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Canada eases visa requirements for Mexico

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Canada is removing visa requirements for visitors from Mexico as of 1 December 2016
  • After that point, Mexicans will not need a visa to visit or study in Canada for up to six months
  • They will, however, need an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) an online registration required of all visitors to Canada from visa-exempt countries
  • Those planning to study in Canada for more than six months will still need to apply for a student visa before arriving in Canada

In a move that many Canadian ELT (English Language Training) centres will welcome, the Government of Canada announced this week that it will lift visa requirements for Mexican visitors later this year.

As of 1 December 2016, Mexicans will no longer need a visa in order to visit Canada for up to six months. The visa requirement remains in place until 30 November 2016 and, until that time, Mexican visitors to Canada will still need to apply for a visitor visa online or at a Visa Application Centre in Mexico City, Guadalajara, or Monterrey.

After the visitor visa requirement is removed, Mexicans who plan to work in Canada, or study for more than six months, must still apply for a work or study permit prior to arriving in the country. They will also need an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA), an online registration required of all visitors to Canada from visa-exempt countries.

The move was announced during a two-day meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Ottawa. The two will be joined on 29 June 2016 by US President Barack Obama for a so-called “Three Amigos” summit.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (left) meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, June 2016.

The visitor visa requirement was imposed by a previous Canadian government in 2009 and has proven to be a significant irritant in Mexico-Canada relations in the years since. “This move will make it easier for our Mexican friends to visit Canada, while growing our local economies and strengthening our communities,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “Since 2009, this barrier has been set, but today thanks to a great political will, we are bringing it down,” added President Peña Nieto.

The leaders also announced an expansion of air services between Mexico and Canada, a move that will soon allow airlines to provide increased services to travellers moving between the two countries.

Short-term language studies

Expanded air service and the removal of the visa requirement later this year will also make it easier for Mexicans to visit Canada for short-term study programmes (i.e., of six months or less), and this may be particularly relevant for language centres offering short-duration language studies for both adult and junior learners.

Mexico continues to exhibit lower levels of English proficiency relative to a number of other Latin American nations, but a 2015 British Council study reveals that interest in learning the language is growing. Roughly 24 million people – or about one in five Mexicans – are studying English today.

In a further indicator of its significant potential, Mexico was the 18th-largest ELT market worldwide in 2013, and Mexican students accounted for just over 192,000 student weeks of ELT abroad that year. Reflecting the national push toward greater English proficiency, the number of outbound ELT students rose 35% between 2011 and 2013, with most Mexican students studying English abroad remaining in North America: more than 40% of student weeks abroad in 2013 were spent in Canada, and another 30% in the US.

Given the relative affordability of language study in Canada – owing in part to the strength of the US dollar compared to the Canadian dollar – we might expect to see more short-term Mexican students in Canada after the visa requirement lapses in December 2016. This may also open the door to new opportunities for Canadian providers in Mexico’s junior market in particular. The number of junior students in Canada has slipped over the last couple of years, and the visa requirement has been seen as an impediment to building enrolments of younger Mexican students.

Expanding educational ties

Building on the roughly 400 current inter-institutional agreements between Canadian and Mexican higher education institutions, Prime Minister Trudeau and President Peña Nieto also announced a further expansion of educational cooperation between the two countries this week.

This included the signing of a new bilateral research mobility agreement that will provide scholarship funding for 20 graduate students from each country to go abroad and participate in four-to-six-month research projects with industry partners.

In a further new research venture, CALDO, a consortium of Canadian research universities, also signed a memorandum of understanding with Mexico’s National Association of Universities and Higher Education Institutions (ANUIES) to “promote academic, scientific and cultural activities in areas of common interest.”

Other moves this week included:

  • A strengthened partnership between 12 Canadian post-secondary institutions and another 12 Mexican universities for shared education initiatives supporting Indigenous youth and women
  • The signing of two new MOUs between Canada’s Lakehead University and CONACyT (Mexico’s National Council for Science and Technology) – the first to expand cooperation in academic programmes for Indigenous women and the second to establish joint scholarships for Mexican masters and Ph.D. students at Lakehead

Mexico is one of six priority target markets identified in Canada’s International Education Strategy, a plan that aims to expand international enrolment in Canada to 450,000 students by 2022 (from about 336,000 in 2014). For additional background, please see “The growing demand for English language learning in Mexico” and “From the field: Trends in study abroad for Mexican students.”

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