Canada says new visa rules to protect Canadians
Canada said Friday its new visa application form, criticized by Russia for seeking sensitive information on applicants' military service, aims to weed out visitors inadmissible to Canada.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada "must protect the health and safety of Canadians, maintain the security of Canadian society and promote international justice and security by fostering respect for human rights," ministry spokeswoman Kelli Fraser told AFP.
"Temporary resident applicants from a number of countries have been asked questions regarding military, security and political activities that could make someone inadmissible in the past to ensure that officers have adequate information when determining admissibility to Canada."
The new visa application form merely attempts to standardize various questions that have been asked before and eliminate the need for country-specific forms.
Earlier, Russia protested against the new visa application form issued by Canada, complaining it will "seriously complicate" the application process for Russians and could provoke reciprocal measures.
"The modified Canadian form goes beyond the conventional criteria, and its adoption goes against the global tendency to ease visa regimes," Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said at a briefing.
The new form will "make the process for Russian citizens to receive Canadian visas much harder," he added.
Russian tourist operators also complained this week that the form, required for visa applicants outside Canada, asks for information that is illegal for Russian citizens to disclose.
Applicants are asked to provide details about military service, including location of the military unit and name of the commanding officer.
Fraser noted that, "for many years, some Russian applicants, on a case by case basis, have been asked similar questions when applying for a visa to come to Canada.
"While we do not intend to have applicants contravene the laws of their home country, it is up to the applicant to satisfy the visa officer that they meet the admissibility criteria relating to safety and security," she said.
© 2010 AFP