-- November 2014 ~ Travel and Immigration 101
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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Canada Won’t Issue Visas to Residents of Ebola-affected Countries

Canada has suspended the processing of all visa applications from the West African countries affected by the Ebola epidemic.
On Friday, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander issued the ministerial instruction as a measure of precaution against the spread of the disease by stopping travelling from that part of the hemisphere.
“There is an outbreak of a communicable disease in several regions of West Africa,” the instruction said. “The entry into Canada of persons who have recently been in those regions may introduce or contribute to the spread of the disease in Canada.”

Canadian visa posts in the region have immediately stopped processing both pending and new applications for travel and immigration from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The ban also applies to those who have “resided, travelled or transited” in an Ebola affected country in the three-month period prior to the issuance of a visa. Processing fees will be refunded in those cases. However, “discretionary relief” would be granted to facilitate entry to Canada in justified cases.

“The precautionary measures announced today build on actions we have taken to protect the health and safety of Canadians here at home,” Alexander said in a statement.

“Our government continues to monitor the situation in West Africa very closely and will continue to act in the best interests of Canadians.”

Although Australia has already restricted admissions of visitors from countries battling Ebola, immigration experts say it’s a rare move by Canada.

“It is an unusual step,” said Toronto lawyer Mario Bellissimo, former chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration law section. “(Canada) has the right to ensure a visitor is not a danger to the public, but this is targeting everyone from a region . . . . The question is: Is this an overreaction?”
While preventing potential virus-carriers from coming to Canada is a more effective disease control than medical screening at the borders, Bellissimo said the suspension on travellers from an entire country could potentially breach the Charter of Rights.

Both the UNMEER (the United Nations’ Ebola mission) and African presidents from the affected areas have asked Western countries to avoid such visa bans.

Australia’s move this week was criticized by World Health Organization director general Dr. Margaret Chan, who questioned the effectiveness of border closing in halting the spread of Ebola.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Europe Clears Colombia and Peru for Travel Without Visa

The European Union on Wednesday said Colombia fulfills the requisites necessary for its citizens to enter the Schengen zone without a visa.
Two reports were released on Wednesday after the completion of a risk analysis carried out by the European Commission (EC) which took into account criteria such as the potential threat of illegal immigration, the impact on public order and safety, economic benefits or effects on tourism and foreign trade.

“The significant improvements accomplished by Colombia and Peru in many areas in recent years mean that it is no longer justified to maintain a visa obligation on citizens of these countries visiting the Schengen area for short stays. By abolishing the visa obligation we will be fostering mobility and people-to-people contacts – something that is fundamental to reinforce the social and economic development and mutual understanding between the EU and other countries”, said Cecilia Malmstrom, Commissioner for Home Affairs, EC

Countries in Schengen Area

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

After obtaining the approval of the EU Parliament and the Council, the EC will negotiate an agreement with Colombia and Peru for its citizens to travel to EU territory for a period of less than 90 days without a visa.

The EC completed the evaluation in coordination with European agencies such as the European Asylum Support Office ( EASO ) , the European Police Office (Europol ) and the European external borders agency Frontex and the EU offices in Bogota and Lima in addition to local authorities in both countries.

These reports will be forwarded to the European Parliament and the EU Council, which must give the green light to start negotiations on the deal, expected in the first quarter of 2015, according to a statement by the EC.

Brussels predicted that the new travel freedoms could come into force at the earliest, in the second half of 2015.

The new freedoms would allow Colombians to travel to the  Schengen area which is made up 22 of the 28 countries of the European Union plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein from outside of the EU.

The main conclusions of the reports are the following: trust in visa applicants of both countries is on the rise, with low visa refusal rates; irregular migration is at relatively low levels; security of travel documents is sufficient; security threats have receded; organised crime groups are currently not assessed as a significant threat to the EU (with the exception of drug trafficking); economic opportunities, including enlarged trade and touristic flows, are expanding in parallel with significant growth of the Colombian and Peruvian economies; human rights and fundamental freedoms are now much better protected and respected in these countries than in the past; visa reciprocity will be ensured as these countries already exempt all EU citizens from the visa obligation; and the visa-free regime will further strengthen the relationship between the EU and the two countries, especially since the (provisional) application of free trade agreements in 2013.

The general positive assessments do not ignore that there exist certain risks, including possible increases in the use of drug couriers and in trafficked people as well as in the number of Colombians and Peruvians who enter the EU legally and who would overstay, thus becoming irregular migrants.

These risks are nevertheless considered to be manageable, in particular through a correct implementation of border checks, with reinforced means if necessary, at the airports through which most Colombians and Peruvians reach the Schengen area’s external borders.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

POEA Raps 3 Recruitment Agencies Over Double-Visa Racket

Three recruitment agencies now face charges from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), after some overseas Filipino workers they deployed were caught with two different visas each.
POEA head Hans Leo Cacdac also advised OFWs against engaging in such a practice, so they would not encounter problems at the airport and at the worksite.

In a post on his social media account, Cacdac said the POEA has initiated separate complaints of misrepresentation against:

  • Hiro Global Manpower Inc.
  • CAZ International Inc.
  • Al-Walih International Manpower Services Company

He said "greedy" recruiters favor the double-visa scheme to "bypass protective mechanisms" by the government, thus making OFWs open to abuse and exploitation.

"Most of the household service workers who took shelter at the Migrant Workers and Filipino Resource Center in Dubai were deployed using two visas," Cacdac noted.

Cacdac said the Bureau of Immigration barred the respective recruits of these companies from leaving the country for possession of two different visas.

He cited reports from the BI indicating each of the three recruits of Al-Walih International were found to have "two employment visas for United Arab Emirates bearing two different occupations."

"The workers allegedly admitted that they knew their actual work was household service work, and not what was stated in the documents processed by the POEA," Cacdac said.

Also, another OFW was found having visas for UAE and Jordan, Cacdac said.

Meanwhile, six female workers deployed by CAZ International were stopped at the airport by the Bureau of Immigration for having separate UAE visas for salespersons and domestic workers.

The POEA said the Bureau of Immigration intercepted a “manicurist” bound for Dubai, an OFW recruited by Hiro Global Manpower. The manicurist was found having a visa of a household service worker.

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