13 March 2008

It's easy to get to Canada from Hungary

Most of my blog posts are for Canadians seeking foreign travel. But every now and then an item pertaining to foreigners comes up which deserves attention.
Last week Citizenship & Immigration Canada announced it was immediately lifting visa requirements for several new European Union countries. Citizens of Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia no longer require a temporary resident visa to visit Canada. These people can simply buy a plane ticket and show up with their passport at the Canadian border or airport and be consdiered for entry without further paperwork.
A couple of years ago we invited a Hungarian academic to visit for the summer, and were amazed he had to apply for a visa. He was interviewed, and we had to supply a letter of reference and invitation. This is all the stranger as Hungary has not had a visa requirement for Canadian citizens for many years.
Hungary was a bit of a problem due to the Roma (gypsy) situation. Several years back a rumour spread through the Roma communities in Hungary to the effect of Canada recognizing Roma as a persecuted ethnic group who now qualified as refugees. This was totally untrue, but the rumour led to a flood of Roma turning up in Toronto airport claiming refugee status. Thus the Canadian government tightened visa requirements for all of Hungary to prevent a recurrance of the this unfortunate event.
As of today, only Bulgaria and Romania remain on the visa list for Canada; with the other 25 European Union countries now enjoying visa-free travel to Canada. Since Canadians can travel visa-free throughout the EU and Schengen zone, this enlargement is probably only fair. The minister responsible said her office was working with the two countries to eventually allow for them to join the visa-free regime.
Although my company, Visa Services Canada, does not help people get visas to Canda, we are delighted to be able to tell everyone of the new visa-free status of our new European national friends.
So come visit Canada today!