Posted on March 11, 2024

Canada Reimposes Visa Requirements for Mexicans as Asylum Claims Surge

BBC, March 1, 2024

A surge of Mexican nationals seeking asylum has led Canada to bring back visa requirements that were lifted nearly eight years ago.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller said on Thursday that more than half of the asylum applications to the country are either abandoned or rejected.

Ottawa removed the requirements in 2016 to improve relations with Mexico.

Since then, an influx of immigrants has put strain on the government of Quebec and pushed it to a “breaking point”.

Asylum claims from Mexican nationals to Canada rose from 260 to 23,995 between 2016 and 2023, an increase of more than 9,000%, according to federal data.

In Ottawa, 17% of all asylum claims in 2023 came from Mexico, a record high, Mr Miller said at a press conference.

He said that the Mexican government has expressed dissatisfaction with the reinstated visa requirements but “Mexico is and will remain an important partner”.

Mexicans with work or study permits will be exempt from the visa rules.

The federal government has been under pressure from the province of Quebec over the surge of asylum claims.

In January, the premier of the province said it was at a “breaking point” due to an influx of asylum seekers putting a strain on government services like education, as well as housing.

Premier Francois Legault asked Ottawa for C$1bn ($736m; £582m) to help the province handle the cost of the influx.

Nearly 60,000 new asylum seekers were recorded in Quebec in the first 11 months of 2023, according to Mr Legault, with another 65,000 expected this year. About a quarter of those are from Mexico, Quebec has said.

The provincial immigration minister, Christine Fréchette, said that an “important step has been taken but it won’t solve everything”.

“The number of asylum seekers welcomed by Quebec is far too high and our services are overwhelmed,” she wrote in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

A year ago, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden agreed a border deal that closed a loophole that had allowed asylum seekers to enter at unofficial points on the Canada-US border and make asylum claims.

Many asylum claimants are now coming in by air, Mr Miller said.

Under the new rules that come into effect on Thursday night, Mexican nationals who hold a valid US non-immigrant visa or have held a Canadian visa in the past 10 years will be able to apply for an electronic travel authorization – an entry requirement for people who are visa exempt. All other Mexican nationals will need to apply for a visa.