 1, 2017, the eTA eligibility will be expanded to include all Romanian and Bulgarian citizens.

More information about the lifting of the visa requirement for Mexican citizens, including the specific regulatory changes and the Government of Canada’s cost-benefit analysis, can be found here.

More information about the future lifting of the visa requirement for Brazilian, Bulgarian, and Romanian citizens, including the specific regulatory changes and the Government of Canada’s cost-benefit analysis, can be found here.

More information about how to apply for an eTA can be found here.

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about these changes.


Important Tip for Immigrating to Canada

One of the most complicated topics in immigration law is determining when procedural fairness will require an immigration officer who is assessing an application to seek clarification in the form of a fairness letter or interview.

The breadth of procedural fairness must be adapted to the context in which it arises (Baker, SCC, 1999). When no extrinsic evidence is relied on, it is unclear when exact;y it is necessary to afford an Applicant an interview or a right to respond.  However, there will be a right  to respond under certain circumstances. (Li, 2008 FC 1284).

In Kaur v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 758, the Federal Court dismissed a judicial review application of a visa officer’s refusal of an applicant under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The application was deficient as it failed to include required information regarding the applicant’s salary and benefits. The applicant argued that she should have been told that this information was missing, and been given a chance to provide what was missing. However, the Court noted that there is no duty to advise an applicant of a deficient application. As the judge noted, the process is clear. An applicant must provide a complete application.

Contrast this with what happened in Sandhu v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 759. There, the application was complete and sufficient. However, the visa officer rejected the application because he did not believe the genuineness of one of the applicant’s answers on the application. The Court noted that the duty of procedural fairness in the decisions of visa officers [is] at the low end of the spectrum. However, the judge also noted that where the application is adequate, but the officer nevertheless entertains a doubt on the evidence, there remains a duty to clarify the information. The judge thus allowed the judicial review.

This approach is similar to that recently taken in Grewal v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2011 FC 167.  There, an application was rejected because of a poor IELTs score.  The Court noted numerous factors that resulted in a duty to seek additional information including, 1) that the Manual specified that additional information would be required for doubts over AEOs, 2) that the language proficiency derailed the whole claim for permanent residence, and 3) that the consultant had thoroughly explained the reason for the poor test and had stated that another would be forthcoming.  Accordingly, procedural fairness dictated that a fairness letter or interview be provided.

In  Singh v. Canada, 2010 FC 1306, meanwhile,  an officer rejected a work permit application because the only documents which were submitted to support the applicant’s employment experience as a Ragi were letters.  The officer stated that she saw “many such letters which turn out to be fictitious”, and that she required “more than letters, for instance, newspaper cut outs, photos of them practicing or letters of reference, to properly corroborate claims of training, knowledge, and experience.”  The Federal Court, however, overturned this decision, noting that the applicant was not put on notice that the officer was considered with the veracity of letters, and did not request further documentation.

Conclusions

In 2011, the Federal Court released its decision in Kaur v. Canada, 2011 FC 219.  In three paragraphs, the Court provided what I think is an excellent articulation of the current jurisprudence, and what should be the starting basis for any analysis of whether procedural fairness required the providing of the applicant with an opportunity to respond to a given concern.  The Court stated that:

[24]           An officer is not under a duty to inform the applicant about any concerns regarding the application which arise directly from the requirements of the legislation or regulations (see Hassani v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2006 FC 1283, [2007] 3 F.C.R. 501 at paragraphs 23 and 24).

[25]           The onus was on the applicant to satisfy the officer of all parts of her application and the officer was under no obligation to ask for additional information where the applicant’s material was insufficient (see Madan v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) (1999), 172 F.T.R. 262 (F.C.T.D.), [1999] F.C.J. No. 1198 (QL) at paragraph 6).

[26]           However, the officer was obligated to inform the applicant of any concerns related to the veracity of documents that formed part of the application and the officer was required to make further inquires in such a situation (see Hassani above, at paragraph 24).

The message from the courts seems clear: visa applicants have one shot, and they should ensure that the effort that they put forward is their best, because if they do, procedural fairness will require that immigration officers provide them with the opportunity to address concerns.

If they don’t put their best foot forward, however, then their applications will be rejected outright.