Canada under pressure to ease US visa requirement as tension mounts

Canada is moving slowly to ease a visa requirement for some US citizens seeking to visit the nation despite a dispute with its northern neighbour over how to implement a new rule that requires non-citizens who have travelled to Canada for 50 days or more to undergo more stringent medical examination.

Some Canadian MPs who represent northeastern areas of the United States fret about the risk that Americans, especially those from those states that voted for Donald Trump and are home to facilities on the border, will have difficulty getting to Canada on their holidays.

‘Full is compromise’: US tries to broker deal on Canada visa requirement Read more

A deal could offer the Trump administration access to Canadian immigration data that could help identify undocumented migrants who slip through cracks in American immigration control, but the timing remains awkward after the sensitive negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, have so far borne little fruit.

A border official in Halifax told Reuters on Thursday that several flights departing from the area to Canada’s West Coast were being delayed at the Halifax airport this week. One flight was almost delayed, with a passenger on the way from Boston unable to board his flight.

That same day, a border official at the Saint John, New Brunswick border crossing was also behind schedule in an effort to accommodate a guest from New Hampshire who was expected to arrive at the same time, according to a Canadian official.

American and Canadian officials are also extending a “temporary moratorium” on visas for at least a year for refugees from Canada. The moratorium, imposed in July 2017, halts issuance of travel documents for Canada to Canadian refugees from the contiguous United States.

Canada has also indicated it is in talks with Washington on another measure – creating a single electronic biometric travel-fraud detection system. This was announced in the Trump administration’s budget request in February.

But obtaining additional access to Canadian immigration information for American immigration agents will take more time and could be inconsistent, a solution also sought by Trump.

Canadian federal legislation, which is in the final stages of approval, would allow the foreign minister to waive the one-way visa rule, an option that has been used only once, in 2008.

The loophole was used by Florida resident Meryem Farsakh, who travelled through Canada from New York on a vacation to visit her mother before she was charged with harbouring refugees, to which she pleaded guilty.

But the foreign minister had to use this one-way door only once, earlier this year. Canada also removed a similar “one-way glass door” in 2014, when it required a non-citizen who had visited Canada for more than a month to pass a “fullness” check before they were issued a visa.

The move backfired, and hardliners in the Canadian public said it was yet another trade attack on the country.

The European Commission has sought to push Ottawa to remove the one-way door to US citizens, but its demands were ignored.

Reporting by Jennifer Ablan; editing by Peter Millership

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