ARCHIVED — Vol. 146, No. 20 — September 26, 2012

Registration

SOR/2012-171 September 11, 2012

IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION ACT

Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations

P.C. 2012-1068 September 11, 2012

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) and section 26 (see footnote a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (see footnote b), makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

REGULATIONS AMENDING THE IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION REGULATIONS

AMENDMENT

1. Paragraph 190(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (see footnote 1) is replaced by the following:

  • (a) are a citizen of Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, St. Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland;

COMING INTO FORCE

2. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)

Background

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its Regulations, every foreign citizen seeking to enter and remain in Canada on a temporary basis requires a temporary resident visa (TRV), except those from countries or territories where an exemption has been granted. A visa requirement is the most effective instrument to uphold the integrity of Canada’s immigration and asylum systems and to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians as it allows screening for potential risks through the TRV application process prior to arrival in Canada. Travellers from visa-exempt countries are screened only upon arrival at a Canadian port of entry.

Granting a visa exemption is based on a holistic assessment of the risks and benefits of such a decision, including the impact on Canada’s immigration and asylum systems as well as the benefits of increased facilitation. Some of the factors and impacts assessed include the cost of screening and processing immigration violations, processing asylum claims in Canada, the removal of inadmissible persons and failed asylum claimants, as well as governmental objectives in the areas of trade, tourism and bilateral relations. Decisions on visa requirements are based on ongoing monitoring of country conditions by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and other government departments, and an assessment against established criteria and thresholds.

Issues and objectives

In 2011, citizens from Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, St. Lucia and St. Vincent filed more than 2 000 asylum claims, representing 9% of total asylum intake that same year. The number of asylum claims from Namibia, St. Lucia and St. Vincent exceeds the established threshold of less than 2% of all claims made in Canada in the previous year.

Ongoing monitoring of country conditions has also identified risks related to travel documents as well as human smuggling and trafficking. The combination of visa-exempt passports, lax issuance procedures in Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland as well as deficiencies in the civil registration process in St. Lucia and St. Vincent provides an opportunity for individuals and groups to target those passports in order to gain entry into Canada. Furthermore, the organized nature of the movement from southern Africa suggests that human smuggling and trafficking rings are leveraging weaknesses in passport security and integrity and the ensuing availability of both genuine and counterfeit passports in order to transport citizens from Namibia, Swaziland and Botswana, as well as from other African countries, to Canada.

The objectives of the regulatory amendment are to

  • maintain the integrity of the in-Canada asylum system; and
  • help to protect the safety and security of Canadians while continuing to facilitate the movement of bona fide workers, students and visitors to Canada.

Description

The regulatory amendment will remove Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, St. Lucia and St. Vincent from the list of countries and territories whose citizens are exempt from the TRV requirement for travel to Canada under subsection 190(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

Consultation

Comments and input were sought and received from other government departments and agencies: the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Public Safety Canada and its portfolio agencies such as the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Privy Council Office, the Department of Finance Canada, the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Department of Justice Canada, Industry Canada and Transport Canada were included in consultations.

There was a risk that advance public notice of the Government’s intention to remove the visa exemption for Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, St. Lucia and St. Vincent through pre-publication would increase the number of individuals travelling to Canada to enter asylum claims between the prepublication period and the coming into force of the amendment. Consequently, consultations with the general public have not been undertaken.

“One-for-One” Rule

The “One-for-One” Rule with respect to creating a new regulation does not apply to this proposal as it amends the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, and does not create a new regulation.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as there are no costs imposed on small business.

Rationale

The removal of the TRV exemptions for Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, St. Lucia and St. Vincent will contribute to protecting the integrity of Canada’s immigration and asylum systems by addressing challenges such as large claim backlogs, fraud and susceptibility to abuse. High numbers of rejected, abandoned, or withdrawn asylum claims create burdens for Canada’s asylum system and jeopardize the effectiveness of reforms that will be implemented through the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act. The removal of visa exemptions would reduce the volume of new asylum claims from these countries and could contribute to accelerating the treatment of the existing backlog of asylum claims. This will facilitate the full implementation of reforms to the asylum system by providing sufficient time for the enhanced system to consolidate and will help to ensure that the objectives of these reforms — for which significant funds have been invested — are not jeopardized. Past experience shows that the removal of visa exemptions is a very effective mechanism to alleviate pressures on Canada’s asylum system. For example, the removal of the visa exemptions for citizens of the Czech Republic and Mexico led to a considerable decrease in asylum claims.

Another benefit to the Government of Canada and Canadian taxpayers will be in the avoidance of significant future costs. The estimated cost for each negative determination of an asylum claim under the current system is, on average, $55,000, while the costs incurred by the Government for every abandoned and withdrawn claim are $17,500 and $15,000, respectively. This includes operational costs, costs related to the asylum status determination system, legal aid costs, social service costs if an individual avails of social assistance during their entire time in Canada, costs to the Interim Federal Health Program and the cost of removing an individual from Canada. Over 800 claims — nearly 48% of the claims finalized for these countries — were rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2011, which translates into related costs of up to $46 million.

Furthermore, screening of applications and travel documents for citizens of Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, St. Lucia and St. Vincent will take place at overseas missions instead of upon their arrival in Canada, lessening the burden on border officers at Canadian ports of entry. This would also enable Public Safety Canada and its portfolio agencies to focus their resources on higher-risk individuals involved in serious criminality, organized crime and national security concerns. The imposition of visa requirements would also contribute to the Government’s efforts to combat human trafficking and smuggling.

While the implementation costs associated with this new measure are estimated at approximately $6.0 million over five years to expand visitor processing operations at the Canadian missions in Pretoria and Port-of-Spain, a visa requirement for these five countries can also be expected to generate fee revenues from TRV applications in the range of $2.9 million over five years, which will accrue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The removal of the visa exemptions will require that genuine tourists and business travellers apply for a visa before seeking to come to Canada from these countries. However, only about 9 000 entries to Canada were recorded by citizens of these countries in 2011, and this includes more than 2 000 asylum claimants and another approximately 1 000 individuals with documented infractions of Canadian immigration laws or who were found inadmissible at a port of entry. Consequently, as asylum claimants do not typically expend a large share of their income on tourist activities, the removal of the visa exemption for these countries is not expected to have a significant impact on the Canadian tourism industry. As per standard practice, the impact on genuine travel will be partly mitigated through the issuance of multiple entry visas and an existing visa exemption for diplomatic and official passport holders accredited to Canada. Citizens of these countries in possession of a valid work or study permit will receive a TRV, as per the Regulations.

Finally, the removal of the visa exemptions for the three remaining visa-exempt African countries and two Caribbean countries may create the perception that Canada is disengaging from both those regions, and it is likely to cause irritants in diplomatic relations beyond the five countries in question. These notwithstanding, the five countries pose heightened risks to the integrity of Canada’s immigration and asylum systems and no longer meet the established criteria for visa exemption.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

Visa processing operations are in place to offer services to citizens of Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. The Canadian mission in Pretoria will offer services to citizens from Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland while the mission in Port-of-Spain will serve citizens from St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

It is expected that the proposed imposition of these visa requirements will significantly reduce the number of asylum claims received from these countries and costs associated with these claims. CIC, in conjunction with other government departments, will assess the impacts of this proposal through ongoing monitoring of country conditions and trends, as well as with the number of asylum claims from these countries.

Contact

Maia Welbourne
Director
Document and Visa Policy
Admissibility Branch
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
300 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1L1
Telephone: 613-954-6243
Email: maia.welbourne@cic.gc.ca

Footnote a
S.C. 2012, c. 17, s. 15

Footnote b
S.C. 2001, c. 27

Footnote 1
SOR/2002-227