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Visa changes for Mexican nationals spark calls for 'alternative solutions' from Leamington consulate


Following the federal government's move to impose new visa requirements for Mexican nationals, the Consul of Mexico in Leamington, Ont. says he wishes "alternative solutions" could have been explored.

Late last week, Immigration Minster Marc Miller announced some Mexican nationals will soon need a visa to come to Canada under a change in policy aimed to curb rising numbers of asylum claims, which are mostly rejected or abandoned.

The Conservative government of 2009 imposed a visa requirement on Mexico to curb the flow of asylum claimants. The current Liberal government relaxed those requirements seven years later before restoring them on Thursday.

This means Mexican travellers who do not hold a valid U.S. non-immigrant visa or have never held a Canadian visa in the past 10 years will now have to apply for a visitor visa to enter Canada.

Those who do comply with one of those two conditions can apply for an electronic travel authorization (eTA), allowing them to come to Canada without a visa.

"We think that there were other options that could have been implemented before this," said Rodrigo Báez.

He said one alternative could have seen the expansion of labour programs, such as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, and the creation of more legal pathways for migration.

"Canada has a major labour shortage and Mexico is more than willing and prepared to help Canadians to fill out these position," said Báez.

The Consul of Mexico added he has already witnessed the impact of the new rules on, at least, one Canadian family.

"I just had a case last week of two Canadian parents who have Mexican children and they wanted to bring them back to Canada. Because the children didn't have a Canadian passport, they are stuck in Mexico. So we're trying to help them," he said.

According to the federal government, applying for an eTA is a "simple online process" that takes just a few minutes to complete and sees most applicants get their eTA approval within minutes via email.

But, according to immigration lawyer Amanjit Kaur, a visa can take four to six weeks to come through.

"We get a lot of calls to our office. We have a lot of agricultural workers from Mexico and people are worried. People are panicking," said Kaur.

Kaur added the worry is coming primarily from Mexican nationals whose family members were supposed to come and visit them in the summer.

"However, we've been telling them not to panic and not to make more of what has been announced,” she said.

According to the Mexican Consulate, family members of two-year temporary foreign workers are exempt from the new regulations.

The federal government estimates about 60 per cent of people travelling from Mexico will not need a visa to come to Canada under the new rules because they meet the requirements to acquire an eTA.

"Some people are calling [Mexican nationals] collateral damage because of these changes. I would say, 'Not really.' It does not impact a majority. If you are eligible for an eTA, you're still good to come in," said Kaur.

Speaking on behalf of Justice For Migrant Workers, Chris Ramsaroop called the government's policy change "discriminatory."

"As we all know, U.S. visitors to Canada are not facing the same type of visa requirement restrictions," Ramsaroop said, adding the eTA process "pre-emptively" prevents Mexican nationals from seeking asylum.

"So they're trying to prevent people from accessing their right to justice."

The application process for Mexican citizens seeking a work or study permit will not change, according to the federal government. Top Stories

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