Some international students at the University of Calgary will have to jump one more hurdle in order to attend here.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced mid-July that Czech Republic and Mexican nationals must now have visas to travel to Canada. The requirements mean students, who already need a Study Permit, must get a Temporary Resident Visa, a process that can take two to three months, leaving many concerned they won't be able to react in time for September classes.
The new requirements stem from a spike in the two countries' refugee claims. According to CIC, Mexico and the Czech Republic constitute the two largest "source countries" for claims.
"In addition to creating significant delays and spiralling new costs in our refugee program, the sheer volume of these claims is undermining our ability to help people fleeing real persecution," said Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney in a July 13 news release.
"The visa process will allow us to assess who is coming to Canada as a legitimate visitor and who might be trying to use the refugee system to jump the immigration queue. It is not fair for those who have been waiting patiently to come to Canada, sometimes for years, when others succeed in bypassing our immigration system."
As a result of these changes, Mexican and Czech nationals will need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa in order to visit Canada as well as meet the standard requirements of a temporary, time-specified visit: be in good health, have no criminal record, have enough money to cover their stay and demonstrate that they are not a security risk to Canadians.
Kenney said Canada will "continue to welcome all genuine travellers to Canada" from these countries.
"The visa requirement I am announcing will give us a greater ability to manage the flow of people into Canada and verify bona fides," said Kenney. "By taking this important step towards reducing the burden on our refugee system, we will be better equipped to process genuine refugee claims faster."
While Kenney focuses on immigration issues, the changes are generating concern for international students, who must now obtain a TRV in addition to a Study Permit.
"Unfortunately this causes a lot of complications for us when considering vacations outside of Canada or even for a conference trip, as re-entry requires a TRV, which is costly and takes a lot of time to get. It doesn't help that they usually only give a single entry visa, instead of a multiple entry visa," said an international graduate student, who asked not to be named. "I think this has the potential to decrease the cultural diversity seen at the U of C as well as making life more difficult and stressful for existing international students."
The policy alterations have left some students scrambling to meet requirements.
"Although they are understandably necessary in some cases, they shouldn't be announced without a reasonable amount of time to react to the changes," said the student. "The restrictions imposed should not hinder students, academia and business as they are entering for legitimate purposes and, in the case of students, have already obtained a study permit."