It appears the tougher policies at the southern border are also having an effect at the Northern border, but not in the way one might expect. There is not a huge influx of Americans migrating to Canada as many celebrities have threatened to do. Instead, it appears Canada has become the new destination of choice for Mexican nationals seeking the “American dream.”
As word of President Trump’s intentions to crack down on illegal immigration became public, the Canadian government took a bold step to change the way it handles visas. It had been the policy that a tourist from Mexico would need a visa to visit Canada. While they still need a passport to travel into Canada, there are now ways to work around the visa stipulation.
In December of 2016, Canada established an easier and less cumbersome route for those wanting to visit from Mexico. They would substitute a new system, the electronic travel authorization form (eTA). The eTA meant that Mexicans could now fill out a short form online to request the ability to go to Canada as a tourist for three months. The cost of the eTA was also considerably less than the visa process.
With the eTA being an easier access point to the country, it is important to keep in mind that this process does not override the strict laws that turn away anyone with a criminal record at the border. Another caveat of the eTA is that is is designed to be a quick fix for a short-term visit. Someone traveling into Canada on an eTA would still need a passport that is legally valid and also have to prove they have plans to honor the time limits of a vacation.
At the border, many are being asked to provide proof that they are only coming for a visit and have already secured a ticket to fly back to Mexico. Even with a ticket, there have been travelers stopped at the border and denied entrance. They are caught when border agents look at text messages and see they have plans to stay and work illegally in Canada.
Canadian officials are gaining lots of attention for this progressive policy. However, this is not the free pass to move to Canada that some think it is. The eTA does not guarantee entry into the country. It does not work as a residency document; the eTAs are to be used for tourist travel only. Someone extending their stay beyond the three-month “visit” would then become an illegal immigrant.
Using the new eTA to move to Canada, without any intention to follow the tourist rules, would leave Mexican visitors in a similar situation as those living in the U.S. This program does not fix anything as far as becoming a citizen or even securing a visa to work. This change may just serve to move the problem of illegal immigrants from the U.S. to Canada.
It is possible for a Mexican national to stay in Canada with a work visa, but this requires an employer to sponsor the worker. It is not enough to simply find a job, most employers are not going to be a sponsor unless they are in a high demand field. It is possible for a Mexican national to apply to legally stay in Canada, but this process is not an easy one.
The application to become a legal immigrant is an extended one. An unskilled or self-employed worker can expect to wait approximately 95 months. The process is a bit shorter for live-in caregivers at 51 months. Skilled workers can see a 12-month wait. During that wait time, the applicant would normally live outside of Canada.
Even with the hurdles to become a citizen, the interest from Mexican nationals to “vacation” in Canada seems to be skyrocketing. The estimates of new travel requests point to a 300% increase in the three months since the visa requirement was lifted. In that period, 61,500 eTAs have been granted for Mexican nationals. The full impact of these applications will not be known until the “vacation” travel expires in June of 2017.
The idea behind the eTA was not to provide easy immigration to Canada. It was to provide more convenient, short-term travel to the country. With the massive increase in eTA requests, many lawyers across Canada have also seen a jump in calls about immigration. It is apparent that there is a direct tie between those taking “vacations” in Canada and Mexican nationals looking for a new home. There may be more motivating these suddenly planned, last-minute vacations to the frigid North.
The recent spike in the number of ICE deportations in the United States may be the actual reason for the migration to Canada. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds as the first round of those “vacationing” in Canada hit the 3-month expiration date. At that point, they will become illegal immigrants; needing to find somewhere else for their next get-away.