Antiguans now need a visa to visit Canada

Antiguans now need a visa to visit Canada

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua  – The Antigua and Barbuda government said it regrets the decision of the Canadian government to end visa-free travel for nationals of the twin island.

In a statement, the Gaston Browne administration said that “this decision relates to concerns over persons who obtain passports under Citizenship by Investment Programmes (CIP) in the Caribbean”.

Under the CIP, several Caribbean countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts-Nevis and St. Lucia provide citizenship to foreign investors who make a substantial investment in the socio-economic development of the individual Caribbean countries.

The statement noted that the Trinidad-based Canadian High Commissioner had advised Prime Minister Browne of the new development  “prior to an official announcement.

“At the time, the Canadian official said that a concern is that Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Programme is not a residency programme.  In response, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne pointed to the intense vetting of its CIP system, the revenues to the people of Antigua and Barbuda when the terms of trade and aid have declined and the banking system is threatened.”

The statement noted that despite the end of visa-free travel, the official Canadian government statement said, “Canada continues to welcome visitors from Antigua and Barbuda.

“Most approved visa applicants will receive a multiple-entry visa, which allows travellers to visit Canada as many times as they want, for up to 10 years. For each visit, travellers can stay for up to six months,” the statement noted.

It said that Antigua and Barbuda is the last of the countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States(OECS)  from whom the Canadian government has withdrawn visa-free travel, at a time of heightened security over terrorism and refugees.

It said that of all 14 independent CARICOM countries, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas and Barbados were the only ones that had continued to enjoy visa-free travel to Canada.

“The Canadian Government was keen to point out in its official statement that “Canada remains firmly committed to its partnership with Antigua and Barbuda and values working together on mutual challenges and opportunities”.

“The statement recalled that “Canada and Antigua and Barbuda share longstanding ties that are rooted in history,” the Antigua and Barbuda government statement quoted from the Canadian statement.

Prime Minister Browne said that at a time of intensified concerns about terrorism and refugees in North America and Europe, including evidence of ISIS recruits in the Caribbean, he recognized the concerns that Canada and other countries might have.

He has pledged that, as part of the international effort to combat terrorist activity, Antigua and Barbuda would continue to be vigilant with its passports and border security.

Brown said that the two countries have already started working to make the system of visa applications and approvals for Antigua and Barbuda citizens is as efficient and affordable as possible.