OTTAWA, Canada —The Government of Canada has decided to end visa-free travel for citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, reportedly in relation to concerns over individuals who obtain passports under citizenship by investment programmes in the Caribbean.

The Canadian High Commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda advised Prime Minister Gaston Browne of the development late on Friday, prior to an official announcement on Monday. At the time, the Canadian official said that a concern is that Antigua and Barbuda’s citizenship by investment programme was not a residency programme.

In response, Browne pointed to the intense vetting of the country’s CIP system, and the revenues to the people of Antigua and Barbuda, at a time when trade and aid have declined and the Caribbean’s banking system is threatened.

Despite the end of visa-free travel, the official Canadian government statement said, “Canada continues to welcome visitors from Antigua and Barbuda.” It also stated: “Most approved visa applicants will receive a multiple-entry visa, which allows travellers to visit Canada as many times as they want, for up to ten years. For each visit, travellers can stay for up to six months.”

Antigua and Barbuda was the last member country of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to have had visa-free access to Canada, at a time of heightened security over terrorism and refugees. Of all 14 independent Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, only The Bahamas and Barbados retain Canadian visa-waivers.

The Canadian government pointed out in its official statement that: “Canada remains firmly committed to its partnership with Antigua and Barbuda and values working together on mutual challenges and opportunities”. The statement recalled that “Canada and Antigua and Barbuda share longstanding ties that are rooted in history.”

Browne stated that, at a time of intensified concerns about terrorism and refugees in North America and Europe, including evidence of ISIS recruits in the Caribbean, he recognized the concerns that Canada and other countries might have. He pledged that, as part of the international effort to combat terrorist activity, Antigua and Barbuda would continue to be vigilant with its passports and border security.

The Prime Minister said that the governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Canada have already started working to make the system of visa applications and approvals for Antigua and Barbuda citizens as efficient and affordable as possible.

After at least a year of discussions between governments on both sides of the Atlantic about national security concerns relating to the Caribbean citizenship by investment programmes, Canada appears to be taking the lead in taking action. Ottawa’s action is now likely to exercise the minds of EU governments in relation to their own visa waiver agreements for Caribbean passport-holders within the Schengen zone.

Republished, with edits, with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
Image credit: Andrew Kaszowski

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Antillean Media Group, News Desk

Working with Caribbean media partners, we go behind the news to deliver impartial, evidence-based reports on issues that impact residents, governments and investors in over 21 Caribbean territories. Contact us at editor@antillean.org.