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.
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.