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Mexican nationals will soon need a visa or travel pass to come to Canada

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Some Mexican nationals will soon need a visa to come to Canada under a change in policy aimed to curb rising numbers of asylum claims, which are mostly rejected or abandoned, according to the immigration minister.

Travellers can also obtain a travel authorization if they already hold a U.S. non-immigrant visa, or if they had held a Canadian visa within the last 10 years, and are travelling by air with a Mexican passport. 

Immigration Minister Marc Miller made the announcement during a Thursday morning news conference, speaking in English, French, and Spanish. The changes take effect at 11:30 p.m. ET.

The announcement is in line with information obtained by CTV News from a senior government source on Wednesday. It also follows calls from Quebec Premier Francois Legault to Ottawa demanding the change, claiming the costs associated with welcoming refugees in that province now exceed $1 billion.

The visa requirement was lifted in December 2016, making it easier for people from Mexico to make asylum claims in Canada. Miller said that shift allowed Canada to “boost business ties,” “improve trade” between Canada and Mexico and “enrich” Canadian culture.

Since then, Canada has seen a significant rise in asylum claims from the region. Miller said on Thursday that Mexican nationals accounted for 17 per cent of all asylum claimants in 2023, and most of their claims are either rejected by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or withdrawn by the applicants.

A vast majority of the 25,236 asylum claims received by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) from Mexico last year have not been decided. Of the cases that were, 2,894 were accepted and 2,424 were rejected. Another 560 people abandoned their claims and 1,240 withdrew.

“We need an effective visa system,” he said, adding “a change was needed.”

Mexico 'regrets' the change

In a media release posted online shortly after the minister’s announcement, Mexico’s foreign affairs department wrote that it “reserves the right to act in reciprocity.”

“Mexico has sent two high-level missions to Canada in recent weeks to reiterate the importance of protecting people who are victims of fraud, trafficking, smuggling and disinformation,” reads the press release.

It wrote that it “regrets” Canada’s decision, adding that it “believes that there were other options available.”

Canada grants asylum to people whom it believes cannot safely live in their home country.

Human Rights Watch says rates of violence in Mexico have reached historic highs in recent years.

The organization says that it's one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists and human-rights defenders.

Most people travelling from Mexico will be able to do so visa-free because many of them have a U.S. visa already, Miller said. The application process for Mexican citizens seeking a work or study permit will not change.

Miller also said Mexican immigrants account for a “key workforce” in Canada.

With files from The Candian Press

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