As of June 27, 2017 the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda will now require a paper visa in order to travel to Canada. Although the citizens of these countries could previously travel to Canada by requesting an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), the Canadian government determined that these travelers are no longer eligible for visa exemption. Any existing eTA authorizations that had been issued previously were also rescinded.
The Canadian government found in its decision that the travel documents issued by Antigua and Barbuda no longer meet the criteria to qualify for visa exemption. Antiguans and Barbudans will instead have to apply for a traditional visa at their local embassy or consulate.
The tiny Caribbean nation spread comprised of 2 separate islands has reportedly come under increased scrutiny by Canadian authorities around the globe because of the country’s “Citizenship by Investment” program.
Under this program, foreign nationals can apply for and be granted citizenship in Antigua and Barbuda based on a significant financial investment ranging from $200,000 to $1,500,000. Notably, and perhaps a source of concern for Canadian authorities, foreign nationals can apply without having any previous ties to Antigua or Barbuda.
The Canadian government’s press release did not make any explicit references to the reasons for their decision, but certainly allude to it.
“After carefully monitoring the integrity of Antigua and Barbuda’s travel documents, the Government of Canada has determined that Antigua and Barbuda no longer meets Canada’s criteria for a visa exemption,” it posted in its decision.
The Canadian government also added that the country will continue welcoming visitors from the Caribbean two-island nation “while protecting the integrity of our immigration system and ensuring the safety of Canadians.”
To help with the transition and to avoid any potential problems while the new measures are implemented, the Canadian government offered to work closely with airlines to help facilitate travel for those who are already en route to Canada.
The Canadian government also offered to expedite visa processing for affected Antiguans and Barbudans, offering turnaround times as quick as 24 hours, provided they could provide proof of being negatively affected by the new travel restrictions.
Most approved applicants will receive a multiple-entry visa that’s valid for 10 years and that allows unlimited travel to Canada, which will hopefully offset some of the inconveniences caused by the new regulations.
For his part, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said losing visa-free access was a risk the country knew it was taking when it embarked on implementing the Citizenship by Investment program.
“As the new government, I don’t know that we could give up $150 million a year in order to maintain that visa free access,” said Prime Minister Browne.