Visas for citizens of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland arriving in Canada are now compulsory.
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said that the change has been introduced to ensure that those seeking to visit Canada intend to return to their country of origin, rather than overstaying or committing other immigration violations.
‘We continue to welcome genuine visitors to Canada. 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,’ he explained.
A key reason why the Canadian 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 1.5% and 3% 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 81% in 2011. Some 71% 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 30%, well above the level we deem acceptable for countries benefiting from a visa exemption,’ said 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, that they will not overstay their authorised stay, that they have enough money to cover their stay, that they are in good health, that they do not have a criminal record and that 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. The government of Canada remains committed to protecting the integrity of our immigration system and welcoming bona fide visitors from around the world,’ added Kenney.