Canadian reciprocity and visa waiver rules with European Union

Tue, 2007-02-06 01:50 PM
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Most European Union citizens who wish to visit Canada do not require visas. However, there are some exceptions.

Nationals of six Member States that joined to form the EU-25 in 2004 still require visas, and persons from the two newest States that joined to form the EU-27 on 01 January this year require visas.

Melanie Carkener, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, confirmed that the visa requirement for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens have not changed, and she declined to mention when Canada will consider changing the requirement. This places Romania and Bulgaria together with six other eastern EU countries: Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

The six EU States from 2004 have all dropped their respective visa requirements for Canadian visitors to their countries in accordance with EU regulations. However, Canada has not reciprocated the move, only dropping the visa requirement for visitors from Cyprus, Slovenia, Malta and Estonia.

Last October, the EU released a report assessing the issue of visa reciprocity with the six countries whose citizens are subject to Canada's visa regime. The report concluded that Canada is reluctant to recognize the competence of the EU's visa policy and insists on a bilateral approach with these countries.

Romanian Ambassador to Canada, Elena Sava Stefoi, said her country has discussed the issue with Canadian officials and has also raised Romania's concerns with EU authorities in Brussels. However, she stressed that since Romania is now an EU member, the issue will be addressed in that context.

"I don't think it's a matter of dispute, and I think Canada will adjust its policy," she said. "I hope it will come sooner than later."

Dimiter Dimitrov, chargé d'affaires at the Bulgarian Embassy in Ottawa, also said Canada hasn't lifted the visa restriction for Bulgarian citizens.

"What I can tell you is that Bulgarian passport holders need visas to come to Canada," he said.

However, Ms. Stefoi says she is encouraged by a recent decision by Canadian officials to lift the visa restriction for Romanians carrying diplomatic passports. She also said Romania and Canada have reached a mutual agreement to fast track the visa application process for Romanian entrepreneurs visiting Canada on business.

In March, the EU is scheduled to release another report on visa reciprocity with Canada, which had specifically been targeted to address the six EU Member States from the 2004 expansion. It is unclear whether Romania and Bulgaria will be included in the report.

Roy Christensen, a spokesman for the European Commission in Ottawa, said he has no information on whether either country will be included in the March report, but stressed the Commission is ready to assist if need be.


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