Canadian Government Issues Record Number of Visitor Visas

immigrate to ontarioIn a turbulent world, it appears that Canada remains a popular destination for visitors from around the globe.

The Canadian government says that 2014 is a record year for the issuance of travel and trade visas to foreign visitors; with three months remaining in the year, Canada has already issued a record-setting number of foreign visas, with China, India and Mexico leading the nations providing visitors to Canada this year.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the Canadian government issued 272,608 to Chinese nationals during the first nine months of the year; Indian citizens accounted for 117,927 visas from January through September of this year, while Mexican nationals received 59,863 visas, and 55,730 visas were issued to Brazilian visitors to Canada.

The Canadian government is touting its recent “CAN+” and “Express” visa programs as two of the main reasons for the record-breaking pace of foreign visas in 2014. According to the CIC, more than 90 percent of visitors to Canada are now choosing to use the multiple-entry CAN+ and Express visas; the multiple-entry visas (MEVs) are targeted to visitors, students and businesspeople from what the government considers to be “high growth” countries such as China, Mexico, India and Brazil.

The added convenience of MEVs allows visitors to enter Canada for six months at a time for up to 10 years; in September alone, the government of Canada issued close to 89,000 MEVs to Canadian visitors.

This year has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of Chinese visitors to Canada. According to CIC, from January through August, 251,347 Canadian MEVs were issued to Chinese nationals, an increase of 245 percent over last year’s level. That pattern continues a long-standing trend of increasing Chinese visitation to Canada; since the current Conservative government took power in 2006, the number of Chinese visitor visas has increased 225 percent.

The Conservative government has long touted increased visitor numbers, and a related easing of the issuance of visitor visas, as a way to stimulate the Canadian economy. When the government announced its shift towards multiple-entry visas earlier this year, it pointed to the MEVS as a way to promote Canadian tourism, noting that 35 million people from around the world visit the country every year.

In addition, the federal government noted that foreign nationals from China, Mexico, India and other nations that are allowed to hold 5 or 10-year passports would likely welcome the added convenience of a visitor visa that allowed multiple entry into Canada over the entire course of those respective passports.

However, the increased ease of multiple-entry visas came with an added cost, as the Canadian government also raised the fees for most visitor visas earlier this year; while most increases in visitor visa fees were relatively modest, the fee for a family Temporary Resident Visa rose by $100, while the maximum work permit fee for foreign performing artists rose dramatically from $15 to $465.