On July 13, 2009, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) announced that Mexican and Czech citizens would both require visas to travel to Canada; this visa requirement became effective at 12:01am EDT on July 14, 2009. In other words, almost no advance notice was given before the requirement took effect. CIC stated that, for the first 48 hours, Mexican and Czech citizens would be permitted to apply for entry on arrival in Canada. However, after 11:59pm EDT on July 15, 2009, the visa requirement would be mandatory for admission to Canada. The apparent reason for this change is the increasing number of refugee claims being filed by citizens of Mexico and the Czech Republic.
CIC indicated that Mexican cases have almost tripled since 2005, making it the number one source country for claims. In 2008, more than 9,400 claims filed in Canada came from Mexican nationals, representing 25 per cent of all claims received. Of the Mexican claims reviewed and finalized in 2008 by the Immigration and Refugee Board, an independent administrative tribunal, only 11 per cent were accepted.
CIC indicated that, since the visa requirement was lifted on the Czech Republic in October 2007, nearly 3,000 claims have been filed by Czech nationals, compared with less than five in 2006. The Czech Republic is now the second top source country for refugee claims. The relatively higher acceptance rate of refugee claims originating in the Czech Republic masks the troubling fact that more than half of the claims are abandoned or withdrawn before a final decision is made by the Immigration and Refugee Board, indicating that many claimants may not be genuine refugees.
The visa requirement is expected to cause delays at Canadian consular posts in Mexico as well as considerable inconvenience for Mexican citizens who plan on travelling to Canada. The visa requirement could be even more inconvenient for Czech citizens, who will need to apply for visas at the Canadian consulate in Vienna, Austria.