Ottawa, September 11, 2012 — Beginning at 12:01 a.m. EDT today, citizens of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (St. Vincent), Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland now require a visa to travel to Canada, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced.
For the first 48 hours, or until 11:59 p.m. September 12, 2012, citizens of these countries who are in transit to Canada at the time the visa requirement takes effect will be able to receive a Temporary Resident Permit on arrival in Canada, free of charge, if they are not otherwise inadmissible to Canada.
“We continue to welcome genuine visitors to Canada,” said Minister Kenney.
“These changes are necessary to protect the integrity of Canada’s fair and generous immigration system by helping us to reduce an unacceptably high number of immigration violations.”
These changes will allow Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and its partners to ensure that those seeking to visit Canada intend to return to their country of origin, rather than overstaying or committing other immigration violations.
A key reason why the government has imposed visa requirements on St. Lucia and St. Vincent is unreliable travel documents. In particular, criminals from these countries can legally change their names and acquire new passports. In some instances, people who were removed from Canada as security risks later returned using different passports. In the case of Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland, human trafficking, especially of minors, and fraudulent documents are of significant concern.
There has also been an unacceptably high number of asylum claims from St. Lucia and St. Vincent, with about one and a half percent and three percent of the population of these countries making asylum claims in Canada over the past five years. The African country that has the highest immigration violation rate is Namibia, with eighty-one percent in 2011. Seventy-one percent of travellers from Namibia made asylum claims in 2011.
“These changes are necessary because all the countries concerned have an immigration violation rate of over thirty percent, well above the level we deem acceptable for countries benefiting from a visa exemption,” said Minister Kenney.
Canada regularly reviews its visa requirements toward other countries. Countries are aware that they have a responsibility to satisfy certain conditions to receive a visa exemption.
This visa policy change means that nationals from St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland who want to travel to Canada will first need to apply for a visitor visa and meet the requirements to receive one.
It is up to the applicants to satisfy visa officers that their visit to Canada is temporary; they will not overstay their authorized stay; they have enough money to cover their stay; they are in good health; they do not have a criminal record; and they are not a security risk to Canadians. These requirements are the same for anyone who wants to visit Canada.
Applicants from St. Lucia and St. Vincent can now submit their applications by mail or in person to the Canadian visa office in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Applications will be accepted by the visa office in Pretoria, South Africa, for those from Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland. In the months ahead travellers to Canada will be able to apply online for all temporary visas.
This decision will further strengthen the immigration and asylum systems, and it complements the measures the government is implementing this year under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which recently received Royal Assent.
“The Government of Canada remains committed to protecting the integrity of our immigration system and welcoming bona fide visitors from around the world.”