Today, Sean Fraser, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, made an announcement in Winnipeg regarding visa-free travel.
Air travelers from 13 countries will now have the ability to visit Canada without requiring a Temporary Residence Visa. However, this privilege is limited to individuals from these countries who have either held a Canadian visa within the last 10 years or currently possess a valid non-immigrant visa from the United States. The eligible countries are as follows:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Costa Rica
Minister Fraser emphasized that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been working to streamline the pre-travel screening process, making it more convenient, efficient, and affordable. He believes that this decision will redirect thousands of visa applications, enabling IRCC to handle them more effectively.
A similar pilot program was implemented in Brazil in 2017, resulting in a 40% increase in visitors from Brazil and a 60% reduction in the caseload at IRCC’s Sao Paulo office. This freed up IRCC officers to focus on more complex applications.
Visa-free travel to Canada is already available to citizens of over 50 countries, although most of them require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) if arriving by air. United States citizens do not need an eTA or visa to enter Canada unless they plan to work or study in the country.
Nationals from countries not exempt from visa requirements must apply for a Temporary Residence Visa (TRV), also known as a visitor visa. A TRV permits individuals to visit Canada for up to six months, although there may be exceptions for certain foreign nationals.
It’s important to note that arriving in Canada with a TRV does not grant permission to work or study in the country. Individuals may be asked to demonstrate that their visit to Canada is temporary, such as for tourism or visiting family, at the port of entry.
Currently, IRCC is dealing with a backlog of TRV applications. The latest data from IRCC shows that 50% of TRV applications are not being processed within the established service standards of 14 days.
Minister Fraser acknowledged that the recent strike by the Public Service Alliance of Canada affected TRV applications. The strike, which lasted from April 19 to May 1, resulted in approximately 100,000 applications remaining unprocessed during that period. He expressed confidence that IRCC will catch up to pre-pandemic processing standards in the coming weeks or months.