Monday, August 31, 2009

Canada Requires Visa for Mexicans- A Real Life Tale of Red Tape

Last month the Canadian government announced that it would be requiring visas for Mexicans to enter the country. They did this with 48 hours notice, leaving thousands of travelers stranded, tickets in hand and no way to get a visa in time. The explanation was that with an increasing number of Mexican nationals claiming refugee status in Canada, they needed to implement the visa system to alleviate the pressures on the refugee system. Shortly after this announcement was made, I received an email from a lovely young woman in Puerto Morelos asking me for help. She was one of the people who had planned for a trip to Canada for a long time and was now left with just a couple of weeks to get a visa. Unfortunately I was unable to offer any assistance, but we kept in touch and I asked if I could do a little interview with her about her experience with the process. Here is the unedited interview with J from Puerto Morelos....

Canuck- Tell me about the trip you had planned to Canada?

J- Well, I've been planning to go to Montreal for years, I have lots of friends there and they are always asking me to come, but I don't know, it was until this year that i had the chance to to go, so, since January I start planning it, with my brother, he goes every year, but this time I told him to come with me, so he could show me around, he was taking a road trip in June - July so we decided to go after, in August, it was also my brother's best friend birthday and since my brother's friends knew he was coming they book him to play in Montreal, at Salon Daomé, We got our American Visa, to get better flights, and I bought our tickets in June. Everything was ready to leave and I was so excited!

Canuck- How long before your trip did you find out about the new visa rules? Did anyone contact you to notify you or did you just happen to find out online?

J-I found out around the 2nd week of July, my cousin saw it in the news and she called me. We tried to go to the consulate, I called the embassy, but we didn't got any answer, nobody received us, in the phone the machine said "if you have any questions go to the web page". I even got the consul in playa on the phone, but she told me she could not help me, because she din't know anything about this, that I had to call the embassy.

Canuck- What steps did you have to take to make the application? What documents did you need to provide and in what languages? How much did the application cost? Did you have to travel to Mexico City for the process? Did you have an interview in person? If yes, what did they ask you?

J- Well, after we find out that we needed a Visa, I got the application forms from the webpage, we start getting all the papers we were asked for.. in the aplication form, requires that we translate any document in spanish to English or french, I was like "!what!!!!" this will be so expensive, to translate all the documents, proof of employment, paycheck, income tax payments, medical insurance, business registration, Evidence of assets in Mexico, bank documents showing financial historyetc, it was a lot of documents to translate. Along with this, a document to proove that with have no criminal record, and another certificate of good health.- In mexico you know, this paperwork can last up to 3 days - We also need to fill the application form plus other documents:

My personal History, include jobs held, periods of unemployment, study, travels, stays in hospitals, prisons or other places of confinement, and periods at home as a homemaker at this point I was getting mad, you know, I felt impotent for not being able to talk to anybody about this, i mean Do I really need to translate everything, we are in Mexico, and every single document it's in Spanish for christ sake... Lucky me I found out that a friend from school was also aplying but she was leaving in one week, she told me she had to fly to mexico city, and make a 16 hours line, spend the night outside the embassy to be able to have a good spot the next morning. well, she told me that nobody in the line had translated any document. So I figure, is not THAT necesary. So I skip this part. Another documents we were asked for was (since we were going to visit friends, and relatives):

From the applicant:
Proof of relationship with the inviter in Canada (e.g. copy of birth certificate, copy of marriage certificate, proof of correspondence, etc.).

From the inviter: An invitation letter stating the purpose and duration of the visit (translation into English or French of this letter is required), a list showing the number of people in inviter’s household, a copy of the inviter’s citizenship or immigration status document, proof of inviter’s income and financial situation

Once we got all of this, we paid the application fee, which was 800 pesos + bank tax = 1050 pesos, we also had to paid the return Airway Bill, wich was 650 pesos, all of this non refundable. We had to mail everything to the Canadian Embassy, including our passport. I also added a copy of our already paid round flight. I work at the mexican government, and also own a restaurant, so I included proof of both, also a letter of my boss saying that i've been working here for 4 years, that I had 2 week holliday, and that I was traveling with my brother, and they expect me to come back to work after that. So once in the mail, we just had to wait. After one week I received a call from the embassy, saying that my aplication was ready but that I need to send the prepaid Airway Bill, which I already had send in the mail, with all my documents. The girl on the phone told me that it wasn't there, that either I send another one or i could come to the embassy to get my papers back. Yeah right, all the way to Mexico city!. so I sent another Airway Bill. at this point I was happy, I tought I got it, so, 4 more days, and the package of my brothers papers arrive, we checked and He got his Visa!!!, we were leaving in one week, but I was still waiting for mine.

Canuck- How were you notified about the results? Did they give reasons for the denial? Did you get a refund on your trip or did you lose everything? Did they say you could reapply for future trips? Are you prohibited for any length of time?

J- It was thursday, my flight was leaving on Sunday, I received the package from the embassy, I was really nervous, I opened it up, and I got a letter from the embassy, that's weird I thought, my brother didn't got a letter. The letter said that they have determined that I don't meet the requirements for a Visa, so therefore my application was DENIED. The reasons was:

-In the application form, I was asked to list all my personal History, include jobs held, periods of unemployment, study, travels, so I did, and in this part I told that I was in canada traveling 10 years ago, and my stay last 6 months, wich is the time I was alowed to stay.
- They were not satisfied I had sufficient funds.
One bank statement had sufficient funds but the last one of course it didn't have sufficient funds, I took some of the money out to change it to dollars I was leaving in 2 weeks! ..... I had cash.. not money in my account, what If I can't use my card in canada... It has happened before.. and the money of the restaurant is not on my names bank account. But, they didn't know this. I didn't get a refund on my trip, but I can still use the ticket for a year, of course paying the difference in the price. The letter said that if I have new info that I wish to provide to apply again I could do it.

Canuck- What are your personal feelings about the visas? Canada?

J- Well, they can do whatever they want, I don't think a visa will stop the immigration, look at United States, visa or not visa, people are still crossing the border. but I don't agree that this was a good way to do it, they should at least give more time to get the visa, it was holliday period a lot of people was traveling there, had planned everythin, payed flight and hotels, and even also maybe the have already bought the entrance for a show or a tour.. The embassy should've give a period of time to get the visa... so that people that already have everything planned and paid could go this time.... I think if I didn't had friends there I would not go to all this trouble to get the visa.. I rather go to the states, they did got me the visa.. and for me, working at a governments office, it was easy to get. But, my friends are waiting for me, so, I'm going to apply again, lets see if I can make it to go in October. Now, I know what was wrong, so that is something I can change, put the money back in my occount, write a letter explaining why it was denied the firs time and see, If I get it.. if not, I'm going somewhere else.. I don't want to stay there, I mean I have my job here, my restaurant, my family. I was In NY a few months ago, and I didn't stay there. But I so want to get a Poutine! ha ha ha ha.

And that was that. Hard working, talented young woman with no nefarious plans to stay in Canada has her vacation plans ruined by a pile of bureaucracy. With more than 200 000 Mexicans traveling to Canada every year, this new visa rule will cause nothing but heartache and trouble. The Canadian government reported that they had 9000 refugee applications last year. So, to try to save themselves from doing paperwork for 9000, now they will have paperwork for 200 000 visa applications. As a Canadian citizen, I am NOT happy with what the government has done or the way in which the new regulations were implemented. Thousands of tourists and business people travel to Canada with great frequency, I don't understand why they need to be penalized for the few that do not have legitimate reasons for entering Canada (and I firmly believe that most who claim refugee status are legitimately in need). I have always been proud of Canada's relationship with Mexico, but this action is only going to strain the partnership. It appears that it is now more difficult to get into Canada than the USA, more paperwork needed and more fees. There has been talk that this is a temporary measure, I certainly hope that is true, I am ashamed of their actions and can only hope that the decision is reversed soon.

Good luck to J and anyone else in her position, I hope that anyone wishing to visit Canada gets the opportunity to do so, without having to jump through hoops and cut through piles of red tape.


Manolo said...

Dear Canucka... I feel her pain and your pain. In Guatemala is always the case that it is easier to get the US visa than the Canadian one. You get multiple 10 year Visas for the US and a one time one year for CDN. Go figure. I just hope it will help to clean up the image of CDN in the US as the way people "sneak in" into their pay or die health system country.


Cameo said...

That sucks. No two ways about it. My dad is a first generation Mexican American who cannot get a US passport. He was born and raised in Texas. In the 70's the US government tried to deport him. He had to go to Federal court and he proved that yes, he was indeed born in the US. Unfortunately the passport agency does not communicate with the Federal portion of our government and the Federal portion deemed my dad's paperwork as "not important" therefore have destroyed all records. My dad's birth certificate is deemed "invalid" since it was issued 12 years after he was born. His parents came to the States illegally but became citizens as my grandpa worked on building railroads. My grandparents were dirt poor, going to bed hungry was a nightly occurance for my dad and health care was not an option. Not only did my grandma give birth at home to all of her children, but 3 of my dad's siblings died because my grandparents couldn't afford a doctor. This was in the 1940's and 50's when Mexican's were segregated. My mom worked for a year trying to get my dad a passport so he could go to Guatmala with us to pick up our daughter and he wasn't able to. My dad is a US citizen but is landlocked and unable to leave the United States. Red tape indeed.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother told me about the fact we had to get a visa to go there but I never thought it would be so hard.
I'm a Mexican living in the Uk right now and my visa for the UK was easy and painless, I'm quite surprised they ask for more random paperwork than even the U.S.(I have US visa too) It's a shame because I visited Canada once before and the people and place is nice and One of my close friends and ex-room mate lives there as well, this will just complicate my trips to visit...
it won't solve a thing I believe...
anyway I hope she gets the chance to make her trip, this I think is specially unfair to her as she had tickets and everything...

CancunCanuck said...

Manolo- I didn't realize how little I knew about Canada's immigration policies, we had always been taught that Canada had open arms to new immigrants and it is what made our country so great. The cultural mosaic rather than the melting pot of the US. I find this oh so depressing, it has tarnished my view of my homeland. :S

Cameo- Wow, it sounds like far more than red tape for your father! What a nightmare. Bureaucracy is alive and well all over the world, I am so sorry that your family has been so directly affected. Thank you for your comment, I wish you all the best.

drawblindfaith- I am really hoping that this is a temporary regulation, the bureaucrats have said that if they can fix the refugee program that they will repeal the visas. Hard to believe though as they will make money with all the applications, even if they deny, they've got the cash. I am truly disappointed in my own country, so sad! I wish you much luck and hope you are able to visit Canada, it really is an amazing country full of great people, too bad about this action. Thanks for your comment!

canadiangrl said...

An unfortunate situation. Canada is a beautiful country and waiting to be explored.

As a Canadian, I cannot express how discouraged I was with this news in July. Once again, more bureaucracy and red tape. Sad really...

CancunCanuck said...

Canadiangrl- Hi and welcome! I'm with you, saddened and discouraged. I've always been so proud of Canada and excited to tell my Mexican friends how open and friendly the country is. I hope this measure will be repealed soon. Thanks for stopping by!

hyk_521 said...

WOW!!! I married a mexican citizen on July 18th of this year in my home town in Alberta. Luckly most of the guests arrived the saturday before which was the 11th of July although I did have one Bridesmaid and her family who made it just before the the cut on the monday,I guess they put the visa into effect monday night-tuesday morning at 12:00am. We did have 2 guests traveling separetly who were turned back at the airport, they had no idea and neither did we about any visa!

Now I am back with my Husband and Daughter, Who was luckly born in Canada in Monterrey. We are hoping to go back to canada for christmas so I downloaded all the paperwork from the web site and was planning on going to the embassy here in Monterrey to check if theres any difference for spouses of canadians. I thought I would do a quick search to see what other people have been saying about this visa and came across your page. Now all I can say is WOW. sounds like its almost easier to just get him residency! My biggest problem is Im a stay at home mom whos spends about half the year in canada and half the year in mexico. AND hes a doctor whos studying a speciality at the moment. We are a newly married couple under the age of 30 with a 21 month old daughter... like we have tons of money! Im starting to think that hes not going to be able to make it for christmas. Since I already have my plane ticket for myself and my daughter I guess it will be another christmas apart....sad to think since its our first christmas as a married couple :(

If anyone has and information that can help please let me know at

CancunCanuck said...

hyk_521- Nice to meet you, sorry it has to be under the circumstances of a legal nightmare! This whole procedure is still so new, there is not a whole lot of information out there. I have heard more stories of people being declined and have no idea why. I think the Canadian government doesn't even know exactly what it is doing either unfortunately. It's extremely hard, especially when one is not flush with cash, it's an expensive process and if you find out in the end that it is denied, you are out a lot of money. I would hope that since you are married and he is the father of your child, that it would be a whole lot easier, but I can't honestly say that that is true. I wish you all the best, come back and let us know how things are going! Here's hoping you have a fantastic white Christmas with your WHOLE family. Good luck, mucha suerte!

ssshauna said...

We need to keep the pressure on them over this issue, do not let them get comfy in this position!

Open letter to:
The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P;

I am writing to encourage you to repeal the hasty visa requirements for Mexican and Czech Republic nationals imposed this summer by Canadian Immigratin.

I sent correspondence you earlier this year, once it was announced, to which you replied with the forms to process a visa application. I am a Canadian citizen, I am not seeking a visa to Canada, I am seeking policies that take into account the seriousness of the plight of immigrants to our country.

I would sum up this punitive policy as a dangerous solution to the problem of the Canadian government’s inability to process claims in a disorganized system and slam the door on two other countries, cause panic and frustration to those who had plans to live in or visit Canada, both of which generate revenue and add to our society's fabric.

My attention has recently been caught by the case of a 24 year old Mexican woman, Grise (last name withheld by press for privacy consideration) who was murdered in Mexico after having twice sought refuge in Canada, in 2004 and 2008, from drug traffickers.This case is deplorable, but sadly not unique. Mexico is a dangerous place for many of its citizens, and the fact that many now face the new obstacle of a Canadian visa has just made it even more difficult to find safety.

As someone who loves Mexico and the citizens who live there and abroad, I am ashamed of these new requirements imposed by our country, and ask you to consider a repeal.

I am living in Mexico at the moment, and this is something that is very important to me. You will hear from me again, as long as this policy continues to stand.



CancunCanuck said...

Thanks Shauna, great job. I will follow suit with a similar letter myself, thanks for the nudge. I wish you all the best!

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