Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been working with new EU countries in an effort to establish visa-exempt status for all EU member states. Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Lithuania, are the most recent countries for which citizens traveling to Canada are no longer required to obtain Temporary Resident (Visitor) Visas.
Twelve countries joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. Initially, Canada required visitor visas for citizens of seven of the new Member States, who planned to visit Canada for up to three months. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has been reviewing visitor visa requirements for those new Member States on a country-by-country basis. With the latest announcement of visa-free status for Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Lithuania, there are only two EU countries for whom citizens are still required to obtain a visitor visa; Bulgaria and Romania.
“Canada enjoys strong ties with these countries,” stated CIC Minister Diane Finley. “We are committed to the free and secure movement of people between the EU and Canada. We are also committed to the objective of visa-exempt status for all EU member states.”
Visa requirements were lifted for citizens of Estonia in 2006 and the Czech Republic and Latvia in 2007. The latter move was in response to the European Commission’s recent threats of retaliatory measures if Canada did not remove visa requirements on eight EU nations by the end of 2007. On March 1, 2008, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Lithuania were latest European Union Member States to be granted visa-free status for travel to Canada
In 2006, Canada issued over 33,000 visitor visas to citizens of Poland, over 6,000 to citizens of Hungary, nearly 4,000 to citizens of Slovakia, and almost 1,000 to citizens of Lithuania. 7,300 went to Czech citizens and 1,100 to Latvian citizens. The processing and issuance of these visas is now no longer required. The flow of visitors from these countries will be monitored in order to assess the visa-free decision. In 1997, a year after Canada and the Czech Republic had mutually abolished visas, Canada re-imposed visa restrictions on the Czech Republic because of a flood of asylum seekers.
“We look at the risks and benefits of visa-free travel to Canada, to see if a country warrants having the visa requirement removed,” explained Minister Finley when announcing visa-free status for the Czech Republic and Latvia. “Canada enjoys strong ties with both of these countries, and lifting the visa requirement will help us build on those relationships to the benefit of Canadians and the citizens of the Republic of Latvia and the Czech Republic.”
In all, about 50 countries are exempt from Canadian Temporary Resident Visa requirements.