Jim Metcalfe – Director of Immigration: In the past four weeks we’ve been contacted by several people who have had problems obtaining visitor visas. One of the calls involved an individual who applied for the latest innovation of Canadian immigration: the electronic Travel Authority (eTA).
The eTA will be compulsory for people from visa-exempt countries who wish to travel to Canada. In a nutshell, the eTA requires people to apply online for authorization to travel to Canada. If you don’t have an eTA, you will not be able to board any aircraft to Canada. You are only exempt if you are a US passport holder or have a valid Canadian visa. If you are from England, France, Germany, or any other visa-exempt nation, you will need an eTA. But note this bulletin on the Canadian government’s website. It will matter later in this post:
Until September 29, 2016, travellers who do not have an eTA can board their flight, as long as they have appropriate travel documents, such as a valid passport. During this leniency period, border services officers can let travellers arriving without an eTA into the country, as long as they meet the other requirements to enter Canada.
Here are the case scenarios we’ve had to assist with in the past month:
Case 1 – Overstay Of US Visa
A husband and wife holding valid Canadian visitor visas arrived at Pearson Airport in Toronto and were directed to a secondary examination. This was their third visit to Canada since receiving the visas. Now they were told that the wife’s visa had been cancelled, without her being notified, and she was deemed inadmissible to Canada. As it transpired, she had filed her application for a visitor visa several years back and had indicated that she had never had a previous visa denied from any country. However, the electronic records now held by the Canada Border Services Agency indicated that she had overstayed her allowed period of stay in the United States and her US visa had been cancelled.
The wife was accused of making a misrepresentation to obtain her Canadian visitor visa by not mentioning the cancelled US visa and so her Canadian visa was now cancelled, too. She was allowed to remain in Canada for 48 hours, then permitted to return to her home country once she was able to obtain a travel booking.
Case 2 – Another US Visa Denied
A student outside of Canada who had completed his first degree at a Canadian university and had returned home to gain practical experience was applying for a new study permit to allow him to pursue a Master’s degree. He was now denied a Canadian visa and study permit because the Canadian visa office discovered that he had applied for a US visa and had been denied. He had not informed the Canadian visa office of this information although, subsequent to that denial and before he applied for a Canadian visa, the US ended up granting him a long term multiple-entry visa. Didn’t matter. He was denied a Canadian visa because, as with Case 1, they believed he had made a misrepresentation.
Case 3 – eTA
The third case that came to our attention involved a person from a visa-exempt country who had applied for an eTA . Note that he did this voluntarily, since he didn’t require an eTA until September 29, 2016.
While his wife and daughter’s eTAs were approved, the man’s was denied. Officials told him that he had failed to disclose on the application that his parents had once filed for permanent residence in Canada and included him on the application as a dependent child. This omission was considered to be a misrepresentation of a material fact.
Per paragraph 40 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations of Canada, the above mentioned people are now inadmissible to Canada for a period of 5 years from the time of the offense.
Caught In The Net
There are two big problems here. One is that past minor mix-ups will now be uncovered in the eTA process and people will be found “guilty” of misrepresentation. Considering that everybody except US citizens will have to file for an eTA – which for all intents and purposes is an electronic visa application to travel to Canada – I predict that we will see a deluge of people being refused an eTA, and hence being unable to travel to Canada.
Another big issue is that there is no redress procedure, apart from seeking relief in the Federal Court of Canada, which will allow an applicant in these situations to have their applications reconsidered.
Is The US In Charge Of Canadian Immigration?
What is particularly troubling is that many refusals to enter Canada will apparently come as a result of being denied US visas. Since two of the above cases were a result of not revealing previous interactions with US authorities, I think it is incumbent upon the Canadian government to put a clear warning on eTA applications that there is an open interchange of information between Canada and the USA and that this information can have a dramatic effect on someone entering Canada.
Such a warning could be in the form of questions such as: Have you ever been refused a visa to the USA or Canada? Have you ever been deported, denied entry, or had a visa cancelled be either country?
There should also be a convenient and swift redress procedure for errors and omissions of a non-serious nature. In Case 2 above, the applicant was denied because at one point in his life he had been refused a US visa – even though the US visa was granted later on. So everything with the US is now good but the man is blocked from entering Canada? This obviously does not make sense.
I predict that when the eTA program becomes compulsory, we are going to hear a lot more stories like the ones above. A lot of innocent people are going to be caught in a bureaucratic net that sifts far too finely. The government of Canada should address this problem now and should also clearly explain how much information is shared with the US and what impact it has on visitors to Canada.