St Kitts-Nevis nationals now need visa to land in Canada

St Kitts-Nevis nationals now need visa to land in Canada

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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BASSETERRE, St Kitts (CMC) — The St Kitts-Nevis government yesterday sought to downplay the decision by Canada to impose visa restrictions on nationals from the twin-island federation wanting to visit the North American country, noting that since the September 2011 terrorist attacks on the United States countries have been reviewing their immigration policies periodically.

"Countries review and change their policies routinely in order to protect their interests and their people and so do we," Foreign Affairs Minister Patrice Nisbett said in a broadcast. "Canada is an important ally, an ally of long-standing. Your government values the strong relations which over the years Canada and St Kitts-Nevis have built.

"Canada has important security concerns, the government recognises this and the government of St Kitts-Nevis will do all in its power to respect and accommodate the concerns of such an important ally," Nisbett said.

But Opposition Leader Mark Brantley said that Canada's position may have been influenced by an Iranian national holding a diplomatic passport issued by the St Kitts-Nevis government.

Brantley reminded nationals that the Iranian national told Canadian border agents that he was entering Canada for meetings with the Canadian Prime Minister on behalf of the government and people of St Kitts Nevis, and that "the claims by the Iranian national of a meeting with the Canadian prime minister were categorically false.

"This occurrence in Canada led to immediate concerns there as to the safety and security of that country's borders. As a consequence, the media reports confirmed that the Canadian authorities made urgent representations to the Government of St Kitts and Nevis raising serious concerns about not just this but other incidents involving St Kitts-Nevis passport holders entering or seeking to enter Canada using the visa free status currently granted by that country to nationals of St Kitts and Nevis," Brantley added.

Brantley said that, in November last year, Nisbett was "compelled under increasing pressure to make a statement to the National Parliament addressing this issue".

He said that "Nisbett identified the Iranian gentleman and confirmed that this Iranian national had been granted diplomatic status by the Cabinet.

"Minister Nisbett also confirmed that the Iranian national was made a special envoy for St Kitts and Nevis to Turkey and Azerbaijan," he said.

In a statement over the weekend, Ottawa said that the visa restriction would go into effect from November 22 and that citizens from the twin-island Federation joined those from "the vast majority of Caribbean nations and citizens of some 147 countries" where visas are needed to enter the North American country.

Ottawa said that the St Kitts and Nevis nationals in good standing travelling to Canada between "now and November 24, 2014 will be granted a temporary resident permit upon arrival in Canada, free of charge".

There has been speculation that Canada had imposed the new visa restrictions based on that island's Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) under which investors are provided with St Kitts-Nevis passports in return for making substantial investments in the country.

Nisbett, who met with a "government diplomat" last Friday, said "Canada wanted to determine for itself exactly who does and who doesn't enter its territory".

The statement by Canada on its official website stated that the country would continue to "welcome genuine visitors from St Kitts-Nevis and has a number of programmes including a multiple entry visa to make it easy for such legitimate visitors to travel to Canada".

Nisbett said the CIP has funded projects from agriculture to energy to health 'all of which expanded opportunities for the people of St Kitts-Nevis" and that the government is "committed to ensuring that the programme continues to work and that it continues to work well".

He said in order to ensure this, the government has always sought to revise "as necessary" the legislation in order "to properly meet the needs of the people of St Kitts-Nevis and in order to protect the constructive relations we have so carefully built with nations across the globe.

"And the government will always seek ways to strengthen the security features of the St Kitts and Nevis passport. This type of vigilance is important today and it will be equally important 20 years from
now," he added, outlining some of the "more recent measures the government has put in place where our passport is concerned".

He said that the key changes to the passports include having the place of birth printed in the passport and "new St Kitts and Nevis passports are being issued to replace any passports in existence which may not indicate the place of birth".

Nisbett said that the strong relationship that exists between Basseterre and countries around the world is evident of the collaborative undertaking "that has moved our country so steadily forward".

In his address to the nation, Brantley said that the twin- island federation "is still unaware whether this Iranian continues to enjoy not just St Kitts and Nevis citizenship but our diplomatic status as well".

"This scandal involving an Iranian having diplomatic status of our nation showing up in Canada was quickly followed by an advisory from the United States Government issued on 20th May, 2014 wherein the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network warned the world that the St Kitts-Nevis citizenship by investment programme was being abused by foreign nationals who wished to engage in illicit financial activity," he added.

Brantley said that the warnings "therefore were clear".

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