Canada has imposed visa restrictions on citizens from Antigua and Barbuda in a move the Antiguan government said was due to concern over the island’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CBI).
The new visa regime takes effect today, June 27, 2017.
“After carefully monitoring the integrity of Antigua and Barbuda’s travel documents, the Government of Canada has determined that Antigua and Barbuda no longer meets Canada’s criteria for a visa exemption,” a statement from the Communications Branch for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada said.
A statement from the Antiguan government stated that the “decision relates to concerns over persons who obtain passports under Citizenship by Investment Programmes in the Caribbean.”
Antigua is the last of the countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) from whom the Canadian government has withdrawn visa-free travel.
Of all 14 CARICOM countries, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas and Barbados were the only ones that had continued to enjoy visa-free travel to Canada.
“The Canadian High Commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda, stationed in Trinidad, advised Prime Minister Gaston Browne of this development late on Friday prior to an official announcement today,” the Antiguan government statement said on Monday. “At the time, the Canadian official said that a concern is that Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Programme is not a residency programme. In response, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne pointed to the intense vetting of its CIP system, the revenues to the people of Antigua and Barbuda when the terms of trade and aid have declined and the banking system is threatened.”
The Canadian government says it remains committed to its partnership with Antigua and Barbuda “and values working together on mutual challenges and opportunities”. It also said that “Canada and Antigua and Barbuda share longstanding ties that are rooted in history.”
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda said he recognized the concerns that Canada and other countries might have “at a time of intensified concerns about terrorism and refugees in North America and Europe, including evidence of ISIS recruits in the Caribbean..”
“He pledged that, as part of the international effort to combat terrorist activity, Antigua and Barbuda would continue to be vigilant with its passports and border security,” the government’s statement said. “The Prime Minister said that the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Canada have already started working to make the system of visa applications and approvals for Antigua and Barbuda citizens as efficient and affordable as possible.”