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Homeland Security or Fear Mongering? Why citizens of visa-exempt countries may soon need authorization in order to visit Canada

A recently proposed change to the law could mean that individuals from specific countries which currently do not require visas to visit Canada – such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and many countries in the European Union – could require an “electronic travel authorization” in order to enter Canada by airplane.

 This system would be similar to the one that has been in place in the U.S. since 2008 and itis said that these changes were proposed in order to quell Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s lack of faith in the safety of our borders.

 So, what does this mean for Canada’s tourism? 

 Will these changes really improve border security or dissuade visitors from coming to Canada? If the fee is small, there should be no effect on travel.  On the issue of security, according to the government, “it is expected that the vast majority of applicants would be approved … within minutes of applying”, and that only those with a history of war crimes, crimes against humanity, international human rights violations, or those who may be security threats or have criminal records  should be concerned about refusal of entry.

 According to reports, once an individual receives approval through the electronic system, the “cleared” status will be valid for up to five years. 

 This law will not be exclusionary; even individuals holding Foreign Affairs-issued passports and those who have diplomatic or consular status in Canada will not be given immunity.  According to the government, Canada will be collecting this electronic information on every Foreign Official currently stationed in Canada.

 For those interested in commenting on these new rules, a full set of the draft rules can be found here. The government has given people until mid-January to provide comments and suggestions.

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About Reis Pagtakhan

Reis Pagtakhan is an immigration law partner with MLT Aikins LLP. His extensive experience includes assisting businesses obtain temporary entry to Canada and permanent residency for their executives, employees and contractors from all over the world. Reis has lectured on and written papers on immigration law for the Law Society of Manitoba, the Manitoba Bar Association, the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and the Community Legal Education Association of Manitoba. He has presented position papers before the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Immigration Department officials and Manitoba Labour and Immigration. He has written articles on immigration for the CBC, the Winnipeg Free Press, trade, industry and ethnic publications.

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