What is the change? Canada has announced that it plans to extend visa-waived status to nationals of Bulgaria and Romania in 2017.

What does the change mean? Beginning May 1, 2017, a limited visa-exemption will be allowed for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals who have held a valid visitor visa to Canada within the previous 10 years or who hold a valid U.S. nonimmigrant visa. Starting Dec. 1, 2017, all Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will be able to travel to Canada using the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) system instead of having to apply for a visitor visa.

  • Implementation time frame: May 1, 2017 and Dec. 1, 2017.
  • Visas/permits affected: eTA and temporary resident visas.
  • Who is affected: Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.
  • Impact on processing times: The lifting of visa requirements will speed processing for qualifying travelers, as eTAs may be issued the same day.
  • Business impact: Bulgarian and Romanian nationals making short-term or frequent business or personal trips will benefit from the removal of visas.

Background: Canada allows visa-waived status to all EU countries except Bulgaria and Romania, on the grounds that the two countries do not meet Canada’s criteria for the visa waiver. Canadians enjoy visa-waiver status with the EU, and EU law requires visa-waiver reciprocity. The two Eastern European countries threatened to veto a Canadian-European trade deal if Canada did not extend the visa waiver to them. Under Canada’s proposal, after visa requirements are lifted, Canada reserves the right to re-impose visa requirements on Bulgaria and Romania if irregular immigration levels rise significantly.

BAL Analysis: Canada’s granting of the visa waiver to Bulgaria and Romania would end a protracted dispute over visa-waiver reciprocity between Canada and the EU.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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