WINDHOEK: Namibians intending to travel to Canada will now require a visa to enter that country. Namibians will as from 13 September this year also be expected to meet a number of requirements before they are allowed into Canada, according to a media statement issued by the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multi-culturalism Jason Kenney is quoted in the statement as saying that they continue to welcome ‘genuine visitors’ to Canada.
“However, these visa requirements will give them greater ability to manage the flow of people into Canada,” he noted. The decision is also applicable to citizens of St Lucia, St Vincent, Botswana and Swaziland.
Kenney explained that for the first 48 hours, or until 12h01 (a.m) on Thursday, citizens of these countries who are in transit to Canada at the time when the visa requirement takes effect will be able to receive a free-of-charge temporary resident permit on their arrival in Canada, if they are not otherwise inadmissible to Canada.
The change will allow the Citizenship and Immigration of Canada (CIC) office and its partners to screen more travellers for security risks prior to their arrival in Canada, and will help to significantly reduce the risk that individuals engaged in organised crime or the trafficking of persons could gain entry to that country.
This visa policy change means that nationals from St Lucia, St Vincent, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland who want to travel to Canada will first need to apply for a visitor visa, and meet the requirements to receive one.
It will be up to applicants to satisfy visa officers that their visit to Canada is temporary, and they will not overstay their authorised stay; that they have enough money to cover their stay; that they are in good health; do not have a criminal record; and are not a security risk to Canadians.
These requirements are the same for everyone else who wants to visit Canada.
Applications from Namibians, Botswana and Swaziland will be accepted by the visa office in Pretoria, South Africa.
Applicants from St Lucia and St Vincent can submit their applications by mail or in person to the Canadian visa office in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. In the months ahead, travellers to Canada will be able to apply online for all temporary visas.
A key reason why the visa requirements were imposed on St Lucia and St Vincent is the use of fraudulent travel documents, with criminals from these two countries being able to legally change their names and acquire new passports.
In some instances, people who were removed from Canada as security risks later returned by using different passports. In the cases of Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland, the statement said, human trafficking, especially of minors, and fraudulent documents are significant concerns.
“This imposing of visa requirements will better protect the safety of Canadians by preventing foreign criminals from coming to Canada in the first place,” stressed Minister Kenney.This decision will further strengthen the immigration and asylum systems, and complements the measures the government is implementing this year under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act.
“The government of Canada remains committed to preserving the security of our borders and immigration system, and to protect the safety of Canadians,” Kenney noted.
Canada started to tighten the screws on Namibian visitors last year. A number of Namibians lost thousands of dollars in airfares after Air Namibia at the Hosea Kutako International Airport here had prevented them from travelling to Canada, where many had planned to go in search of menial jobs.
Other than visa requirements, Namibians travelling to Canada also have to buy an air ticket for N.dollars 16 000 and have N.dollars 20 000 in a bank account, while a further US.dollars 2 000 (approximately N.dollars 14 000) pocket money is required.In 2011 alone from January to June, 780 people had left for Canada, while from July to October, 480 Namibians were found to have travelled to that country.