Vol. 151, No. 14 — July 12, 2017
SOR/2017-147 June 23, 2017
IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION ACT
Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Temporary Resident Visa Exemptions)
P.C. 2017-970 June 23, 2017
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, pursuant to subsections 5(1) and 14(2) (see footnote a) and section 26 (see footnote b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (see footnote c), makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Temporary Resident Visa Exemptions).
Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Temporary Resident Visa Exemptions)
1 Section 12.05 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (see footnote 1) is amended by striking out “or” at the end of paragraph (b), by adding “or” at the end of paragraph (c) and by adding the following after paragraph (c):
- (d) the day on which the country or authority referred to in paragraph 190(1)(a) that issued the passport or other travel document in respect of which the electronic travel authorization was issued is no longer referred to in that paragraph.
2 Paragraph 190(1)(a) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
- (a) are a citizen of Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland;
Coming into Force
3 These Regulations come into force at 05:30:01 a.m. Eastern daylight time on June 27, 2017, but if they are registered after that time, they come into force at 09:00:01 a.m. Eastern daylight time on the day after the day on which they are registered.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
Citizens of Antigua and Barbuda are currently exempt from the requirement to apply for and obtain a temporary resident visa (TRV) before travelling to Canada.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in consultation with Canadian federal partners, has determined that Antigua and Barbuda no longer meets Canada’s visa policy criteria for a visa exemption. Failure to satisfy the criteria is due in large part to risks stemming from the country’s Citizenship-by-Investment Program.
Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), all visitors to Canada require a TRV, with the exception of those from countries and territories whose citizens have been granted an exemption. Citizens of a majority of countries and territories require a TRV for travel to Canada; only 52 countries and territories are visa-exempt, including Antigua and Barbuda. A member of the Commonwealth, Antigua and Barbuda has had visa-exempt status for its citizens’ travel to Canada since that country’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1981.
Canada’s TRV requirements are determined on a country-by-country basis and are based on an evaluation of risk taken against established criteria and thresholds. In order to gather information and make decisions on visa requirements, IRCC conducts ongoing monitoring of country conditions and migration trends to determine if a change in visa policy is warranted. A visa requirement is the most effective tool in deterring irregular migration and in ensuring the physical and economic security of Canadians, since TRV applicants must prove up front that they will abide by the conditions of their temporary residence in Canada.
IRCC has been closely monitoring Antigua and Barbuda since it launched its Citizenship-by-Investment Program in late 2013. The Program allows foreign nationals to acquire Antigua and Barbuda citizenship for US$200,000, thereby providing visa-free access to over 130 countries, including Canada.
IRCC is concerned about the abuse of Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship-by-Investment Program by certain third-country nationals, as well as weaknesses in the Program’s identity management practices. There is a possibility that individuals of concern who are inadmissible to Canada and may pose a potential risk to the health, safety and security of Canadians could take advantage of the Citizenship-by-Investment Program to obtain an Antigua and Barbuda passport and attempt to travel visa-free to Canada. The visa requirement will ensure that Canada will be able to properly determine the true identity of Antigua and Barbuda passport holders and to deny entry to high-risk travellers before they reach Canada.
In March 2015, the IRPR were amended to introduce the electronic travel authorization (eTA) requirement. The eTA is an electronic entry requirement for visa-exempt air travellers to Canada, excluding citizens of the United States. Travellers apply online for an eTA by providing basic biographical, passport and personal information. An automated system then compares this information against immigration and enforcement databases (held by IRCC and the Canada Border Services Agency [CBSA]) to determine if the traveller is admissible to Canada. The vast majority of applications are approved automatically, with a small percentage referred to an officer for review.
The eTA is supported by CBSA’s Interactive Advance Passenger Information (IAPI) system. The IAPI checks for valid immigration documents of all types and provides airlines a coded message for every passenger seeking to travel to Canada by air, signalling whether the passenger is properly documented (e.g. holds a valid eTA or TRV), and thus whether the traveller may board the aircraft.
The visa imposition on Antigua and Barbuda is the first visa imposition for Canada in the eTA era and amendments to the IRPR are recommended to reflect this new scenario. While IRCC or CBSA officers have the authority to cancel an eTA on a case-by-case basis once an individual’s inadmissibility has been established, an amendment is required to explicitly clarify in the IRPR that all eTAs issued in relation to passports of a country transitioning from eTA-required to visa-required status are systematically invalidated at the moment of the visa imposition.
The primary objective of the regulatory amendments is to remove Antigua and Barbuda from the list of visa-exempt countries in order to protect the safety and security of Canadians and uphold Canada’s commitment to secure the North American perimeter.
The amendment to invalidate eTAs issued in relation to passports of a country upon the country’s removal from the list of visa-exempt countries and territories is intended to mitigate the impacts of the visa imposition on newly visa-required travellers as well as airlines, by removing the confusion that maintaining these eTAs as if they continued to be valid in the system would inadvertently create. This amendment will also help to prevent visa-required travellers from boarding airplanes without a valid visa, thus reducing the risk that inadmissible travellers reach Canada.
The regulatory amendments will remove Antigua and Barbuda from the list of countries and territories whose citizens are exempt from the TRV requirement for travel to Canada. Additionally, the regulatory amendments will add a regulatory provision such that a visa imposition for a country, once that country is removed from the list of countries whose citizens are visa exempt, automatically invalidates all eTAs issued in relation to passports of that country.
The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to these regulatory amendments, as there is no change in administrative costs to business. Both TRV and eTA requirements apply to individuals, so there is no administrative impact on business.
Small business lens
The small business lens does not apply since no costs will be imposed on small businesses.
Comments and input were sought and received from other government departments and agencies for the proposal to remove Antigua and Barbuda from the list of visa-exempt countries and territories. These consultations included Public Safety Canada, the CBSA, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Global Affairs Canada, the Department of Justice and the Privy Council Office. The CBSA, the Department of Justice and the Privy Council Office were consulted on the proposal to enact an eTA invalidation authority that is triggered upon the imposition of a visa.
Removing the visa exemption for Antigua and Barbuda citizens and passport holders will enable Canada to conduct thorough pre-departure visa screening. This will not only reduce the risk to Canadians that travellers may gain access to Canada without undergoing the required screening, but will also bolster Canada’s reputation as a reliable partner in safeguarding the North American perimeter.
The visa screening process allows for a more thorough assessment of an individual and his/her intent in travelling to Canada. For example, visa officers request an applicant’s birth certificate and/or other identification as well as access more security databases to vet an individual’s identity while they are still outside Canada, thereby reducing the health, safety and security risks to Canada and Canadians. Moreover, while the visa screening process also deters inadmissible individuals from applying for a TRV in the first place, existing mechanisms may allow for entry if justified on a case-by-case basis.
The regulatory amendment to invalidate eTAs issued in relation to passports of a country that is removed from the list of visa-exempt countries and territories will help to ensure that only individuals who have been screened to the appropriate level and who have been issued valid documentation can travel to Canada. It will also reduce the risk of traveller and airline confusion over entry requirements, resulting in a more seamless transition to the visa requirement.
Without this regulatory change to invalidate eTAs, there is a potential risk that Antigua and Barbuda travellers, or citizens of any future visa-required states, could travel to Canada using their eTA post-visa imposition. Without the regulatory change, eTAs would remain valid in the system and would continue to generate a coded message that the passenger is properly documented in IAPI for air carriers. This could result in a visa-required individual boarding a plane with only an eTA, which would result in the traveller being found inadmissible to Canada upon entry as improperly documented (i.e. not having a TRV) and potentially affecting his/her future travel to Canada. The associated airline could also face an administration fee.
As is the case with all visa impositions, removing Antigua and Barbuda from the list of visa-exempt countries and territories will result in some costs and impacts to Canada. For example, it is estimated that Antigua and Barbuda traveller volumes to Canada will decrease in the initial years following the visa imposition due to the TRV fee and the related time and administrative costs caused by the visa requirement. However, given the small traveller volumes to Canada (at approximately 2 500 visitors each year), this impact is estimated to be low and any negative effects on travel are anticipated to decrease over time. As with all visa policy changes, the Government of Canada will also incur additional costs in communicating and implementing the visa change (e.g. updating internal manuals, procedures and web changes; undertaking necessary information technology changes).
The visa imposition is not expected to have any undue impacts on gender and diversity issues requiring mitigation, as decisions to approve or deny a TRV are based only on the risk posed to Canada. The invalidation of eTAs is an administrative measure not expected to have any impacts on gender and diversity issues.
Implementation, enforcement and service standards
The regulatory amendments come into force at 5:30 a.m. Eastern daylight time on June 27, 2017, but if they are registered after that time, they come into force at 9:00 a.m. Eastern daylight time on the day after the day on which they are registered.
Upon coming into force,
- Antigua and Barbuda passport holders will be required to apply for, and present upon arriving, a TRV to enter Canada.
- Any eTAs issued in relation to Antigua and Barbuda passports will immediately become invalid for travel to Canada.
- Visa processing operations at the Canadian visa office and the Visa Application Centre in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, will begin to serve residents of Antigua and Barbuda.
The impact of the new visa requirement on travellers of Antigua and Barbuda will be mitigated through the issuance, in most cases, of multiple-entry TRVs, allowing the visa holder the opportunity of repeat trips to Canada for stays up to six months at a time, over a 10-year period, as the majority of Antigua and Barbuda passports are valid for up to 10 years. As per the IRPR, citizens of Antigua and Barbuda in possession of a valid work or study permit will continue to be able to apply within or outside Canada for a TRV, and citizens of Antigua and Barbuda who are lawful permanent residents of the United States will continue to be able to apply for an eTA following the imposition.
IRCC, in conjunction with federal partners, will assess the impacts of the visa imposition proposal through ongoing monitoring of country conditions and trends.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
180 Kent Street