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SVG hoping for retraction of visa restrictions imposed by Canadian authorities

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The Government is hoping that the recent signing of a Schengen visa waiver agreement will give Canadian authorities cause to revisit visa restrictions imposed on Vincentians since 2012.

At a media briefing held last Friday, May 29, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Commerce and Information Technology Camillo Gonsalves said that his Ministry intends to make Canadian authorities aware of the development.{{more}}

Referring to the imposition of a visitor visa almost three years ago, Gonsalves said: “They made an erroneous claim that it was due in some way to the sanctity of our travel documents – the validity of our passport. We fought that claim very vigorously… We pointed out, and they conceded, that it was due more to the fact that an inordinate number of Vincentians were applying for refugee status in Canada.”

In September 2012, the Canadian authorities announced that citizens from St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia would no longer enjoy visa-free travel to Canada, and would instead be required to have a visitor visa before being allowed entry.

The move was said to be geared towards further strengthening Canada’s immigration and asylum systems.

Gonsalves further pointed out that this recent visa waiver is a validation of the security of the Vincentian passport, which now has the same validity as the US passport within the Schengen zone.

“They (European Union) have done a full analysis of our passport structures, our security, our birth certificates, and this decision to grant this status to St Vincent and the Grenadines… is an endorsement of the strength of our travel documents.

“I’ve already been mandated by the Honourable Prime Minister to point this out to the Canadian government that the… Schengen zone has deemed our passports certainly sufficient…”

Brazil and Uruguay also recently granted Vincentians visa-free travel.

“The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has a policy of trying to engage in reciprocal visa arrangements with countries all around the world.”

Last Thursday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced in Parliament that an agreement had been signed, granting Vincentians visa-free travel in the 26 countries of the Schengen zone – for up to 90 days within any six-month period.

Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago also signed the short stay visa waiver, joining The Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda and St Kitts/Nevis, which were granted visa waiver status in 2009.

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