Last Updated on May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017 – New figures show the number of Mexican asylum claims dropped in April for the first time since the Canada visa requirement was lifted.
Claims had steadily been increasing in 2017, to a peak of 110 in March, but April bucked the trend with 89 Mexicans claiming refuge.
The visa requirement was removed as of December 1, 2016, in a move taken by the federal government against the advice of staff.
Coming from a visa-exempt country, Mexicans now only need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to come to Canada, obtainable online for a small fee.
It does not guarantee entry, as travellers can still be turned away on a case-by-case basis by border agents.
Further figures show more than 72,000 eTAs were issued to Mexicans between December 1, 2016 and March 10, 2017.
Canada has threatened to re-impose the visa restriction if it receives too many asylum claims, although it has not publicised any limit. It has been reported that 3,000 claims in 2017 would see the policy reviewed.
The increase will be closely watched, although numbers remain significantly fewer than 2009, when the previous Conservative government imposed the visa restriction because more than 9,500 asylum claims were made by Mexicans.
Government analysis says lifting the visa requirement will cost $433.5 million over the next decade, partly offset by an expected $171.6 million boost to the economy through increased tourism, investment and trade.
Meanwhile, Canada recently lifted visa requirements for a swathe of travellers from Romania, Bulgaria and Brazil.
As of May 1, 2017, any traveller from the three countries who has held a Canada visa in the last 10 years, or currently holds a valid US visa, can fly here with an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).
“This initiative will make it easier for eligible travellers to come to Canada and to transit through a Canadian airport,” Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said at the time.
“It will also encourage them to make repeat visits. The end result will be more travel and tourism and more economic benefits for Canadians.”
Canada is set to totally lift the visa requirement for Romanians and Bulgarians as of December 1 2017. From this date all air travellers with still need the eTA.
There is no plan at this stage to also totally lift the Brazilian visa requirement.
Canada agreed to lift the visa requirement for both Bulgarians and Romanians after the two countries threatened not to sign a crucial trade deal.
The Canada-EU Trade Agreement, or CETA, will soon become law after it was voted through by the European Parliament in February.
Opposition, particularly from Belgium but also from Romania and Bulgaria, had threatened to derail the deal at the final hurdle.
The deal must now be ratified by Canada’s parliament.
EU Rule Change
The visa issue with Bulgaria and Romania began when the EU changed its rules back in 2014.
Under the rule change, all countries granted visa-free access to the EU bloc had to provide the same privilege in return.
Countries were given two years to provide the access, or face losing their visa-free access.
Canada was reluctant to grant the access to Bulgaria and Romania, with former Immigration Minister John McCallum saying neither met the requirements.
But when the issue became tied to CETA, Canada was left with no bargaining room.
Do I need an Electronic Travel Authorization?
You need an eTA if you are travelling to Canada by air from a visa-exempt country. A full list of visa-exempt countries is available here.
The requirement came into effect as of March 15, 2016, with a leniency period expiring on November 6, 2016. Citizens of visa exempt countries are not allowed to board a plane without an eTA.
How do I get an Electronic Travel Authorization?
You can apply for an eTA through the Canadian federal government website.
Before you apply, you will need:
- Valid passport
- As a US permanent resident, you can apply with:
- Valid US refugee travel document (I-571)
- Valid permit to re-enter the US (I-327)
- Credit card to pay the $7 fee
- Valid email address
To apply for an eTA click here.
When should I apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization?
The Canadian government advises you to apply as soon as you know you travel itinerary.
However, an eTA can be obtain at the last minute via a smartphone. All you need is an internet connection. The email authorization often only takes a few minutes to come through.
There is no requirement to print an eTA. It is electronically linked to your passport or travel document.
How long is an Electronic Travel Authorization valid for?
An eTA can be valid for five years, or until your passport or travel document expires.
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