The immigration game has changed for Mexico - Immigration Lawyer Vancouver, Canada | Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre

BlogCanadian Immigration ProgramsHow do I immigrate to Canada?The immigration game has changed for Mexico

12 March 2024

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On Thursday, February 29, 2024 at 11:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Honourable Marc Miller, re-imposed a visa requirement on all Mexican nationals seeking to come to Canada temporarily as visitors, students and workers. For many Mexicans currently in Canada, their Electronic Travel Authorizations (eTAs) were immediately canceled. For those seeking to enter Canada, it put an immediate hold on travel plans while the new rules are sorted out and visas obtained.

Canada has had an interesting relationship with an on-again, off-again and now on-again visa requirement for Mexico. After many years of a visa-free relationship between Canada and Mexico, that came to an end on July 14, 2009 when Canada’s then Conservative Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenny, imposed a visa requirement due to the high levels of refugee claims by Mexican nationals. After the election of the Liberal government in November 2015 the visa requirement was lifted as of December 1, 2016. The Liberals have now changed direction by re-imposing the visa requirement this past month, again citing the high level of refugee claims being made by Mexican nationals, most of which are rejected by Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.

IRCC has been busy sending messages to many persons from Mexico currently in Canada advising them that their eTAs have been cancelled and advising them of the new visa and travel requirements. These new rules affect visitors to Canada and NOT persons with a valid work or study permit whose eTAs will continue to be valid. eTAs are required for air travel to Canada; however, for those who are travelling by car, bus, train or boat, a visitor visa is required.

Select Mexican nationals will still be able to apply for an eTA to visit Canada. Specifically, those who have previously held Canadian visitor visas in the past 10 years or those who currently hold a valid US non-immigrant visa, will continue to be eligible to apply for eTAs to travel to Canada as visitors.

One of the most notable changes resulting from the re-imposed visa requirements is for work permit applicants. Canada shares a special relationship with Mexico given its trade agreements. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect on January 1, 1994 and allowed for certain professionals and investors to apply for work permits exempt from the standard labour market impact assessment process (LMIA). This agreement was re-named the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) on July 1, 2020; however, the work permit provisions remained the same. With the visa free status for Mexican nationals, they could apply for a work permit at the border or port of entry. That is no longer possible given the new visa requirements.

Under the new rules, all Mexican nationals who wish to apply for a Canadian work permit must apply online to IRCC. Their applications will undergo the standard work permit processing procedures, which include the requirement to undergo biometric data collection (fingerprinting and photographs), as well as the requirement to submit the applicant’s original passport to receive their visa to travel to Canada. Recognizing that disallowing port of entry applications represents a dramatic shift from past practices, the Minister has announced that IRCC will be prioritizing the processing of work permit applications from Mexico.

The Minister’s announcement to re-impose visa requirements has far reaching consequences for many travellers to Canada. Included among them are family members of Canadian citizens or permanent resident who were previously able to travel to Canada without visas to see their loved ones, but who are now required to apply for a visitor visa even though they have travelled to Canada in the past 10 years. It will also disproportionately affect certain travellers such as business visitors to Canada who were previously able to travel to Canada on short notice for business activities without going through a formal visa application process.</div>

Most importantly, the elimination of port of entry work permit applications for Mexican nationals means that Canadian employers will need to plan well ahead to bring Mexican talent to Canada. The re-introduction of the visa requirement necessarily adds delay for Canadian employers looking to hire workers from Mexico to fill labour shortages and it is still too early to know whether the Minister will deliver on his promise to provide prioritized processing for work permit applications coming from Mexico. Canadian employers and Mexican job seekers alike will need to stay updated with the latest news from the Minister!

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