Canada on Tuesday said it will allow visa-free travel to “known travellers” from 13 countries, including St Vincent and the Grenadines passport holders.
The visa-free travel has been extended to Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts-Nevis, Panama, Argentina, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Morocco, Seychelles, Thailand and the Philippines.
Jamaica did not make the list.
Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser, said that the “known travellers” will be allowed entry into the country after obtaining an electronic travel authorisation.
A “known traveller” is someone who currently holds a Canadian visa, obtained one over the last 10 years or holds a valid United States visa. The electronic travel authorisation will be valid for five years, or until the holder’s passport expires, whichever comes first.
The visa-free travel comes 11 years after Canada imposed visa requirements for St Vincent and the Grenadines passport holders, expressing concerns about the integrity of the issuing procedures in Kingstown.
Canada had claimed that some passport holders, who had been deported from the North American country, had returned on passports with different names.
The Ralph Gonsalves government rejected the concerns saying that the Vincentian passport is issued only after a rigorous process of document authentication.
Fraser described Tuesday’s announcement as “very good news” that will facilitate more people visiting Canada.
He said that Canada is “a nation of newcomers”, noting that with the exception of the indigenous population, every chapter of the nation’s history is written by immigrants including his own family that arrived in Canada 250 years ago.
Fraser spoke of the economic contribution of immigrants to Canada as well as the connection between diaspora communities in Canada and people in their home countries.
The minister said that the expanded programme will facilitate opportunities for people to be able to visit their relatives in Canada, saying that Canada is a draw to people around the world, and his country wants to make it easier for people to visit.
He said that visitors to Canada contribute to the local and national economy and enrich the social fabric.
Fraser said the digital document will allow holders to transit through or visit Canada for up to six months and will allow Canada officials to conduct “very light touch” screening, adding that the authorisation is “almost automatic”.