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,

 » Read more about: The Canadian Visa Requirement for Mexican Citizens – A Policy which is No Longer Needed  »

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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;

 » Read more about: The Super Visa  »

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