Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander recently announced the establishment of the CAN+ program, a new program that will facilitate the visa process for Mexican travellers coming to Canada.
The CAN+ program will allow for expedited visa processing for Mexican nationals who have previously travelled to Canada in the past ten years. Expedited processing for the expected 50% of Mexican travellers to Canada who will be eligible for this program will also benefit those who do not qualify, as the expedited processing will free up visa officers and should increase all processing times for Mexican visas. With the introduction of this program, it is expected that all Mexican visas will be processed in 10 days or less. The 6 month CAN+ pilot program boasted a 95% approval rating, and during the pilot program visas were processed and issued to Mexican travellers in 7 days or less.
The visa requirement for Mexicans travelling to Canada has proven to be a major point of contention between Mexico and Canada and has contributed to strained diplomatic relations. Mexican nationals have been subject to visa requirements since 2009, put in place in response to the growing number of Mexicans attempting to claim refugee status and protection in Canada. The requirement has received a great deal of criticism from prospective travellers in Mexico who see the visa requirement as a stumbling block to business and investment activity. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is one of the critics of these visa requirements, who in March cancelled a planned trip to Canada in protest of the Canadian government’s unwillingness to discuss lifting the visa requirements. Spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Alexis Pavlich defended the visa requirements, noting that “legitimate trade and travel [from Mexico] is actually increasing.”
While the CAN+ program does not go as far as to remove these controversial visa requirements, application processing will be faster and more efficient. The creation of the CAN+ program will first and foremost benefit Mexican travellers, but will also benefit Canadian industries by facilitating growing tourism from Mexico, one of Canada’s top five trading partners. From January to April 2014, Canada saw a 20% increase in visitor visas, study permits, and work permits from Mexico from the same period last year, indicating the growing numbers of Mexican nationals who want to come to Canada. The CAN+ program is an important step in promoting the Mexican-Canadian relationship and can be seen as a first step to the eventual removal of the visa requirements.According to Minister Alexander,”by making the CAN+ program permanent, our government is making it easier and faster for Mexican travellers to come to Canada to do business, visit family or friends, or bolster Canada’s tourism industry. This will further strengthen relations with our valued NAFTA partner and will help foster economic growth in both our countries.”
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