DR AMERY BROWNE, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, on Tuesday keenly welcomed the Canadian Government's earlier move to make travel to Canada easier for some TT citizens, among nationals of a dozen other countries.
The initiative to allow TT – among 13 countries – to benefit from relaxed visa requirements to visit Canada was announced in a post on Tuesday on the Facebook page of the High Commission of Canada to TT. Mission sources confirmed this information to Newsday.
TT nationals who have had a Canadian visa in the past ten years or who now have a US visa can apply for entry to Canada by a quick online application electronically linked to their passports, dubbed an electronic travel authorisation (eTA).
Browne was very pleased at the news.
"Trinidad and Tobago has a large diaspora in Canada and this development is important for enhanced travel and connection for nationals seeking entry to the country."
TT nationals have a history of travel to Canada for educational or career pursuits, tourism, business and/or family connections, Browne said.
"This decision of the Government of Canada is representative of the improved travel record of TT nationals seeking opportunities to visit Canada for several reasons as mentioned previously."
He said Canada has increasingly opened avenues allowing greater access to TT nationals via measures such as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme and international study options like the Student Direct Stream.
"This latest development, the inclusion of Trinidad and Tobago on the list of countries eligible for visa-free travel to Canada is a testament to the strength of the bilateral relationship between TT and Canada, a relationship, which is built upon our shared values, solid people-to-people, economic and cultural ties."
Browne drew attention to the eligibility criteria for the new initiative, as stated by the Canada Government.
"On behalf of the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago, I wish to express our sincerest appreciation to the Government and people of Canada on this positive development; this gesture will continue to strengthen and grow our bilateral relations."
The High Commission post revealed that TT was one of several Caribbean nations among the 13 countries set to benefit from this change.
The post, in the name of Canadian High Commissioner Arif Keshani, said, "Very pleased to share that many TT nationals may now travel to Canada visa free with expansion of eTA to include TT among 12 other countries.
"Great news that further supports the strong people to people connections between our countries."
The post displayed a Canadian Government statement announcing the initiative.
"Canada is a destination of choice for people looking to visit, do business or reunite with family and friends. That’s why we are committed to improving our immigration programs and services by making them more efficient and equitable for people around the world.
"The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced the addition of 13 countries to the electronic travel authorisation (eTA) programme. Travellers from these countries who have either held a Canadian visa in the last ten years or who currently hold a valid US non-immigrant visa can now apply for an eTA instead of a visa when travelling to Canada by air."
The statement said eligible travellers may benefit as of Tuesday.
The Canadian government website www.canada.ca explained the eTA.
"An electronic travel authorisation (eTA) is an entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada by air.
"It is valid for up to five years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first...
"With a valid eTA, you can travel to Canada as often as you want for short stays (normally for up to six months at a time)."
An eTA does not guarantee entry to Canada.
"When you arrive, a border services officer will ask to see your passport and other documents.
"You must convince the officer that you are eligible for entry into Canada."
The website said applying for an eTA is a simple online process that takes just a few minutes and most applicants get approval by e-mail in minutes. But some requests may take several days to process if applicants are asked to submit supporting documents.
"It is best to get an eTA before you book your flight to Canada," the website warned.
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Countries to benefit from eTA entry to Canada:
Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Costa Rica, Morocco, Panama, Philippines, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Thailand, TT, Uruguay.