What is the change? Canada is poised to implement a visa exemption for Brazilian, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals who have held valid Canadian visitor visas within the last 10 years or currently hold a valid U.S. nonimmigrant visa.

What does the change mean? Effective May 1, Brazilian, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals who meet one of the criteria above will be able to travel to Canada by air without first obtaining a Canadian visa. The limited visa exemption will be followed by a broad waiver for all Bulgarian and Romanian nationals Dec. 1. Foreign nationals, other than U.S. nationals, who are traveling on a visa waiver must obtain an electronic travel authorization (eTA) before departing for Canada.

  • Implementation time frame: May 1 (limited visa exemption for eligible Brazilian, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals); Dec. 1 (full visa waiver for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals).
  • Visas/permits affected: Electronic travel authorization and temporary resident visas.
  • Who is affected: Brazilian, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals planning travel to Canada.
  • Impact on processing times: The lifting of visa requirements will speed processing for qualifying travelers, as eTAs may be issued the same day.

Background: The changes were announced last fall. The visa waiver for Bulgaria and Romania is important for Canada’s relations with the European Union. Canada currently allows visa-waived status to all EU countries except Bulgaria and Romania, and Canada enjoys visa-waived status to all EU countries. EU law requires visa-waiver reciprocity and the EU has dropped the threat of a visa requirement for Canadian nationals now that Canada has promised to lift visa requirements for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.

Canada has said it reserves the right to re-impose visa requirements on Bulgaria and Romania if irregular immigration levels rise significantly.

While the limited visa waiver will take effect May 1, Canadian officials have yet to issue official guidance on whether Brazilian, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will be eligible to apply for work permits at points of entry like other visa-waived nationals. It appears likely, at this point, that this will not be an option for Brazilian nationals traveling with visa-waived status beginning May 1. BAL expects that Bulgarians and Romanians will be eligible to apply for work permits at points of entry, though it is unclear whether this change will be made May 1 (when the limited waiver takes effect) or Dec. 1 (when the full waiver takes effect).

BAL Analysis: Eligible Brazilian, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals making short-term or frequent business or personal trips will benefit from the removal of visas. Canada’s move to grant the visa waiver to Bulgaria and Romania is also important in that it ended the dispute over visa-waiver reciprocity between Canada and the EU. Employers with Brazilian, Bulgarian or Romanian employees in need of work authorization in Canada should consult with BAL about the best options available to them, especially because it remains unclear when and if nationals of these countries will be eligible to apply for work permits at points of entry.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Canada. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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