Jamaica was not included in Canada’s electronic travel authorization (eTA) program for eligible travelers due, among other things, to certain Jamaicans’ failure to be truthful on their visa applications and their use of unauthorized travel agencies.
At the ‘Let’s Connect’ virtual forum with Audrey Marks, the ambassador of Jamaica to the United States, on Thursday, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, revealed the explanations.
Canada said earlier this month that 13 more countries, including five Caribbean nations, had been added to its list of approved travel destinations for its eTA program.
Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago were the countries in the Caribbean that did not include Jamaica.
When traveling to Canada by air, prospective visitors from the 13 countries who have either obtained a Canadian visa within the last ten years or who currently hold valid United States non-immigrant visas can now apply for an eTA rather of a visa, according to a press statement at the time.
Regarding Jamaica’s omission from the list, there was considerable public discussion and outrage, and there were requests for the Foreign Affairs Ministry to get involved.
Johnson Smith acknowledged the worries but cautioned that, in contrast to rumors, the program does not permit travel to Canada without a visa.
“Visa-free travel to Canada is not available. According to Johnson Smith, Canada has offered an eTA, which is an expansion of their eTA program, which is their electronic travel authorisation service.
“It is extended to those they have listed as well-known individuals. Who are well-known individuals in Canada? People who are known to be in possession of a US visa or who have held a Canadian visa in the past,” the minister added.
“They (Canada) have done one round of global assessment and expanded their programme by 13, and they are slated to do another,” she continued.
Johnson Smith claims that one of the reasons Jamaica failed to fulfill the standards of the North American nation’s eTA program was due to some Jamaicans’ behavior in applying for a Canadian visa.
To handle their visa applications, too many Jamaican candidates employ unauthorized agents… This becomes a concern as a result, she cautioned.
The authorized agents are mentioned on their website, she continued.
No one else is authorized, therefore visit Global Canada, which also has a link for visa applications, or the website of the Canadian High Commission.
Use authorized individuals, or try it yourself. Avoid dealing with unauthorized people, the minister urged.
According to Johnson Smith, “the refusal rate for Jamaicans who are holders of US visas, or who have previously held Canadian visas,” is also taken into account for the eTA program.
Additionally, the number of people who overstay their visas while traveling and the number of those who request asylum while doing so are both high.
Johnson Smith stated in reference to the latter group that such individuals “get a visa for tourism and then they apply for asylum once they have landed.”
The minister also advised Jamaicans to complete their visa applications truthfully and to disclose any convictions for crimes committed domestically or abroad.
Johnson Smith advised, “Fill out your forms honestly, and if you have a conviction on your record, even for a minor parking ticket in any country, especially in the United States or in Canada before, disclose it.”
“The question is there, and if you don’t answer it, their system flags it as an issue or a falsehood.
“If you say you haven’t been denied (a visa) in another country but you have, it shows up in their system,” she emphasized. “If you think you’re pulling a fast one by just not answering that question, and you’re smarter than the system, it’s not working.”
Crime and the frequency of deportations were further considerations in the Canadian government’s decision to bar Jamaica from its eTA program.
Johnson Smith added, “Deportation is a consideration as well, although fortunately the deportation figures (for Jamaica) are low comparatively, as compared to other countries.
So, she said, “These are some of the factors that led to Jamaica not making it (to this round of Canada’s eTA program)”.