Canada Begins Special Visa Program For Mexican Business Travellers

Canada begins special visa program for Mexican business travellers
Could the visa war be over?

Canwest News Service
April 10, 2010

Almost a year after finding itself in a spat with Mexico over visas, Canada has set up a special invitation-only program for Mexican business travellers.

Participants in the program will be able to get their visa requests processed within 24 hours, the federal government said, as it announced the program this week.

“Canada welcomes travellers from Mexico and has been looking at ways to provide enhanced services to applicants, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a news release.

Canada and Mexico are among each others largest trading partners,” added Peter Van Loan, minister of international trade, in the release.

“This program will help Canadian and Mexican companies do business together and continue to fuel our economic recovery.”

The welcoming comments are a different tone than the government was taking last year, when the it announced that Mexicans visiting Canada would need visas, a requirement it also placed on residents of the Czech Republic.

The move prompted an outcry from both countries.

The Harper government said it was imposing the rules to help stem the waves of refugee claimants from those two countries, which were at the time Canadas top two sources of refugee applicants.

Critics and experts said Canada had sparked a “visa war” that could hurt trade relations with the European Union, because of the Czech Republics membership in the EU, and with Mexico, a North American Free Trade Agreement partner.

Mexico retaliated by saying it would require visas of all Canadian diplomats, holding off for putting the requirement on the more than 1.3 Canadians tourists who come to the country each year due to economic considerations.

The Canadian government said the new program being established at this countrys visa office in Mexico City is meant to help employees of Mexican companies who must often travel to Canada.

It will reduce paperwork and provide priority processing of visa applications.

Participation in the program will be by invitation only. Businesses with key connections to Canada will be identified by the Canadian Embassy or Export Development Canada, and then invited to take part.

Businesses will have to have good records of sending employees to Canada and having them behave themselves while in the country to get such an invitation, the Canadian government says.

The embassy has already invited 113 companies to enrol in the program and 12 businesses have registered.

The program is modelled on a similar and successful program introduced in New Delhi, India, in June 2008.

Last month, Kenney proposed $540 million worth of new measures to overhaul the system for dealing with refugee claims from foreigners who arrive on Canadian soil.

Kenney has said the changes, once implemented, will cut the time it takes for a refugee claimant to get a hearing to two months from the current 19 and reduce to about two years from the average 4 1/2 years it now takes to evict a rejected applicant from Canada.