Will Jamaica ever enjoy favoured-nation status for visa-free travel? – Jamaica Observer

We in this space do not ever question the right of any country to decide whom to accept within its borders, whether as visitors or immigrants. Still, we would have been happy to see Jamaica among the latest list of countries that Canada has exempted from visitors’ visas.
The Canadian Government, in order to make travelling to the North American country easier, faster and cheaper, is extending visa-free travel to nationals of 57 countries and 10 British overseas territories who must be flying into Canada.
These nationals will now be offered an electronic travel authorisation, or eTA — a digital travel document — which will be available to people who have held a Canadian visa in the last 10 years or have a valid United States non-immigrant visa. The eTA can be accessed via a simple online application that slashes waiting times from weeks to minutes and costs 10 times less than visas.
Jamaica does not appear on the list of 13 eligible countries just announced. They are: Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Costa Rica; Morocco; Panama; The Philippines; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Seychelles; Thailand; Trinidad and Tobago; and Uruguay.
There is a perception that Jamaicans are left off such lists because of a propensity to “run off” or abscond while visiting especially the US and Canada. We note that the Canadian Government has said nothing of the sort.
We are also aware that countries do not provide public explanations for such decisions and neither are we pressing the Canadians to do so. In any event, it is never too late for a shower of rain as there are plans to add more countries in future.
What Canada has said is: “When we know that someone has been through the screening process recently in Canada, or who has been through the rigorous screening process more recently in the United States, we have faith that they’re going to be able to satisfy the requirements of the visa process in Canada.”
In addition the new eTA will dramatically reduce the backlog in visa applications.
However, our curiosity, and our hope, stem from the fact that Jamaica and Canada have been great friends, with long-standing relations that date back to July 22, 1776 when the first Jamaicans who migrated to Canada settled in Halifax, according to the reliable Jamaicans.com.
The Jamaicans who have made Canada their home have mostly done very well for themselves and their adopted country. It is hardly surprising to know that a Jamaican, Mr Robert Sutherland, was the first black lawyer in Canada.
During the Pierre Trudeau years provisions were put in place in the Canadian immigration system to permit the re-unification of families. This era saw a larger influx of Jamaican immigrants with the majority settling in the Greater Toronto area, Jamaicans.com said.
An estimated 300,000 Jamaicans currently live in Canada, which is Jamaica’s second-largest source of foreign tourists. Canadian farms employ about 10,000 Jamaicans annually as part of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme.
Moreover, Jamaica is Canada’s fourth-largest merchandise trading partner within the Caribbean Community, with Canadian exports to Jamaica valuing $156.4 million and imports from Jamaica valuing $61 million in 2022.
Hope springs eternal.
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