Jim Metcalfe – Director of Immigration: One important announcement that came out of the “Three Amigos” summit between the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the US is that Canada will scrap the Mexican visa requirement. As of December 1, 2016, visitors from Mexico will no longer need a visa before coming to Canada.
Mexican Visa Requirement
The visa requirement was imposed six years ago by the Conservative government after a significant number of Mexican citizens applied for refugee status upon arrival in Canada. The CBC reports that Mexicans accounted for 25% of all refugee claimantsin Canada between 2005 – 2008. To stem this tide of Mexicans who might have refugee claims in mind, Canada applied the requirement to vet people at the source: Mexico.
The visa requirement was obviously a problem for Canadian/Mexican relations considering that we share the same continent and have a continental free trade agreement in NAFTA. Lifting the visa requirement no doubt eased some tensions between the two governments. But note too that news of dropping the visa requirement was followed immediately by a statement that Mexico will open its domestic market to Canadian beef products on October 1, 2016. Quid pro quo? Highly likely:
[Canadian Cattlemen’s Association] president Dan Darling said the reopening gives Canadian farmers the confidence they need to expand their herds in the future.
“When our production increases to previous levels, I believe that Mexico could again import more than $250 million per year, like it used to,” he said in a statement. Between one-quarter and one-fifth of that used to be OTM beef.
The Oct. 1 effective date is timely.
“The months of October and November are traditionally the time of year when Canadian beef farmers send most of their mature breeding cows to market,” Darling said.
Will Refugee Claims Increase?
With the coming introduction of the electronic Travel Authority (eTA) in mid-September, the removal of a visa requirement becomes less problematic. All Mexican nationals who wish to visit Canada will have to apply for an eTA and pay the requisite fee of seven dollars to be given what really amounts to an electronic visa or approval to travel to Canada.
Since Canada has access to US data, the Canadian government will be able to determine whether eTA applicants have a history in the USA. As I noted in my last post, if a Mexican national applies for an eTA and has already come to the attention of US immigration officials, those facts will be available to Canadian authorities. If the applicant does not mention the matter in their eTA application, it will be considered a misrepresentation and the eTA will be denied. Similarly, Canada has records of previous refugee claimants to Canada. If the individual has such a history with Canada, the eTA will be denied.
Lines Of Defense
I believe the eTA will be the first line of defence but there could be a second line of defence and that is stationing officers of the Canada Border Services Agency at Mexican airports to screen Mexican travellers to Canada. Anyone who has flown to the United States from a major Canadian airport will know how this works in practice. In effect, officers like these would be replacing the 15 to 20 officers who currently staff the visa office in Mexico City and issue visas to Mexican travellers to Canada.
The eTA and face-to-face preflight clearance of airline passengers would greatly help to reduce refugee claims in Canada. Whatever the case, a spike in refugee claims in the next couple of years will tell the tale. Let’s hope we sell a lot of steak in the meantime.